• The Roving Route

Nothing Burns Like The Cold

The Adventures of The Roving Route #43


Well, this polar vortex that has hit most of North America has continued to bring its cold temperatures! Kenora hit an all-time low last week at a blistering -36.6°C and with a windchill, down to -47°C breaking a 73-year record for the city. Just to give you an idea, the average daytime high is -10° for mid-February in Kenora so a week where the highest temperature without windchill was -23° has been bitterly cold. With the cold weather, we have had quite a few people reach out asking about safety so we thought it would make sense to have a quick discussion of how to prepare a few things in the case of a true emergency during the winter. We have already written a general 'How we prepared for isolation' but we have created a few "safety bags" as it's important to always be ready.


As we all know, there are a few things we need to survive; food, water, and shelter/heat so each bag has a variety of these items. They are also complete with a full first aid kit as well as water purification tablets and a burn kit. Though the water we carry is in an insulated sleeve, it likely won't do a lot when it's -40°C. Luckily, we live in a spot where we are surrounded by water but it may not be in liquid form or free of contaminants. To help, water purification tablets eliminate many of the common bacteria found in water. While we hope to not rely on these, it gives piece of mind to always have them on hand. As there are many other cottages around us, we hope to never have to worry about shelter but heat is of course a big concern. Therefore we also carry a small burn kit. If we are stranded somewhere and are using fire for warmth, things can easily go wrong. Add in poor judgment from cold weather, lack of food or water, and the fire can become outright deadly. The burn kit includes soothing ointments and a mesh that is used after skin grafts.


With a fire burning long past our bedtime, something unfortunate can happen at any time so we have an 'Emergency Bag' in our bedroom in the case of an unexpected nighttime occurrence. Along with all of the items in the photo below, the one that sticks out the most is flagging tape. The fluorescent tape can be seen on many of the trees that line trails around North America and is a well-known sign that you are on a proper path. In an emergency, when you are lost in the wilderness you'll need to give yourself or someone else a marker. Just like Hansel and Gretel, ensuring you know your way back is key in emergency situations.

The Emergency Bag with the addition of a few other items was what we walked into Kenora with a few months ago to get groceries. The main additions were spare clothes and lots more snacks for the walk. While I am sure our neighbours would be fine with us breaking into their cabins in the middle of the night with nothing on, the same likely can't be said if our feet got wet and we needed socks or such. For that walk, we also had the luxury of pulling our bag in a sled for a good chunk of the way so that helped us to overprepare.


We also have our 'To-Go' Bag for days that we venture out but stay close to home. It was the bag we brought for when we went out on the ice for the first time, building the snow maze, and now when we go out in our car. The specific items we want to point out are the bear horn and reflective strips. While the name bear horn may suggest a specific use, anyone who explores the wilderness knows that they are so much more. A number of years ago during a camping trip, a heavy wind storm beached our boat and even with 5 people trying for hours to dig it out, it wouldn't budge. A few quick blasts of the bear horn at a passing fishing boat ensured our rescue and continued safety.


Along with the bear horn, the reflective strips are very important. If it is pitch black out and we are walking through the snow, a bear horn may call attention, but if people don't know where to look, sound can only do so much. Remember, in these extreme cold temperatures, your cell phone will die in just 3 or 4 minutes meaning it will be about as useful as a brick. The same can be said about most flashlights as their batteries will get zapped by the extreme cold as well. Having the combination of reflective strips and a bear horn will hopefully mean that we can be both heard and seen from quite a far distance. Like most emergency kits it’s the combination of what you have to give you the best success rates.

Now that the ice road is in, there are certain items in our vehicle in case of an emergency in transit during the winter. The mats and sand are if we veer off the ice road in the flat lighting conditions we face, or at night when the banks are challenging to see. By digging out the front half of your front tires (*note if you are front or rear-wheel drive) and placing the mat and sand there, the hope is you can get enough traction to make your way out. If that doesn't work or you don't have a shovel, you can always use your jack to lift your car enough to slip the mat underneath. As a solid base for the jack, your spare tire can always be used though it may be an expensive option as the rim may be permanently bent. While we are by no means experts on snow/ice safety, we hope to have enough knowledge to help get us through the situation. Worst case scenario, we have blankets and our to-go bag which will hopefully keep us warm until rescue can come. One of our friend's (and avid newsletter reader) was stranded just last week as he went off the road just around dusk in poor weather. It happens to the best of us so it's important to be prepared. Luckily, a passing car was able to get him unstuck so his story does have a happy ending but it's not always that way.

To leave off on a happier note, we had a nice socially distanced chat with Jess and Andi from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital Foundation today. As part of the 50/50 lottery to raise funds for the hospital, they have been trying to bring light to some of the fun or unique things in the Kenora area and wanted to check out the maze. They created an awesome video that can be seen on the Facebook group. The money raised from the lottery is used to purchase new equipment for the hospital and ensure it is always advancing. New equipment is also incredibly important as it helps with recruiting new or experienced health care workers into the community. This month's 50/50 draw is coming up so if you would like to get in on the action, click HERE. Last month's winner took home over $150,000!!!


Cheers to the emergency responders we hopefully never have to meet!

The Roving Route