You don’t know cold like I do

quinzee huts

My nose began to itch as I walked my dog this morning.

Not just a regular itch, but a light tickling, prickling sensation caused by breathing in the frigid air. My nose hairs were freezing.

The sensation brought me back to my time in Canada, camping on Lake Temagami, six hours north of Toronto.

My group went up the week before Valentine’s Day.

I remember bundling up in three or four layers, silk long johns, two socks on each foot, hardcore boots, wool hat, wool scarf, gloves and Gortex mittens over those. *No cotton.*

We used snow shoes to walk through the forests. They keep you from sinking into the deep, deep snow. They were necessary. I learned the hard way.

Walking on the ice was another story. Every step was a test of your balance, every few feet, the type of ice would change — crunchy ice was safe, bumpy ice, not so much, smooth ice, forget it. I lost count of how many times I slipped and fell.

The trip was a program required by my high school. We had done a trip the year before in June. It’s one of the best experiences of my life and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The winter trip on the other hand …

We slept outside in “ice boxes” because there hadn’t been enough precipitation to build the traditional quinzee hut — the snow equivalent of an igloo. The ice box was colder. Just my luck.

This sleeping arrangement consisted of digging a foot or two deep into the compacted snow/ice and measured about 11×9 feet. Then we covered the area with a tarp and slept under that. Very pleasant.

The best part, I think, was sitting by the fire and then filling our Nalgene bottles up with boiled water and sleeping with them. Waking up — especially to pee in the middle of the night — was not so fun.

We learned other things like making a camp fire to cook on, following a compass and other survival skills.

But what I learned most was how appreciative of modern heating I am. At night, temperatures reached a balmy -17°C. That’s about 1.4°F.

But the 5°F this morning was close enough for me. It brought back happy memories, it brought back cold memories. But, as I rushed my dog along so we’d both stay warm, I smiled, because it happened.

I’m glad it did.


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