Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Mercury has Dropped

You better be wearing your long underwear if you are venturing outside for too long. It is cold out! At 8:00 AM the lodge thermometer read -24 degrees out. At 10:30 AM the lodge thermometer read was getting colder!!! The wind was blowing like crazy from the west/northwest. Like my mom said in a past blog, we only count the weather in absolute numbers. I have no idea how cold it was if you include wind chill, but I am sure it was at least -60. Now this isn't the coldest weather I can ever remember at Gunflint, but in the past two winters this is the coldest.

Growing up we used to have a couple of days every winter that were -50. That is not a misprint, yes I wrote NEGATIVE FIFTY. For those of you from the city, it probably is not something you can imagine. Growing up we didn't know any different. All we knew was you really had to be careful and you spent as much of the day as you could inside. If you had advance notice that it was going to be this cold you would try to haul in several days of wood for your wood burning stove. Then you wouldn't have to go outside to get more wood to heat the house when it was this cold.

Of course there are many things that require you to go outside even when it was this cold. Usually it was one of the most unpleasant experiences...going to school. Its not that I didn't like going to school, but it probably can be more accurately said, I did not like going to school when it was -50. Let me tell you why.

Usually when the really cold weather like this came in we were not ready for it the first night. So that means we did not, or we forgot, to plug in the head bolt heater to the car. If the car wasn't plugged in the night before then we were not going to be able to get it started in the morning. With no car that means we couldn't drive to the bus stop. We only had two alternatives left, and neither was appealing. For those of you who live in the suburbs you probably have a garage. Growing up I didn't have a garage, and we still don't today. Now back to the story.

If the car wouldn't start we would try to start a snowmobile. Occasionally we could get a snowmobile started and my parents would drive us to the bus stop. But to get the snowmobile started in that cold of weather you had to be outside for about 15-20 minutes to try and get it started. Back then you did not have electric starts, everything was done by hand.
It never was any fun to try and get the snowmobile started, but it beat the alternative.

So now you must be thinking this is crazy. It is -50 degrees outside at 6:00 AM in the middle of the winter. The car wouldn't start. The snowmobile won't start. My parents were insisting I go to school no matter how much I complained and whined. So we would walk the 1/2 of a mile to catch the bus. That was never a fun experience, but my parents never let us have any excuses for missing school.

Growing up in those conditions gave you a healthy dose of respect for Mother Nature. Several years later when I got my drivers license I never forgot those cold morning walks to the bus. I would always do a couple of things. First I would always remember to plug in the car. Second, I always had cold weather gear in the car at all times (including a down sleeping bag). Third, we would always call home from town before starting the drive...then my parents knew if we were not home in an hour to come looking for us. The phone call was drilled into our heads and it still is some thing I do everytime I drive home...of course now my excuse is that I'm calling to see if the lodge needs anything from town before I head home.

If tomorrow is just a couple degrees colder I will try throwing a bucket of boiling water in the air and seeing if it will freeze. Normally the temperature needs to be about -30 to -35 for the water to freeze in mid air. If I get a picture I will make sure to post it on the blog.

I hope you are all warm tonight.


P.S. my mother-in-law just called from CT to tell me she heard Thunder Bay (the closest town in Canada) was -36 before the wind chill. I just might have luck with that bucket of water yet!

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