I opened my browser minutes ago and my home page opened up. It’s the Borealis Webcam Multiview of their web cams scattered about Anchorage, Alaska. The current temperature at 3:53 a.m. local time just happened to be -13 F, which is also the coldest temperature I have had the pleasure to enjoy.
Enjoy? Well sure. I was a teenager and it was a great adventure. You may disagree if you have lived where it’s regularly colder. Especially if you’ve had to endure plugging in your car to keep the oil a semi liquid, or shoveling snow for an hour just so you can get out of the driveway only to have the snowplow come by and block your drive again. That does sound frustrating.
But my story is different. I was 16 years old and we took a Winter road trip to Grandpa Jones’ ranch in John Day, Oregon. Shoveling snow was not part of my life. We were visiting from the Willamette Valley were the rare snow doesn’t stick around long and temperatures rarely fall below the teens above zero.
It was already cold when we left Canby. In the 20s maybe and so my brothers and sisters and I were dressed warmly as we piled into the van. It was an evening/night drive to eastern Oregon. My first clue that this trip was going to be different was when we got into the mountains and ice started forming on the inside of the van windows! Yes, Dad had the heat on, but it was near zero outside. We stopped to go to the bathroom in the woods (you can do that in Oregon. Lots of trees and the wind blew through my jeans like I wasn’t wearing any! First lesson. Wear thermals when it’s nothing degrees outside.
We arrived in John Day and went to bed. The next morning it was get out of bed and feed the cows. No shower or breakfast first. The cows get fed at daybreak, which also happens to be the coldest time of the day, even in John Day. It was perfectly calm and clear and thermometer read -13 F. A personal best for me that stands to this day.
I bundled up the best I could and I was made to wear a handkerchief over my mouth and nose so I wouldn’t “frost my lungs.” I doubted then (and now) that that was a real danger at that temperature, but I don’t remember arguing. Maybe I rolled my eyes. You know how teenagers are.
I stepped outside into the squeaky snow and man it was cold! I just gotten up, so there was not much blood circulating in my body yet. Thankfully it was perfectly still so the wind chill was also -13 (unless you started walking fast).
We got to work. We loaded the trailer with hay and Grandpa drove the tractor while we peeled flakes off for the cows to enjoy. The cold was making my nose run and as I inhaled my snot (sorry about the visual) froze in my nose! It’s like someone crammed cardboard up there! The condensation from my breath turned the handkerchief into ice. It was also forcing moisture to exit near my eyes and one of my eyes actually froze shut! I had to take off a glove and melt the ice off of my eyelashes so I could open my eye again. (I knew that handkerchief was a silly idea) Crazy.
We were done before I knew it. The cows were fed and we went inside to warm up and have a hearty breakfast our own selves. That afternoon it got up to a toasty 10 degrees. With sunshine icicles were growing and we went sledding and sliding into, and through, one of the frozen ditches. FUN! The whole visit was fun. Later that Winter I got to return and my Uncle and I hiked up into the John Day Mountains and surprised a bunch of deer. We also almost got lost in a snow squall, but that’s another story.
I love cold and snow. Always have. It’s beautiful and fun. Of course, I’ve never had to plug in my car or shovel my way to work either…