cold day in minnesota

It is cold today. Not super cold, the Twin Cities used to average 30 days a winter below zero, but last year we had more days over 100 than below zero. So it is a situation of shifting norms or maybe hyped up weathermen that are recent transplants from SoCal. Tomorrow is predicted to be the first daytimehigh in four years that stays in the in below zero range, and that is a cold day. I actually like cold days and prefer a crisp sub-zero snap to those damp overcast days of November. I hope it sticks around for a week.  A good arctic snap will stem the flu epidemic and maybe knock down some of next season’s ticks and beetles.

Cold but depressingly snowless around here. I skied at Elm Creek (manufactured snow). A long drive and usually crowded with spandex sheathed nordic racers but today I had it almost to myself. Nine below on car dash which, contrary to the opinion of the two other skiers on the loop, is too warm for face masks. I wore thick capilene long johns and wind proof pants, wool top, vintage down “sweater”, cotton anorak and a new Mountain Hardware toque and leather choppers, perfect. Prediction of low of twenty below zero tonight with a steady NW wind. I thought I might camp out down by the lake. A funny thing happened. While walking the dog I was clearing the lower limbs of Zoë’s spruce to create a little camping cavity for tonight, my Fiskars’ loppers snapped at the jaw. This is an example of how metal can become brittle at cold temperatures. My dear friend, bush pilot Merlyn Carter, preferred not to fly when the temperature dropped lower than -50 for this and other reasons- like ice fog. But -10 is a long way from -50. It made me wonder about some of my winter camping advice. I have advocated carrying loppers instead of an axe and saw to procure firewood and have used that method a couple times with good success but broken loppers are worthless and had it happened on a long dogteam trip it would have caused some hardship. I remember in the Territories camping with the people we would always warm the blades of our axes by the fire before we chopped firewood to avoid them shattering because the steel was so cold and brittle. My memory is a little fuzzy about how we got the firewood for the fire to warm the axeheads, but there you go.

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