Cariboo winter teaches harsh lessons

Melissa Smalley column

There’s nothing quite like the sound of excited children galloping down the stairs hollering at you to look out the window at the first blanket of snow that has fallen overnight.

This will be the sixth winter that my family has lived in the South Cariboo, and I’m happy to report that the novelty of real winter weather has not worn off on us just yet.

But there have certainly been some tough lessons learned along the way as we acclimatized to the long, sometimes outrageously cold but always beautiful winter season.

The learning curve was steep the first year, I’ll admit.

We kept wondering why people were so curious about the amount of firewood we had at the ready – what is a “cord of wood,” anyway?

But when we burned through our wood reserves by the end of January and had to scramble to find more to supplement our electric heat for another few months, I realized why our newfound friends and neighbours had all been asking.

The other thing that became obvious to me after our first winter was that I would have to part with my beloved, fuel-efficient, zippy little hatchback.

I loved that car, but it had poor clearance and front-wheel drive and all it took was a snowfall of more than 10 cm at once to render me unable to get off our sketchy Cariboo driveway.

The truck we bought to replace it is a much safer option throughout the winter months, and even came with a built-in block heater, which – during my second Cariboo winter – I discovered only really works if you remember to plug it in (oops).

This brings me to the cold. It’s an indescribable feeling stepping out into air that hurts your lungs and freezes your nostrils. I’ll admit, the first real cold snap we experienced came with a few “what on earth have we done?” moments.

But we learned how to properly layer up and some fun ways to tucker our kids out indoors, and now feel pretty tough when we survive those dips into the negative 30s.

The biggest thing we have learned – which can actually be applied to Cariboo life year-round – is to never underestimate Mother Nature and what she might throw at us.

With recent events across the province, it’s more important than ever to be prepared, whether at home or on the road, to help make the coming season a safe, enjoyable and memorable one.

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