Tonight the arctic air that has been pushing down into the center of the US reaches out into most of the country.
It's already in the single numbers, soon the mercury will have that funny little minus sign in front of it's number and my thoughts drift back to a colder time and place, a place where one never says the word "minus" before stating the temperature, because it is always bellow zero.
It began as something fun to watch, a change from the boring white. The breeze was picking up tiny bits of snow and pushing them across the flat tundra. It started and ended in fits and starts, a wisp of snow here and there. By the time we'd stomped the first batch of jugs it was twisting in long swirls ankle deep seemingly coming from the South West, and we were walking sideways into it to protect the front zippers of our suits and using the edge of our parka hoods to pear around. At 40 below the wind was nippy.
We sat in the first Nodwell while waiting for the second one to come up and watching the snow, not saying much. Smoked a bowl.
When Stevie drove up we tossed our packs in his buggy and started to unload, Kevin and I stomping jugs while Steve drove on with Chuck on the back pulling cable out of the cage and tossing off a couple jug sets every 165 feet.
Kevin and I walked backwards now, backs completely to the wind, only glancing around briefly to make sure of our surroundings and to see how much further to the next set. The rhythm becomes comfortable and you sink into your own thoughts. Set a jug in the snow, stomp it, toss off a few D rings of jug wire, walk four steps, another jug, eighteen jugs to the set, clip the jug pin around the cable with the last few D rings, look for the new jug set, clip it to the cable, do it again.
The snow is blowing knee deep now, and it's whipping across the ice. Where it's going I've no idea, piling up in ANWAR just across the Canning River that we climbed up out of a couple days ago I guess.
Kevin interrupts my thoughts.
"Hey, quit already"
I follow his gaze out to where I can now see Steve and Chuck turned around a mile and a half out in front of us headed back our way. Kevin is walking towards them dragging jug sets as he goes. I still don't get it, Kevin explains while he gets me to help drag some too. They are picking up the wire they just tossed out, we manage to drag a quarter mile of jugs together while they work towards us. When they get to us I replace Chuck in the cage who must be freezing to pull in the remaining cable. Chuck doesn't argue but gets in near the heater. Gets cold up there with nothing to hide behind.
Everyone is happy, we're going in. We bump and crawl along at a blistering six miles an hour, top speed in the Nodwell. We can still see the seismic line as we drive but the snow is rising often above six feet and when it does it's hard to see anything.
We stand by at the Recorder, excited talk of the storm, and a chance to get in early, catch up on sleep, sit around in a warm room, eat food, do laundry, watch a video. But we don't go anywhere. We are waiting for everyone. In the now blinding snow and wind we can see the lights of the other jug trucks, well Nodwells actually, and the four vibes, and the recorder and after hours we start do drive in, bumper to bumper hard to see the vehicle twenty five feet in front even with the floods pointed back.
Four hours later we are in camp, I know because Stevie stops and sets the brake and announces that we've arrived. We can barely see the floods shining off the sides of the trailers fifty feet away.
The wind blew for sixty hours.
Update: A most humble thank you for the Rescue. Rather Rescue than Rec List as they say. This was just a way to while the time and write some words on a cold night. While I'm here I'd like to mention all the people sleeping cold in mini vans and pick ups with toppers in parking lots of Walmart and Conoco, from Bozeman to El Paso tonight. They start the engine to crank the heater but are scared to run out of gas. It's a morning to think of those less fortunate.