Monday, December 6, 2010

Goo Goo ga Choo

Even though it's currently mild in Moab, Utah, near where I plan to be a year from now, a bike ride in the cold and wind got me thinking about winter camping. (I'm also filling space on this blog, because there's not much going on right now.) As winter sets in, I'm trying to note how my body reacts to temperatures and conditions, to anticipate the cold-weather gear I'll want.

What I've observed is that I have the body of a walrus. This isn't about body dysmorphic disorder. Walruses live in the Arctic, and spend most of their time in the very cold water. A layer of blubber keeps them warm. Unlike other pinnipeds, they don't have thick fur as a final layer of insulation; instead, they have special skin. In the water, the blood vessels of a walrus's skin contract, drawing its warm blood down below the blubber layer. They look pale and clammy, like brining roasters.

But when they come out of the water and bask in the warm sun, their skin blood vessels dilate, and the blood rushes back to the surface, turning them pink.

Tyra says: Walrus brings it it H to T!
I can be out in the cold for a really long time before my trunk or especially my legs feel cold--I've got a pretty well distributed layer of body fat, and I seem to radiate almost no heat from my skin. It's not unusual for my skin to feel truly corpse-cold to the touch after coming in from winter activities, yet I don't feel uncomfortable.

The huge exception to this is hands and feet. I sleep in wool socks. My fingers quickly numb. The lesson of the walrus is: invest in mittens and those warmy packets.

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