Tuesday, February 13, 2007

My Dear Students: Almost There

I've been on this train so long I feel like I must be at the end of the world. Since leaving Winnipeg, the train has gone neither up nor down, except for a tiny rise to get on the spur track that took us for a stop at the little town of Thompson. (Try looking it up on Google Earth and see if you can find a channel that the train crosses between lakes. Oddly I saw open, unfrozen water there.) The towns are low too, except for The Pas, which has a cluster of old hotels and government buildings a few stories high. Mostly the buildings hunker down low in the snow with a bright coat of paint so you can find them.

We've been traveling through trees since I woke up to a very slow sunrise and a waning moon next to Venus yesterday morning. The trees further south were skinny and not so tall -- nothing like those at home. It's like these spruce draw in their arms to avoid the cold. Up here -- one hour outside Churchill, they have gotten even smaller, and many have branches and needles on just one side. The last time I saw a timber train was in Thompson. It was loaded with pole logs with a super tight grain, most of them no bigger around than a teacup. Behind the log cars were the biggest propane tanks I've ever seen. It made me wonder if the Arctic is where we get our propane, they were so big. Or maybe the people who live here need the propane to keep their low buildings warm.

I've been out in the cold twice now. The first time was in Winnipeg. Even though it was minus 31 F, I overdressed. I was sweating and my fingers inside my mittens got slippery. The second time, in The Pas, I wore less. Nylon makes a different sound at these temperatures. It crinkles like paper. I ran in the fifteen minutes we had to fuel the train. The cold air hurt my lungs and made me cough.

I didn't think yesterday's sunrise would amount to much, but we got a whole day of light out of it, and a few minutes of bright sun that called for sunglasses. It didn't get dark until 6 pm. I am thankful for the good food I packed and for the warm coffee in my cup. I wonder what today will hold.


Mrs. Hille said...

Mrs. Dean,

I just wanted to tell you how much I am enjoying reading your blog as you head out on your adventure. I trust that you will tell me more about the noise nylon makes when it gets cold and why you were running in a dress to begin with. We miss you here at Bush. Take time to read a good book.

Hugs and smiles,

Mrs. Hille

Bill Dean said...


How many people are living where you are? Coming from a public health background I am interested in how garbage and sewage are dealt with there in the frozen north!!

Thanks, stay warm


PS Let us know what you think of the aurora borealis when you see them.