February 24, 2007

Not worth the rubber, metal and plastic they're made of.

I was excited when I checked the temperature today. It was cold.

While the temperatures may have delayed some of the Canada Winter Games events (too cold for skates to work), it was just right for me to check out a geocache I've been meaning to get to. It's called "Just how cold is it in the Yukon?", where you find the cache and record the temperature. To date, the coldest temperature recorded is -1oC on February 11, 2006.

So, as had been suggested to me, I put down my work, and Nanuq and I jumped into the car.

We drove to the end of the maintained road and started walking. The rest of the road was packed by snowmachines, but I wasn't going to risk driving down there. Besides, it would just ruin trails that are used by local dog teams in the winter and that would be very, very rude.

Despite the cold temperatures, my body was warm. I had dressed for the cold. I shed a couple of layers, but kept my head bundled up. There was a bit of a breeze and I could feel it on my cheeks. Spending so much of my time inside this winter, I have definitely softened.

Nanuq waits patiently while I shed some layers.

We walked to Scout Lake and I turned on my GPS. Oops. I had been walking away from the cache.

Scout Lake is just over that ridge...

The view from on Scout Lake.

We crossed the lake on a snow machine track and then I threw on my snowshoes for the ascent up the side closest to the geocache. I would be using my Algonquin-style chestnut snowshoes if the wood on the old dears wasn't so dry that it has become brittle. Fawn ordered me a pair of Dene-style birch snowshoes from an elder in Fort Liard, but I've got to wait until the spring and summer before I get them. So, I was stuck using my modern steel frame, rubber deck snowshoes.

And, oh, how I loathe the things.

For starters, they don't keep me on top of the snow like the babiche-netted ones do. Second, when my feet sink into the snow, the solid deck catches the snow on top of the snowshoe, making it harder to lift my feet (the babiche ones let the snow fall through). Thirdly, the blunt nose on the snowshoes doesn't cut through the snow when I lift my foot forwards, meaning that I have to apply a lot of force to get my foot out - unless I want to drag it out backwards, which is the opposite of the direction that I want to go in. While they may work in wind-packed or wet and hard-packed snow, that's not the type of snow we get much of around here.

I would take five steps and then stop to huff and puff for a while. Five more steps and then I would stop to wheeze and cough.

Overheating as I broke trail in the direction I wanted to go, I removed my toque. And then,I knocked into a tree and caused a lump of snow to dislodge and fall onto my head. And down my neck.

I wound my way through the trees, constantly trying to decide which was better: attempting to walk in the clearings where the snow is, unfortunately, deepest, or attempting to walk in the trees, where the snow isn't deep, but is one long series of snow baths.

I opted for a mix of both.

After a short distance but a long while, I picked up a trail that had been packed by a snow machine. I followed it to another trail and then another. The last trail took me closer and closer to the geocache.

Millions of snow baths, just waiting to happen.

Nanuq checks out the trail.

And then, to get to the geocache, I had to leave the trail again. I should have just left the snowshoes off, but I didn't. I huffed and puffed into the stand of skinny lodgepole pines, which were growing tightly together like the first generation of trees after a forest fire always do.

Lumps of snow from the trees poured onto our heads constantly. Why Nanuq insisted on walking beside me I'll never know. At one point, he looked up at me just as a pile of snow rained down from above and hit him square on the head. Generally he's a smart dog.

We wandered around for a while, looking for the geocache, but the snow was deep. I was pretty sure it was buried under one of the many fire-killed dead-fall logs that I could feel under my snowshoes, but the snow was deep and my chances of finding the cache were minimal.

We headed back. Upon reaching the packed trail, I strapped the snowshoes to my pack, where they did the most good (They're not worth the rubber, metal and plastic they're made of), and we started walking back to the car.

Along the way, I enjoyed the spectacular views. I would have take more pictures because, even through I was trying to keep them warm, my camera batteries died.

In the open spots, I could feel the breeze drawing some of my sweat out through my woolly, Granny-knit sweater; the perfect outer layer for hard work in cold weather. Still, my hands were out of my moosehide and beaver mitts because they were just too warm.

Beard-cicles. I can hear my Mum now: "You wouldn't get those if you would just shave that stuff off your face!"
Note 1:Even my glasses are frosty.
Note 2: I have a hood full of snow from being bombarded by snow baths.

I had no idea that the frost on my beard could consolidate to form beard-cicles. I took a picture (before my camera batteries died) so I could see what they looked like. Then I ate them.

Because I was thirsty.

So, I didn't find the cache, but I got to get outside, get some exercise, explore a new place, feel really happy, and have a few great ideas. (I always think best when I'm outside.) It doesn't get much better than that.

Except for when I'm out there for even longer.


Ian C. said...

So just how cold was it exactly? Colder than -1 C?

Meandering Michael said...

It was less than -30 C, but warmer than -35 C. (Unusually cold)

Speaka said...

You ate the beard-cicles...not the dead batteries, right?

Meandering Michael said...

Yummm...dead batteries. If only I'd thought of that...

I ate the beard-cicles.

Anonymous said...

Are you sure they weren't snot-cicles?

- Kathleen

Meandering Michael said...

They didn't taste like snot-cicles...

Anonymous said...

Did Nanuq eat HIS beard-circles?

I'm sorry that you didn't find the geocache. Are you going to try and find it again before the spring?

Meandering Michael said...

Nanuq had, um, "underbelly-cicles" from walking through the deep snow. He seemed to enjoy eating those.

I may attempt the cache again when there is less snow, or I might just wait until next year and hope that we have cold weather and not-so-much snow like we did this last November (when I didn't go owing to time and travel constraints).