Go enjoy cold winter days before they're gone

I overheard two people in downtown Olympia complaining about this never-ending arctic blast Monday afternoon.

"I just wish it would warm up and rain," one guy said.


You know it's been cold for a long time when some South Sounders are nostalgic for rain.

This cold is miserable - until you layer on some warm clothes, step outside and get your blood pumping. Then it's a beautiful day.

I was amazed to see full parking lots at Mount Hood Meadows ski area Saturday. It was 14 degrees, and I thought the cold would scare away a lot of people.

But the frigid air makes Cascades snow powdery and smooth, and skiers and boarders were out in force.

It was a wonderful day to carve turns in soft snow on steep slopes.

The skiing and boarding at all Cascades ski areas is incredible right now.

OK, a lot of people don't ski or board.

But don't become a couch potato - especially since the Seahawks are out of the playoffs.

There is too much fun going on out there to stay inside.

There is a razor clam dig scheduled at Twin Harbors Beach on evening tides from Friday through Sunday - if tests show that the clams are safe to eat.

Twin Harbors is the only Washington coastal beach open for this razor clam dig, as it has the most clams and biologists want to give the other beaches a break until proposed digs in February.

Twin Harbors Beach is from the mouth of Grays Harbor to the mouth of Willapa Bay.

The best clamming starts at about an hour or so before low tide.

Evening low tides at Twin Harbors Beach this weekend are:

n Friday: 6:54 p.m.

n Saturday: 7:34 p.m.

n Sunday: 8:13 p.m.

Be sure to have a shellfish license and bring a lantern, headlamps or flashlights, as the best digging will start after sunset. For more information, go to wdfw.wa.gov.

Bird watching

If you just hate the very thought of going outside in this cold, you can see a lot of wildlife in your own backyard - if you install and stock a bird feeder or two.

Cold snaps spark a frenzy of activity at my bird feeders, and it's a lot of fun to see all of the colorful birds rocket into the garden.

Steller's Jays are iridescent in the winter sun, and their antics - one was upside down while pecking away at a suet feeder Monday morning - are fascinating.

The yellow-and-black striped head of a Townsend's warbler looks tropical against the snow.

This time of year brings new birds - such as Townsend's warblers - to our backyards. Townsend's warblers hang out in the higher country during the spring and summer.

Most biologists say that feeding birds is OK - if you clean your feeders every few weeks and put them out of the reach of the neighborhood cats.

I can't imagine starting a winter day without checking on the birds just outside. The birds also stick around when it warms up.

This weather is also a good time to get out your camera and take a shot for The Olympian's Winter Photo Contest.

We've already gotten some terrific entries.

Winter's cold roars like a lion, but that same cold creates a delicate beauty that can vanish in minutes.

The frost-covered trees along our own Deschutes River in Tumwater glow in the morning light - but the scene fades when the sun melts the millions of tiny ice crystals on the branches.

So, get on out there - before it starts raining again.

Chester Allen's outdoors column appears Thuesdays in The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-4226 or callen@theolympian.com. Winter

photo contest

Now is a good time to take a winter photo - and enter it in The Olympian's winter outdoor photo contest. The deadline is Feb. 14. The three categories are:

n A winter sports shot. Think skiing, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing - or even a walk down a snowy sidewalk.

n A winter landscape or something outdoors.

n A winter shot without snow or ice.

The winner of each category will get an Olympian Outdoors hat.

The rules are simple:

You must have taken the photograph.

Heavy digital manipulation will disqualify your entry.

You can enter only one shot for the entire contest.

We'll accept photographs via e-mail, regular mail or dropped off at The Olympian's front desk. If you want your photo back, please make sure it has a self-addressed envelope. We'll take care of postage.

E-mailed photos should be sent to callen@theolympian.com. The Olympian's address is 111 Bethel St. N.E., Olympia, WA 98506.