Monday, December 12, 2016

Cork and I love our daily winter walks

One of the best things about winter, in my opinion, is that it is a great time to go for walks in the woods -- we call it the bush here. Cork and I do this every day, and if modern life's schedules prevent us from doing so we are out-of-sorts. We need our walk!
We are fortunate to have about a mile of trails on our property here in Nolalu. There is room to extend these another mile and I think that is just what I will do. I find a mile of walking, even in snowshoes, isn't much of a workout which is partly why we make these sojourns.
In the past I have also walked along our country road with the dog running free. Here I can easily cover five miles; however, there is the constant worry from vehicles. I call Cork back to me and hold onto his collar until each vehicle passes. We live in a sparsely populated area and so we don't encounter many cars but there are always a few.
There are other reasons I would rather walk on our own trails. I get to pick up the SD cards from my three trail cameras to see if any wildlife passed this way. I also get to watch for tracks of creatures even if they don't show up on the cameras. And of course, there is always the possibility of seeing the animals themselves but actually we see more game out on the road, just because we can see farther.
It is also warmer in the bush. Out on the road the wind cuts like a knife when the mercury has crawled into the bottom of the thermometer. I'm always surprised to come back into the house after a walk in the bush to find my beard and mustache have icicles hanging from them. It just never felt cold.
I think being outside every day also prevents or at least lessens the chance of suffering Seasonal Affective Disorder which a lot of people in the North get due to the lack of sunlight at this time of year. Here in Nolalu we are currently getting about eight hours of light each day. If you must work a 9-to-5 job indoors, you never see the sun. That gets really depressing.
There is yet another advantage to walking outside for an hour each day -- it seems to change your body's ability to produce heat. I first noticed this on my one-and-only winter camping trip with my brother-in-law, Ron Wink, about 30 years ago. We had snowshoed way back into the bush where we pitched a small tent, covered it with a tarp for extra insulation, and went ice fishing every day for a week. The only way we had to stay warm, other than standing next to the campfire, was with clothing. We didn't, for instance, have a heater in the tent.
Within a few days of living this way, we were astonished to find that we needed less clothing. When snowshoeing to new ice-fishing spots, for example, we just wore flannel shirts where a few days earlier we had worn our parkas. The tent actually got too warm at night, just from our body heat. We ended up unzipping our sleeping bags to stay comfortable.
This took place in early March when the days were growing quite long again. The daytime temperature would sometimes get to melting but mostly it stayed below freezing. At night it was probably -10 to -15 C.
This story reminds me of another time when I needed to cut a lot of firewood in early November for our outdoor wood furnace here at home. The weather was just perfect for the task. The thermometer on the tree outside our house registered -5 C. I would leave the house each day wearing my chainsaw pants and uninsulated boots and just a flannel shirt. I only needed lightweight leather gloves. The ground was frozen which allowed me to drive our truck right to the area where I was cutting. It was a wood cutter's dream.
After a week of reveling in such conditions I happened to talk on the phone with a neighbour. I mentioned to her how wonderful the temperature was for this time of year. "I don't follow you," Jane said. "Well, the temperature is just below freezing," I said. "Minus 5 Celsius is really balmy for this time of year." "That's funny," she said, "It's -20 at our house."
Since we only lived two miles apart, it occurred to me maybe something was wrong with our thermometer. I took it off the tree and discovered sap had glued the bimetallic spring on the back of the thermometer in place. I washed it off with some gasoline and instantly it became -20 C at our house too. I suddenly felt cold.
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