Monday, January 05, 2009

Extreme Cold


With the temperature a bone chilling -30C, I made one final check on my cold weather gear that I always keep stored in the back of my truck during the winter months before backing off of my drive-way. I had checked on the temperature before leaving the house and was glad that I had thought to plug-in the block-heater before turning in for the night. I had remote-started my truck sitting on the drive-way and with a reassuring pageback that it had started, I readied my camera gear in the warmth of the house and with a final check on the outside temperature that sat at -30C I was ready. Stepping out into the cold, brought a sense of exhilaration as the cold air hit me in the face. The skies were inky black with just a hint of dawn in the east. A new crescent moon hung in the southern sky with Venus shinning brightly nearby.The snow gave off that special crunchy sound under my feet in the extreme cold, as I carried my gear over to my truck that idled softly on the drive-way. Once underway, I kept the speed down for some distance, as the truck protested the rude awakening it was forced to endure, just to satisfy my early morning need to wandering some southern Alberta backroad. Clearing the eastern outskirts of the city brought a drop in the temperature on my truck thermometer, that steadied at -32C as I headed east on highway 1 towards Chestemere. I picked up a coffee in Chestermere and worked my way over to the Inverlake road. Dawn was rapidly breaking on the eastern horizon, as I stopped for my first photo-op created by the light of the dawn dancing on snow drifts along the road, created by the wind that was raw on my face as I struggled with my camera upon exiting the warmth of my truck. I continued east to junction of the 817 where I turned south, stopping in Strathmore for a coffee to go. Back on the Inverlake road, I continued east until I picked up highway 21, and drove it north to where I picked up the 564, and headed east towards the Wintering Hills. The temperature stayed steady at -32C with a light wind that I estimated at 5kph, making for a wind chill equivalent temperature of -38C. Having been out this way before, I had a drive in mind up ahead that consisted of the 564, the 804 and a rolling backroad that connects the two. Coming up on the 804 I swung south climbing the grade that topped out with views that were breath-taking on this crystal clear morning. A few kilometers further, I turned west on to the backroad that I have driven before and love the views as it follows along deep coulees. There are a number of picturesque ranches out this way, and I had pulled over to photograph one that had a shelter belt of evergreens, which had been blasted by wind-driven snow that was still embedded in them. Funny how it goes, I was concerned about the snow drifts on the road that I had to bust through, as I was the only vehicle on the road and was thinking seriously about turning back. I had stopped my truck with no thought of how it was parked and had set up my camera to shoot a photo, when for some reason I sensed something was not quite right. Turning around to look back up the road to the west, I almost tripped over my camera and tripod as I looked upon a avalanche of snow coming down the road towards me. From the swirling snow a snowplow appeared as it broke through a snowdrift just up the road from me.
Grabbing my gear and throwing it in the truck with me right behind, I was glad that I had left my truck running. I threw it in to gear and with the tires clawing for traction, I quickly drove down the road a ways before pulling over in a safe location to allow the snowplow to pass me. Of course I did not miss the opportunity to shoot photos of the plow in action. With a wave, the operator of the plow continued on, clearing snow off the road as he went. I now had no more worries about getting stuck with the freshly cleared road to drive on. I made more stops for photo-ops along the way with many fine captures to add to my image banks when I returned home. I suspect the extreme temperatures were keeping the deer from foraging to far from their beds, as I saw no wildlife to speak of throughout my drive. Dropping back down to the 564, I turned west for home with the temperatures hoovering around -28C on the drive back to Calgary.

More of my photos can be seen here:

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