Northern California teacher spends 13 days hiking through snow to get to school

The classic “old grumpy grandpa” saying goes something like this: “Back in my day, we walked 15 miles to school in the snow! Barefoot! Uphill! Both ways! And we liked it that way!”

For Eagle Peak Middle School eighth grade science teacher Paula Abajian, there is some truth in that saying for her, as she spent 13 days hiking through snow and ice to get access to a vehicle, to then drive or be driven to school. Monday evening, March 13, was the first day she could finally drive the road to her home since the snowy weather started on Feb. 22.

Paula Abajia
Eagle Peak teacher Paula Abajian hiking through snow to get to school. 

For Abajian, the logistics were as follows. She and her husband and two young children live at 2,500 feet above sea level in the mountains above Willits. The road to their home is on a north-facing slope, with several feet of snow accumulating on it from all the storms and not melting much due to the lack of sun on the north face. Midway through the series of storms, the snow melted somewhat but then froze and turned to ice. The road was simply impassable near her home for close to three weeks.

From Abajian’s home, it was a 1.76-mile hike, according to her Apple Watch, downhill to access transportation, hence a 3.52 round trip daily, for a total of over 40 miles through the snow for the duration of the adventure.

“The snow early on was lovely,” says Abajian. “but as it got icier and more compacted, it was difficult to walk on.”

There were also additional logistical challenges for Abajian and her family. With her home being off the electrical grid and solar powered, eventually, the cloud cover prevented sufficient charging of the home’s batteries. At one point, she was hauling up gas cans for the generator to run power for the house.

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