“First pants, THEN your shoes.”

Far Side First Pants Then Your Shoes

The enduring wit of Gary Larsen’s Far Side

Sometimes getting dressed can be an ordeal. Sometimes it is the result of fallout from having unwittingly challenged a master prankster in an April Fool’s day battle. Sometimes it is just a factor of one’s environment. I happen to be familiar with both instances, although only the latter on a more or less regular basis. The former incident was years ago and the result was days of low level trauma, wondering if I had lost my mind… the ends of my pant legs and the flaps of my drawers had all been sewn shut and dryer lint was stuffed in the toes of all of my shoes.

The latter is, as mentioned a factor of the environment. In some environments said activity is relatively straight forward; i.e. board shorts, t-shirt, slippahs. Done. Here and now, not so much…

Here and now the trick is in the combination of layers and the ability to ventilate… One pair cotton boxers. One pair wool-synthetic blend long underwear “pants”. One pair heavy wool socks. One long sleeve “waffle knit” thermal shirt. Another long sleeve “waffle knit “ thermal shirt. One all wool long sleeve button down shirt. One pair flannel lined Carhartt pants. One heavy, fleece lined canvas vest with full zip collar. One pair moosehide and canvas mukluks with heavy wool felt liners. One insulated Carhartt jacket. One lightweight synthetic balaclava. One fleece hat with adjustable face mask. One pair lightweight synthetic gloves liners. One pair wool fingerless gloves with mitten finger cover. One pair contact lenses (or Lasik surgery should one be so privleged) as glasses would fog up and be rendered useless within the first two minutes.

It is 10:30 AM Saturday morning December 1st 2012. The sun has just come up and it is -31 degrees Fahrenheit…two degrees colder than it was when I got up two hours ago. Time to take the dogface for a walk.


We have settled into a routine circuit that we take for longer walks. It is a roughly 3.5 mile long rectangular track around the neighborhood. We typically jog the first quarter mile or so up a long, gradual, ever steepening grade towards the local elementary school. We then cut through the school grounds and the woods to a seldom used gravel road. We follow that due west to the intersection with another road whereupon we choose the trail we will take in a roughly southerly direction. Summer allows for the wooded trail. In winter we use the road side trail so as to not ruin the ski tracks. This leads us on a winding course back to the main road to the south, through the big field that must have at one time been part of the local golf course, back onto the bike path, and on to Sun Way back home. That course we often run, roughly a mile and a half or so.

The initial jog is just to get warmed up. It makes the walking part in the middle more comfortable. It is important not to overdo that first part though because if I get too overheated and start sweating then I will likely get cold. By the time we reach the first main intersection where we turn south I am starting to cool down and on a day like today her feet start to get cold. This is about two miles in or so. Then, as mentioned we often run. The jogging during the first section is more of a measured trot really, not meant to significantly speed up forward movement but rather to get the blood going. On the way home it is ok to go more full-tilt as sweating now is not a problem. This part is fun. The route is winding and is on a well used but not maintained trail. The footing is mostly sure but you still have to be aware, you are not on a track or treadmill…plus if it is a day like today it is -31 remember. Good to keep your wits about you.

I was thinking about all of this on the run home today; how I like the brain activity necessary for exercising in this manner. I have been going to a gym of late, but you know, you get on a treadmill and you are just a rat in a wheel. Out there you have to actively place your feet and be constantly aware of your surroundings. In the summer is even better because we run on the wooded trails and have to navigate tree roots and fallen limbs and boggy sections…sometimes moose.

Anyways, I meant to talk about the cold. As mentioned it is winter in these parts. The local paper proclaimed that this weekend we were expected to get our first cold snap…I am pretty sure the temperature has not been above -10 for at least two weeks. Not sure when it was last above zero. What they meant was that we should expect our first consistent -30 days and likewise we ought expect some days to hit -40. Today is December 1st and the coldest part of the year is typically during January and February. The paper also mentioned that we just experienced one of the coldest Novembers on record. Somehow that does not bother me this year. I have lived through -30s, -40s, and even -50s. Have yet to experience -60 though.



Fairbanks at -44, enshrouded in ice fog.

Last night I helped my girlfriend put heat tape on the filter and supply line for the heating oil at her rental cabin. Diesel fuel starts to gel around -40. We also put a sleeping bag around her propane tank as gas acts weird at those temperatures as well. Vehicles have to be heated in some manner to start and run; either inside a building or with electrical devices to warm up the engine and fluids. Given the latter one should also let the machine run for several minutes to properly circulate the fluids before driving. One should also drive slow at first if the vehicle has been sitting for a few hours as the softer winter tires tend to get flat on the bottom and cause the vehicle to shake badly until they warm up a bit. Then there is the ice fog; airborne particulates that gather frozen condensation and fall from the sky like snow…frozen pollution. Touching metal can “burn” exposed skin. Hauling water is fun. I will refrain from elaborating on the joys of using the outhouse…except to say that I really want a pair of fleece lined wool chaps.

But that is just how it is here. Unless you are independently wealthy and can have everything done for you, one must get up and move about to some degree. Yes there is a certain attraction to hunkering down and not going outside, but if it is just bound to get colder…well, that could make for a long winter. In my opinion it is best to have a healthy mixture of outside and inside activities planned… planning being the key point there for the outside part. Today I got some outside time in. Now it is time for the gym. Tonight we are going to swing dance lessons. Maybe tomorrow a bit of curling practice and I will likely walk the dogface again.

Life in the sub-arctic.


One thought on ““First pants, THEN your shoes.”

  1. Lordylou, I do not miss that! Even with a heated garage and indoor plumbing, it’s still a process! It’s not easy living, that’s for sure. The amount of energy and planning it takes to just “survive” like a normal person is insane. No wonder we are all soooo “happy” once summer hits. It’s a constant state of schizophrenia, I think. We are so overjoyed and find summer to be so amazing and beautiful in our freeze dried little minds that we forget all about the insanity of living in a place that, technically, humans are not supposed to live in. Keep warm, my friend…keep warm…!

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