TOO MUCH SNOW!
As part of our Japan feature, we hoped to see the famous “snow monkeys” of Jigokudani. We arrived at the visitor center full of anticipation, only to find out it wasn’t going to be possible to walk the 30-minute trail up to the hot springs where this troop of macaques bathes. Ironically, there was too much snow to see the snow monkeys. The park is accustomed to dealing with big precipitation dumps, but the night before we arrived there was a once-in-a-decade downpour. More than 3 feet of snow fell in less than 12 hours. Even with a dozen men with snowplows on hand, the path was not going to be cleared that day. It was also unlikely the monkeys would have made it to the springs in such conditions. At nearly twice the primates’ height, the 3-foot-deep snow banks would have been a challenge to traverse. We turned to leave more than a little disappointed. But just before we got in the car, we spotted this lone macaque (at right). He’d somehow braved it and made it to branches of trees beside the visitor center. So we got a sighting, of sorts, in the end. – Gabrielle Jaffe