Another Gunflint Trail Winter Story

Posted by MNAngler On December - 9 - 2010

If you ask a non-Minnesotan to tell you what they know about Minnesota, they’ll tell you, “it’s cold.” This reputation is so pervasive that when a friend of mine in college landed an internship here in Minneapolis for the summer, he packed sweaters. He had no idea that it gets up to 90+ degrees F in Minnesota in June/July. I think we’re one of the few places in the world that have both wind chills and heat indexes.

One of the reasons for our cold reputation is that it can get very cold in the Northern part of the state. The coldest city in the state is typically Embarrass where temps can typically get to -40 degrees F in January and February.

Up on the Gunflint Trail where my in-laws have a family cabin, it wasn’t unusual to see temps in the -50 degree F range during those months. Crazy as it sounds, my father-in-law’s family used to spend some weekends up there in the dead of winter. No running water, no indoor plumbing, and an outhouse a hundred feet from the warmth of a cabin to “do your business.” You’d bring the toilet seat inside so you wouldn’t have to put your bare butt on a colder-than-ice throne. I would never put myself in such conditions, but it makes me damn glad I can pee standing up (right, Kari?)

On one such weekend in 1955, my grandfather-in-law came out of the cabin to check on his car which had to be parked on the main road. The cabin is a couple hundred feet from the road and there is a circle driveway between it and the road. But back then they would get several feet of snow and shoveling it just to park your car wasn’t worth it. The thermometer they had outside only went down to -40 degrees F and the mercury didn’t even come out of the bulb. He found out later that the temp had gotten down to -56 degrees F. He tried to start the car and it didn’t even try to turn over.

He walked a mile to Old Man Brandt’s place (the one that had the airplane adventure) and they drove back up in Brandt’s car (which was in a garage). My grandfather-in-law got in his car while Brandt drove in behind him. I guess automatic transmissions could turn over back them if you got them going fast enough. So Old Man Brandt pushed grandpa’s car to try to get it turned over. They went a good mile and a half and got up to 30 miles an hour before the car finally came back to life.

Grandpa thanked Old Man Brandt and drove back to his cabin. He hopped out, walked to the cabin, opened the door and said to his wife, “Meg, pack up the kids. We’re going home!”

4 Responses to “Another Gunflint Trail Winter Story”

  1. Optimista says:

    Even if you ask a Minnesotan what they know about Minnesota, they might just say, “it’s cold.”

    BTW, girls can pee standing up, too. Or, at least, not touching the seat.

  2. Bob Benditzky says:

    After moving from the Chicago area to Eagle River, WI and living there for three winters my father said “exactly” the same thing. “Helen, pack up the kids we’re moving home”. 🙂

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