Adventures at -36° F
I know it’s cold when my nose hair freeze the moment I set foot outside my cabin. Walking on snow sounds like walking on Styrofoam.
Below -30 degrees the metal doorknob on the inside of the cabin tries to stick to my hand when touched. Another cabin is locked with key lock, so I have to punch 4 small pins with my bare fingers. This is painful and the skin turns quickly white.
My truck would not start, despite being plugged in and fully charged batteries…
Today, all is forgotten. At 10 degrees life becomes agreeable, even those frozen batteries come back to life.
The sun rises now at 8:30 in the morning, like me. I am not an early morning person, but 8:30 I can do. She rises now 14 degrees above the horizon and begins to charge my solar system, so I can use the lights inside, when it gets dark at about 18:00.
In between, I shovel snow, explore possible excursions into the back country, bake bread and make my favorite dishes, as long as I can find the right ingredients in my pantry.
After last weeks storm has cleared, the skies are clear and the temperatures crisp.
Sunday mornings bring back color.
Life is good.
Let that one sink in, slowly.
You thought you heard every word in the English language? How about that one?
It’s one of the longer words in the English language and it is something made up, nonsensical they call it.
What does it mean? Just, great.
Alright, have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious weekend.
I like the word hibernation. It implies that the whole nation is in a state of reduced activity due to low temperatures and reduced daylight. Off course there are exceptions, thinking of mushers, sled dogs, skiers, and snow shovelers…
Plants don’t hibernate, they are dormant. That’s what the textbooks say. I don’t like that word, as it implies they are sleeping. I don’t picture plants as sleeping.
Anyways, obviously I have too much time and not enough daylight on my hands. So, all I have are these burned spruce trees that are neither hibernating nor dormant. They are dead. Gone in a blink of an eye, what took tens of years to grow. The charred trunks will stand for a long time, before wind and decay will knock them over. Give it another 100 years and there may be a boreal forest as before. Only to repeat the cycle until…
Dispatches from the Cold – № 2
Thirty below zero this morning. Frost has crept through the walls and caused the bedclothes to stick to the wall on that side, and it is mortal agony to crawl out of he warm nest in the center of the bed.
Margaret Murdie – Two in the Far North
That’s how Mardie experienced winter as a 9-year old in Fairbanks more than hundred years ago. Even lower temperatures have been recorded since. Better insulation and heating systems have made bedclothes sticking to the wall a rather exceptional experience. Nevertheless, getting out of the warm bed in the morning is still an all too familiar theme during the dark, cold winter months.
Soon, these memories will be set aside as spring and summer approach in leaps and bounds. North of the Arctic Circle the sun stays above the horizon for more than 10 hours, gaining about 6 minutes every day. Snow and ice still cover the boreal forest and tundra. It is a miracle that plant and animal life can endure so many months of sub-freezing temperatures, chilling winds and darkness.
While waiting for the return of colors, shapes and shadows make good substitutes.
I wrote this a year ago. Not sure why it remained a draft.
Into the Cold
Amazing journeys we can take these days. From the desert to the Arctic Circle within a few hours, give or take a couple of nights at airports that are open 24 hours a day. Not like the old explorer days, where an expedition began in a port, where you had time to adjust.
So it comes as a bit of a shock to be suddenly exposed to the gruel harshness of the arctic winter. It isn’t even that cold, just -30F, not even close to the -42F of last year. But I feel cold. Softened by the desert “winter”.
The sights however are amazing. Spruce trees covered with a thick coat of snow. How do they survive these months of darkness and howling winds? A miracle.
I was greeted by a starry sky and an active aurora borealis. Welcome, looking forward to seeing you a couple more times. Please come in your rarely seen red variety. I am ready to forgo sleep and spend a night outside to experience that.
We gain 6 minutes of daylight, every day. A few more months and life will be back in full swing. This change from frozen solid to exuberance is an annual wonder.
Wouldn’t want to miss it, numb fingers and cold feet included.
Going to Alaska
It’s this time of the year again. Like a bird, I am heading North for my annual migration to Alaska.
A Song for the River
Another seasonal post comes to its end. I have enjoyed a mild winter in the nation’s first Wilderness. Just in time I did finish my fourth local reading: “A Song for the River” by Philip Connors, who spent many seasons in the area as a fire lookout. This book is not so much about the solitude and work ethics of a lookout. It is part autobiography, with all the ups and downs of an unusual career path, part homage to dear friends, and part environmental manifest. The author is a master of his craft.
That from the same man who admits that his soul is covered with hoarfrost 🙂
Besides his environmental concerns the authors shares also a few delightful moments, one which made me giggle. In remembrance of a dear friend, he puts on bright red lipstick standing on the catwalk of his lookout, puckers his lips and waits to be kissed – by a hummingbird.
The Gila Wilderness was proposed by Aldo Leopold as one of the last forested areas in the West that were not crossed by roads of any kind. At the heart of the wilderness is the Gila river, the last free-flowing wild (and scenic) river in New Mexico. At some point some scrupulous politicians and businessmen (men indeed) drew up a plan to build on or more diversion dams to put the water to “better” use. The project would cost a billion dollars, paid for by tax dollars. The benefits were dubious. Making the dusty city of Deming an oasis, providing more farm land for alfalfa for export. It was even proposed the dam would create new habitat for birds (that were already living in the area). This cockamamie plan is rightfully exposed by the author:
If you like Ed Abbey’s writing, give this contemporary a try.
This post was written the same week ExxonMobil posted a record net profit of $56,000,000,000 and ConocoPhilips, the largest producer of crude oil in Alaska, received a nod from the Bureau of Land Management, to develop Willow, a site on the West side of the North Slope, which has had no industrial development to this date. The oil company expects to produce 180,000 barrels a day…
I have witnessed how federal agencies rule and overrule previous decisions. I can only shake my head.
We are at the cusp. When do we and our leaders act accordingly?
Stay positive (note to self).
Tipping points are so dangerous because if you pass them, the climate is out of humanity's control: if an ice sheet disintegrates and starts to slide into the ocean there's nothing we can do about that.
I am far away from the ocean, but the desert is also a great place to appreciate what difference a few degrees can make. On a clear day the temperature rises to a comfortable level and drops at night well below freezing. During that transition water puddles turn into fantastic ice features, only to melt away a few hours later. I can sit next to those puddles and watch and feel the transition, right in front of my eyes. It is obvious, every degree counts.
What will you do today that makes a difference?