There is nothing like a late December cold snap when the thermometer bottoms-out and even the sun is too cold to rise. Today is the solstice, when we turn towards the warming sun, but in places like Fort Yukon where the temperature is currently -53 F, the longer days won’t bring respite for several months.
The coldest temperature I’ve ever seen was one New Years Eve when we walked to a friends house for a party. There was no way we wanted to start up our vehicles in those temperatures, so we bundled up and started walking the couple miles of empty roads. As you may know, cold air sinks to the lowest areas and as chance would have it, the party was at the bottom of a hill. As we descended we could feel it getting colder bit by bit, but we were dressed appropriately and pressed on. “How cold can it be?” we said. When we got right down near the creek, the cold cut through even our thickest clothes and I remember feeling like there was an anvil pressing down on top of my head. The double mitts, triple parka and super insulated pants were no match for this kind of cold, so we hustled the last bit and burst into our friends home covered in frost and very glad to have a made it.
Larry was much surprised to see the only guests at his party and we were all shocked to see that his thermometer was no longer registering at all. Minus 60 was as low as his thermometer would go! Since we had come all that way, we had a grand party and sauna. Funny thing was that as we gained the hill on our way home, the -40 something temperatures on the hill tops felt almost warm.
By Michael Wald Co-owner and guide.