Rob's Blog Archive

November 16, 2014

Records Records Records










Arguably, the most important advice I was given about my writing was that I had to be a character in my own prose.  In that spirit, here’s a major aspect of who I am:  I keep records.   I have original copies of logs from almost all of the hiking and climbing trips I’ve ever taken, starting from my college days.  I built a database for my dog training and, to date, I haven’t seen any record set kept by another musher that comes close to it.  Even before I built the database, I jotted down at least one or two sentences about every run I took.  I still do.  The spreadsheet I use for my personal training not only lets me track how many miles I run, bike, or ski each week, I track how many times I do each and every pattern I know. 

With all this, I also track my weather personal records.  I experienced the coldest nights of my life while driving down the Alcan, January 27-29, in 2008.  Official lows in Beaver Creek, Watson Lake, and Fort Nelsen were -49 F, -55 F, and -47 F.  It was just me and my dogs and this was right before I had my hip replaced.  On top of that, the dogs had chewed through the block heater cable and I had failed at my one attempt to fix it.  Until the overnight low warmed to a balmy -28 F, I got out of bed and ran the engine once every two hours. 

The coldest I’ve had at the house was -36 F, and that was in February of 2006.  Sadly, I was living just outside of Missoula during the deep cold snap of 2004 and, of course, in Alaska where it was nearly tropical last winter, during Seeley Lake’s cold snap that also had lows in the -40F range.  Sigh. 

We’ve just gone through a November cold snap.  Here’s how it compares to others I been through at Silly Lake.  First, the seven straight nights with the temperature dipping below 0 F tied the longest string I’ve witnessed.  The one other seven day stretch was in January, and noticeably colder, but it was January when subzero nights are frequent.  Second, prior to this November, the most subzero nights we’ve had in October and November, combined, is four.  Of the ten falls prior to 2014 that I’ve lived here, there have been two with four nights below zero, one each with three, two, and one night, and five during which there were no subzero nights prior to December.  This November will end up being the coldest I’ve been through by a fair margin.   Third, while most years there’s a debate among the locals in Seeley Lake regarding whether or not, underneath the snow, the ground is actually frozen, there will be no debate this year.  We’ve had way too many cold days and nights and there’s no more than an inch of snow on the ground.  To the extent our ground freezes, it’s now hard as a rock. 

With all this, and particularly the ground getting as cold as it is, I’m hopeful that we will build up a good snowpack and it will last a while.  While the rain we typically get mid-winter melts some snow, heat from the ground does melt the bulk of it.  I’m also hoping that we avoid rain until we have built up a thick enough snowpack to absorb it.  We’ll see.

The only season I dislike in Seeley typically starts now---long dark nights with rain, freezing rain, and a few snowflakes.  Our mud season mixes mud and ice.  Late November and early December usually suck.

Fog moved in during most of the nights during this year’s cold snap.  Still, there were a few crystal clear nights and, before the moon rose, the stars were exquisite.   The Milky Way is long gone and my good friend, Orion, now dominates the sky.  Beyond that, Jupiter is rising and, at least for a while, without any interference from the moon.  When there’s enough snow to get out and sled or ski, the full moon on a clear night makes living here quite special.  However, before there’s enough snow to get out, it’s cold clear moonless starry nights, just like these, that I enjoy the most.

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