Today I woke at 5:30 a.m. I stay huddled under my down comforter and rolled over to look out my picture frame window. Cassiopeia hung in the dark, clear sky just to the right of my window, about 45 degrees from the horizon.

The nearly-half moon was sinking below the silhouette of bare-branched birch trees that ring my cabin. That’s cool, I thought.

I decided to watch it slip below the horizon; it looked almost like a slice of mandarin, not quite orange enough, though.

I turned on our local NPR station, KUAC. -43F at the airport in Fairbanks. That’s cold, I thought.

For a bit, I read “The Lost Continent: Travels in Small-Town America” by Bill Bryson. He’s the rare author whose writing and descriptions of characters and places can make me laugh out loud.

-43F. I’m not in a hurry to go outside.

I listened to the update on the Yukon Quest.  (Below is a description from the race website.)

At the “top of the world,” in the Yukon and Alaska wilderness of northwestern North America, an epic winter sports event takes place every February, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. Covering 1,000 miles between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska during the depths of the Arctic winter, the Yukon Quest is known for excellence in canine care and fostering the traditions of northern travel by dog sled.

The Yukon Quest has been run every year since 1984 over the 1,000 miles (1,600 km) of rough, sometimes hazardous terrain between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska. The Yukon Quest Race Start alternates annually between these two host cities.

On Friday, Brian O’Donoghue, the chair of the UAF Dept. of Journalism, who has competed in the Quest and the Iditarod, mentioned taking some students out to mile marker 101 to witness some of the mushers on the course.

Here’s the e-mail message he sent this morning:

To all,
As of 9 a.m., Neff is likely at least eight -12 hours from Central. The few other teams within driving distance will be hitting Circle, a 6-7 hour drive. Do NOT attempt to intercept Neff at Cochranes Cabin. We don’t know if it’s open this year and IT’S TOO COLD, likely 50 below or more out there. THAT’S THE DANGER ZONE for any traveler, and far too cold for a novice to mess around alone.
If you attempt to drive north today take a friend, food and survival gear. IF you get get stuck, anyplace, do not leave your car unless it’s to wave down a snowplow or passing car. Monday will be a better day to find teams at Mile 101, Central and Circle.
–Brian O’Donoghue

Brian has been good about giving me tips about the perils of winter weather here and how to dress for it. Over the time I’ve been here, I’ve acquired jackets, gloves, boots…even a down SKHOOP skirt (made in Sweden.)

It’s a short distance from my cabin to the outhouse, and I didn’t dress for the journey. Silly not to wear gloves, I quickly realize. The metal hook latch stung my fingers like a needle stick. My face and hands immediately felt the tight sizzle-sting that screams “are you kidding?”

I went back inside and started a fire. For the first time since I arrived in Fairbanks, I put a blanket at the base of the front door to deter some of the cold seeping in. (Even the cold is seeking shelter.)

Despite the cold, it’s a crystalline beauty day. Snow dusting the trees. A bright blue sky. And more than eight hours of daylight today.

It’s cool and it’s cold living in Fairbanks in February.