Over the past few weeks, I have seen the red line on the thermometer below zero more times than I would like to admit. It has been so bad that when the temperature is actually in the teens and 20s, I find myself grabbing the mail or doing simple chores in my garage without putting a coat on, despite the fact the weather is still well below freezing.
But even in these freezing temperatures, I have noticed something that, for some reason, surprises me a little: People in the area sure like to be outside when it is this cold.
I grew up about an hour from the area, in basically the same environment and certainly the same conditions, but I can't help but feel like winter is treated a little differently in the lakes area.
Don't get me wrong, I grew up doing most of the same pastimes kids around here would have done - snowmobiling, ice skating, building snow forts, what have you - but it is the public events in the area that have surprised me in the past four winters.
If it isn't Holiday at the Dam or WinterFest, it's the Ice Fishing Extravaganza or the Winter Jubilee or Back to Hack or any number of outdoor events. This weekend, it's the Gull Lake Frozen Fore, which is perhaps the most unusual event of the winter season (I mean that as a compliment).
Growing up in central Minnesota, winter was kind of a time to hole up where it was warm. We had events for the public, but they were always at the school or in the church basement or some other indoor location.
Very rarely was a hometown winter event outside, let alone on the ice - which my coworkers and I have been on and will be on several times to cover fishing tournaments, polar plunges and other chilly happenings.
In my time in the area, one thing I have come to respect more than most things is not just everyone's respect and admiration of nature - that can be found in most of northern and central Minnesota - but everyone's desire to actually be out in nature, regardless of what the weatherman says.
This past weekend, I was taking photos at the ice fishing derby on Nisswa Lake. Though the weather was not sub-zero for once, there was still a fairly bitter wind coming off the lake. Nevertheless, the contest still had dozens of participants out on the ice.
Before coming here, I would have just assumed planning an event outside when the temperature is 10 degrees or worse, you couldn't expect too many people to show up. That assumption has been proven wrong about three times a month for the past four years.
So every winter, it will probably get cold, these events will probably take place and my assumption will probably be proven wrong time and again.
And you can bet we will be there to cover my wrongness.