Vignette: After the storm, 8 Jan 2022

As I type these words, the rain has returned, though thankfully not in the same quantities as on Thursday night. The wind had dropped by this morning and light snow had started falling again. Knowing that the rain would be back, we went for a wander along the beach between Spanish Banks and Jericho. The parking lot was fringed with icy snow that hid the paint markings of the parking spaces though I was able to spot one to guide me into place, pulling in as far as I could before the mound of snow stopped me.

It was definitely a winter-boots kind of day as we stepped out of the car, heading east into the snow being driven at us by the cold wind. The path was a sheet of ice, forcing us onto the softer snow on the beach. As we walked it became obvious how high the water had reached. Large pools remained in some places while in others, the high-water point was marked by a line of creamy-brown foam separating snow from sand. Closer to the Locarno concession stand, the water had clearly inundated the path leaving a layer of foam around the base of trees and surrounding one small remnant snow patch.

We walked on past the sailing club and tennis courts – where only a few rabbits were out in search of food – and walked round to Jericho Pond, still completely frozen over and dusted with a layer of snow. I hoped to see some ducks come into land and slide over the ice – standing on the bridge I could see where birds had slid, clearing a short path through the layer of snow – but maybe they’d got wise to it? Plus there was a patch of open water, where the pond had spilled over onto the grass under a group of tall cottonwoods, that was full of dabbling ducks and widgeon. At the edge of the pond, a multi-stemmed willow had been gnawed by the local beavers into a series of jagged spikes, as if defending an encampment.

We walked anti-clockwise around the frozen pond, noting that the bench we’d seen as an island a few weeks earlier was indeed still an island, though now surrounded by ice. Completing our circuit, we returned to the snowy beach by the Jericho concession where the overflowing pond had carved a meandering channel across the sand. We’d seen this previously but it was dry; today it had water running into it, at least part of the way to the sea.

Speaking of the sea, perhaps the most remarkable thing about today was that it was so calm, the water was barely lapping the shore. Although we didn’t witness it ourselves, we saw plenty of photos and video of the storm pounding the local beaches and it was hard to believe that it was so rough barely 24 hours earlier. We walked the tideline on smooth sand left by the retreating tide, following the beach around the bay to where the old parade ground used to be and then onto the strip of beach in front of the sailing centre. The evidence of the storm was more obvious here with logs pushed up onto the sand and the ground washed away in places, even behind the rocks put in place as protection.

Then we reached the main place we’d wanted to visit: Jericho Pier. We’d seen photos of it covered in logs which had severely damaged it, but we wanted to see it for ourselves. To our amazement it was hard to even see the pier, there were so many logs piled up on it. The railing on the west side had been mostly knocked off and many of the boards had been lifted. The little wheelhouse that looked out to sea had vanished. So a lot of damage to clear up, but the main structure looked to be intact. We later learned that there was already a plan to replace the pier with something more durable, so I can’t help but wonder if it will be repaired at all.

A small group of paddleboarders was exploring the west side of the pier, taking photos as they went before paddling away further down the beach. We continued our walk at the water’s edge where the sand was firmest, now with wet snow falling on our backs, hurrying us back to the car. Here the beach was strewn with logs and the sand was rippled where the water had ebbed and flowed over the beach.

We picked our way through the logs and other debris and worked our way back up the beach to the ice and snow above the high-water mark as close to the car as possible and headed for home to warm up. A nice little walk to blow away the cobwebs!

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