Winter in a seasonal townJanuary 22nd, 2014 by Emma, Project Specialist
As a Bishop native, I’m no stranger to quiet streets and brisk winter days. However, there aren’t many experiences that can entirely prepare a person for a winter in Lee Vining.
Having first moved here at the beginning of summer to work as an intern, I knew I would be coming to a very small town with entertainment that consisted more of being outside than going shopping or to movie theaters. Most people who come to Lee Vining for seasonal work see that as a positive and an opportunity for adventure. In fact, I was surprised by the amount of activities happening here over the summer months. Of course there are more hiking trails than can ever be completed, ample opportunities to swim, canoe, backpack—everything a nature-lover could want—but there was also live music every week and good company to enjoy it with. Basically, it was an unforgettable summer.
I knew going into it that winter would be different. There were no delusions that all of these activities would continue because I knew how seasonal this town is. Now for some, myself included, it can be quite hard to grasp what exactly is meant by a seasonal town. “Does the whole town just shut down when it gets cold? That’s ridiculous! How can that be?” I’m here to tell you, as strange as it may seem, it’s pretty accurate.
Since Lee Vining relies heavily on tourism, as soon as Tioga Pass closes for the winter, the amount of people coming through town drops dramatically. It simply isn’t worth it for businesses to stay open. Consequently, most restaurants and gift shops close down, many hotels close their doors. Just enough stays open that residents can get by and people passing through aren’t stranded. The town has a very different feel over the colder months.
For me, this change was made manifest in goodbyes. While I have had the good fortune to stay on with the Mono Lake Committee as Project Specialist, this meant that I remained here while very few others did. Gradually, the seasonal staff that I had grown very close to left. And as they moved away, the town became that much quieter.
The winter, strikingly different from the summer, has held its own adventures. My roommate and co-worker, Julia, and I have learned to chop our own wood and build fires; we’ve seen some decent snow storms (although we’re always hoping for more); and somehow we’ve become Lee Vining’s most in-demand pet sitters. As far as work, we’ve become even more comfortable at the Committee; we feel like we’re helping with the Committee’s mission in new ways; and we’re getting to know the permanent staff much better.
While the winter months can seem long and the daylight hours short, the Mono Basin is a wonderful place to be in every season. Having the opportunity to see the Basin itself change and shift as the seasons pass is probably my favorite part of being here. Although, more snow is on mine and everyone else’s mind, I’m excited for the months ahead where signs of spring will start to appear and eventually summer will roll around again, bringing with it new people, more explorations, and a long-awaited swim in Mono Lake.