Sunday, 10 January 2010
Embracing the Cold
Winter in eastern Ontario is a big presence. We had an ice storm on Boxing Day and day after day of snowfall to follow it. Although some of the ice came off the deciduous trees one sunny morning, the evergreens are still loaded, the piles of snow on each branch held in place by the ice base. Even fairly high wind has not shifted it. This means that travel along the trails through the bush involves snow down the neck, whippy branches in the face and a lot of dodging. But it is worth all the nuisance to see the woods draped in their winter décor, puffed with snow, looped over by ice, each small tree and bush a serrated pile of glistening snow. It is cold, sometimes windy, but wonderful.
This afternoon we drove the Kabota snow tracked vehicle through the bush roads to the marsh that runs along the back of our property. We did this because JG and the YD went snowmobiling the day before Christmas and broke through the ice on the marsh. Although her dad was leading and made it out okay, the YD hit the open patch he had made and sunk the back end of my (MY) snowmobile into about a foot of slush and open water. And there it froze hard. JG and I are now building a scaffold to hold the machine up while he cuts around it and frees it from the ice. We are taking discretion as the better part of valour and walking from the edge of the bush out to where the machine is stuck, on snowshoes and pulling our equipment on Little Stuff's toboggan, about half a kilometre. We got the scaffold up this afternoon, with a lot of pulling, tugging and chipping of ice, and attached the front and back of the snowmobile to it. Progress.
To work outside in this weather, you need to be dressed for it. I wear three layers, from long underwear up to a fine pair of snowboarding pants (loose and comfortable) that I bought many years ago. Wool socks and mukluks, a quilted vest under the coat, a coat with a funnel neck that you can zip up to your nose, quilted gloves, these are a few of the favourite clothes that make winter walking fun. I can do anything but bend over. I also have a fine pair of high tech snowshoes that weigh almost nothing. Walking makes the walker very warm, while standing around on the icy snow in the middle of an open marsh holding boards makes the worker very cold. Good boots are very necessary and they need to be kept waterproofed. Not that anything helps when you have to wade out of the marsh, breaking through in several places, and go home to tell your mother you sunk her snowmobile.
I like it to be really cold most of the time, with the occasional warmer day to pack the snow down so that it will freeze into a walkable crust. Once that has come to pass, you can go anywhere with snowshoes, into the marshes and down the stream beds that would be a humming hell of mosquitoes in summer, following the track of a deer or beaver, camera thumping on your chest, warm and happy.
At least until my glasses fog up.