I intended to go camping this weekend, but the forecast of -50° F windchill in Voyageurs National Park dissuaded me. Instead, I am frying up sourdough flapjacks and reading Robert Service poems in an attempt to conjure the spirit of the frozen north in the land of radiators and central heating. People who camp in the dead of winter fall into two broad categories: those who do it for pleasure and those that wish to experience nature red in tooth and claw. I fall into the comfort-seekers, but sometimes I wish I had a hardier soul.

My companions in this trip-that-never-happened certainly were made of stouter stuff. I saw a gleam appear in some of their eyes as the forecast got cold. Others, I think, were merely fool-hardy. Nonetheless, it fell to me to argue that 0° sleeping bags and three season tents (or even quiznees) would not withstand a blizzard from the North. “Remember the fellowship on Mt. Caradhas,” I argued. “Better than the mines of Moria,” they returned. In the end, the most I could do was persuade them to stay close enough to the Twin Cities to bail if conditions became too ferocious. Will they fly to civilization tonight, frostbitten and miserable, or will they return tomorrow with daring tales, like Shackleton? I should have gone with them.