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December 9, 2012

The Winter Bride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s snow on the ground and in the trees and we’re supposed to get more every day next week.  Just now, though, it’s clear.  The temperature has already fallen to 5 F and the sun won’t rise for another eleven hours---it will drop below zero.  Only one of next week’s highs is predicted to be above freezing---the predicted high for Tuesday is 33F.  

The weather teased us with the appearance of winter a few weeks ago, but that was the normal November deception.  Real winter, a bride in white, has arrived.

An hour and a half has passed.  It’s 0F. Clouds came and went---Orion made an appearance while I fed the pack.  After dinner, half a dozen dogs opted to lay out in the snow enjoying the dry clear night.

Seven Sunday morning---time to rise and shine.  It dropped to -9F overnight, the first subzero night of the season.  The sun will rise in about an hour.  I cook and eat a good breakfast and drink my coffee, then start to put on all of my clothing.  The temperature will just get into positive single digits during my first ATV run.  The run won’t be too long, a little less than an hour, but I’ve done a lot of squats off of the foot pedals trying to stay warm when I’ve worn too little clothing.  I want to maintain my streak of getting my clothing correct and staying warm.  Dressing and getting everything ready for the run, not to mention finishing a minor repair of the ATV, means we pull out of the yard at ten. 

The dirt road we take for the first mile was plowed overnight.  We turn onto a forest service road that, with more snow, will become a snowmobile trail.  It won’t be plowed.  There are car tracks, but at least one pair of my ATV’s tires is breaking through unpacked snow.  The first team works hard for their miles. 

Gaiya takes the team into our turn around perfectly, this even though snow hides the trail.  I have to react quickly to duck under a snow ladened branch that’s now hanging down into my path.  The perfect timing of the turn also surprises me because most of my leaders are trying to turn the team too soon---sometimes insisting that there’s a path when there’s none.  I’ve loved my Chlout Siberians, but route finding is a consistent weak point.

If the run out was hard, the run back is harder—the steep hills are in this direction.  We finish the seven miles just inside of an hour---definitely slow but with all the fresh snow and the fact that the team pulled the ATV through it without any help pleases me.  It’s 6 F as I close the gate to the yard behind the team.  

Switching teams takes fifty minutes—a hair long but it’s the first run of the season with soft snow and heavy clothing.  The sun is occasionally breaking through the clouds the whole time and the temperature rises to a balmy 16F. 

The “Dogs of a Certain Age” pick up where the “Little Bitches” left off.  There’s a much better track for the ATV, though conditions are still quite slow.  Everybody works hard.  After the run, putting the dogs up goes fast. 

I’m happy with everything from the runs to the snow on the ground.  Even the repair I did to the ATV has it running better than it has in years.  This just seems to be another part of the transition.  The depressing season of mud, wet cold, and long nights has ended.  The snowpack, the real winter snowpack, has started to form.  Dark brown has been transformed into white, clean and bright.  The snow and winter will be everywhere until mid March. 

Even before I moved to Montana, cold and snow attracted me.  The only season in Seeley Lake I dislike immediately precedes my favorite season and that change often takes just a few days.  It did this year.  All that remains is to get onto sled runners.

   
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