Enjoy the cold that keeps out riff raff — healthy people do

It’s not easy keeping up your spirits when winter and polar vortexes catapult the thermometer in to a region well below zero.  What do you do to keep out the invading winter blues?  Some people fall prey to the knighthood of long dark nights when the kingdom of cold invades.

It is possible not to fall to the avenging onslaught of relentless waves of killer cold fronts, but you have to work at it. You have to look for it.  You have to venture out to see the beauty of the season.  That may mean adjusting your schedule a bit. The Golden Hour is mid-afternoon, that last hour when the landscape turns gold.  On a holiday, such as New Years Day, the first sunset of the year is mid-afternoon, about 4:30.  That is when I forced myself to break free from the clutches of the cold to get out with my camera to capture the day.

The first sunset of 2014

The first sunset of 2014

One of the things I’ve come to discover about North Dakotans is they accept the things they cannot change and change the things they can.  So, when record-breaking cold weather sets in, they know they can do nothing about the weather, but they can do something about their own comfort or their own activity.  Of course it’s easier to do nothing and fall prey to the demons of darkness.  Taking a step to fight back is what many healthy people of the cold north such as North Dakotans do every winter.

965859_719882948021983_1441034643_oskis point to the clearing other side of woods wtrmrk     Some will go cross-country skiing.  Cross Ranch, a quiet state park where groomed cross-country ski trails weave through a cottonwood forest that stood here when Lewis and Clark tugged their boats up the Missouri River.

For some of us, it means layering up.  I’ve spent the coldest days of the winter working in my anti-starvation work. Outside.  Attempting to stay warm while keeping the bills paid.I wear as many as 7 layers of clothing when I know I’ll be working outside. I caught this image of myself in the mirror of the tractor I was driving.

The John Deere way to view the winter.

The John Deere way to view the winter.

  • Short underwear
  • Long underwear
  • Jeans
  • sleeveless T-shirt
  • Long Sleeve T-shirt
  • Flannel shirt
  • Bib overalls
  • Hooded sweatshirt
  • Coveralls
  • Parka and
  • Hoodie face and neck protection

Camera and me in tractor cab

Not everyone has to work outside. And not everyone can resign themselves to the fact there are some things (like cold weather) that you just can’t do much about.  Sure, North Dakotans could sit at home and complain, and wait for spring, or they could get out and do something about it.  The North Dakotans I know choose to enjoy it.  For some, that means racing up a hill in to town.02-24-10 snowmobiles

Or for some who know they can’t change the weather, but they can change their activities, it means diving in to those winter hobbies.  I’m fortunate to have a wood shop where I teach myself how to build wood frames for my prints.

open door to wood burning stove logs inside

Wood burning stove keeps things warm and friendly on a cold winter night.

wood and the table saw  The wood stove sits quiet, unused and neglected much of the year.  However, this time of the year, it’s actually a rewarding way to get out of the cold.  I love burning wood to stay warm.

It’s all about attitude, isn’t it.  I think that’s one of the healthiest things about North Dakotans.  They work at keeping up their spirits when the cold keeps out the riff raff.  What’s a good way to enjoy winter and beat the winter blues?

December 23 — Motorized sledders cruise the snow

Two Yamaha sleds

I’ve never even sat on one, but snowmobiles look like a lot of fun if you’re in to speed and thrills.  It would certainly be a good way to occupy the winter season.

The ditches along Highway 83 between Bismarck and Washburn is a designated and marked trail for snowmobiles.  Those orange diamond markers you see in the photo above are indicators where are to safely ride.

I imagine it’s a moderate amount of excitement, but not what it’s like to zoom up the trails in the Turtle Mountains, or in the woods of Minnesota or Montana.

Still, it gives a picture of life in North Dakota that I caught while driving to Bismarck —  a bit of a challenge to drive down the highway with the window open along side a slide keeping it in focus as the scenery blurs by.

Don’t tell on me.

December 19 ditches are for sleds

Ditch-running

Sharing the road, or at least the ditches.  This time of year it’s not surprising to look beside you as you travel the highways and see a snowmobile running along side of you — sometimes just as fast as you’re going.

As I headed in to Washburn along Highway 200 from the west, there beside me was a big person piloting a snowmobile with a little person hanging on.  They were only going about 35 or so.  I passed them easily.  I image later in the say, however, you could pull up to most any bar, restaurant or gas station in most any town in North Dakota and see as many snowmobiles as cars parked outside.  I’ll hafta look for that shot this winter.

February 24


Bundled against the cold a lone snowmobiler crosses a highway to continue his or her trip down the ditch of Highway 83, north of Bismarck.  Snowmobiles, or “sleds” are one way to break the monotony of winter.  Often used as a tool for a farmer or rancher to get out on the range to check the condition of his land or cattle, sleds are mostly used for entertainment.  North Dakota has hundreds of miles of marked snowmobile trails, some heading up to the Canadian border.  Most, though run in the expansive ditches along the state’s highway scene.

I was shopping for my 1-a-day photo when I saw this snowmobile headed this way. I parked and waited for the rider to pass by.  There’s not much life out here to shoot, and having shot my share of snowdrifts, I welcomed this shot of a snowmobile.

Later, I spotted a pair of sleds and nabbed photos of them as they zoomed up and away from me.

February 15

Snowmobiles are North Dakotans way of getting a little excitement out of winter.  There are hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails in North Dakota.  Mostly, however, you’ll see them cruising along the highways.  That’s where this is, just south of Wilton.  I saw the sled coming, jumped out of my truck and tried to get him going by.  It’s not the best shot, but it tells a story, nonetheless.

That same day, snowmobiles came cruising out of the field that is on the south side of Wilton. Gingerly going down the snow bank, the sleds slide on to the street and head home.

January 30

Snowmobile cruises the street past Wilton's ball park

You have to find a way to get through winter.  Unhealthy or healthy, you need something to get you to spring if you’re going to live in North Dakota.  For some, it’s eating and drinking, for others it’s putting winter to use.  I could hear the sleds running a block away, and when I went to watch, this one went by.  They’re enjoying winter.  I prefer something more quiet — cross country skiing any one?