One of the mantras here at our California Dude ranch is “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes”. We can extrapolate that mantra into an annual weather mantra if we reflect on our transition from a 2015 drought year into a very wet 2016 El Nino year. “If you don’t like the (dry) weather this year, just wait till next year”

rainbows and clouds cover the pastures of californias dude ranch

Seasonal changes in weather and in business at California’s Dude Ranch

Last year’s dry spring here in Somes Bar (about 12 total inches of rain through March compared to a normal of 24 inches) allowed us to open early and welcome some of the spring break travel business that was excluded from the closed ski resorts. This year however, we have much heavier March rainfall and we have decided to postpone our opening until April 15.

As I write this blog, I am holed-up indoors under cover from today’s projected daily rainfall of nearly 2 inches as it is pounding my roof.   Our fire retardant metal roofs tend to amplify the impact noise of a heavy rain and to orchestrate a more dramatic crescendo to the rain pulses. It’s a good day to NOT be in the business of guiding city-folk on slippery horse trails and swollen rivers. A hot cup of tea, a bowl of steel cut oatmeal, and a weather related blog entry seems like the order of the day.

Low clouds drape the Klamath River Dude Ranch

Low hanging clouds drape the tree-line of the Klamath Forest

The middle Klamath region has a wildly dramatic change in seasonal climate patterns. Our summers can be very dry and hot, while our winters are typically very, very wet. The nearly 60 inches of annual rainfall we get is usually all packed into the 6 month window running from October through March. Our moss covered rocks and tree trunks, the morning fog hanging low on the river, and the lichen drapes listing downward from evergreen branches are signals of winter rainforest climes that seem out of place during our Klamath river arid summers.

The net result of this weather evolution on our dude ranch lifestyle is that we have a season to our seasons. What I mean by this is that we close our doors to business after Thanksgiving in anticipation of the winter deluge, and reopen sometime in April as weather patterns start to stabilize. A seasonal business means that annual cash flows are reduced, that seasonal cash flows need to be appropriately budgeted for, and that employees are mostly transient occupants of the ranch. This ebb and flow of business can be problematic for idealistic stable business models.   The lifestyle effect however is that we as business owners and permanent employees get a season of rest. We can remove ourselves from the public eye, take-up a more private life, and remember who we are as individuals rather than as performers on the stage of a public dude ranch.rainbowPasture

I like this. I like this seasonal freedom to more actively pursue my individual hobbies, passions, religious commitments, personal objectives and family commitments. My wife and I work endless hours for half of the year, and then we get payback from Thanksgiving through Easter with time for ourselves. The off-season rejuvenation is essential and nicely balanced opposite the incessant demands of the prime business season. The survival of a dude rancher that is on the front lines and in the public eye for seeming endless summer days demands a period of rest. The off-season is less a loss of capital, it is more a gain of perspective.

Our mixed forest of conifer and deciduous trees have nicely adapted to survive this wildly changing seasonal climate as well. The mid Klamath arboreal species mix is equipped with tools for survival as they live and transition through seasons that rotate from very wet, through seasons of drought. Some of our resident trees have a leaf cortex that releases aromatic hydrocarbons into the surrounding air. That familiar smell of the forest, is also effectively reducing the dew point in areas immediately surrounding the trees. Lowered dew points result in moisture being teased from the air and converted from gaseous water, to liquid water. Those clouds hanging low over the tree-line are in part a manipulation by the trees they cover.   Imagine that! Trees can micro-manage their climate to cause water to precipitate in a drip line around themselves!

Low Clouds drape the trees of the Klamath River

Hanging Cloud Drapes

As we shift from wet winters to dry summers, the trees nurse every possible drop from the increasingly rare summer humidity by coaxing morning clouds to drip a little bit more moisture around their roots. As we shift from spring into summer, my wife and I also relish every last moment of privacy. We read together, we boil steel cut oatmeal on rainy days. I even watch an occasional movie as I relax my mind into a neutral gear for just one more hour. Soon we will be in the full swing of business. Our guests will become our priority in nearly every moment, and we will start that season of drought in our times of privacy. It’s a glorious life here.   We cycle seasons of moisture and private rejuvenation with seasons of work as we toil through the harvest of our drier climate business season. If we tire of the weather, we just wait five minutes. If we tire of the labor, we just endure a few more weeks. The winter must surely come in sequence to our summer. We know that here in Somes Bar, at California’s dude ranch, we live in a climate with an evolution to the seasons as well as in a business with a season to the seasons.

See you on the trail,

Doug