Finally, the van starts to slow. It’s time.
You look excitedly out the window, even though you can barely see a thing without any streetlights.
You’ve successfully wrangled on all your necessary layers for the hike, your feet are toasty warm in your winter boots, and your legs are begging for a stretch after a long day of travel.
You step out of the van, and the cold tickles your nose as you reach to your forehead and click on your headlamp. Light illuminates your path. You’ve arrived.
It’s funny. You’re smiling — and excited! And it doesn’t even cross your mind that you’re thousands of miles from home, above the arctic circle in a tiny village with people you just met during the darkest week of the year.
This is the magic of Winter’s Womb.
The 20-minute walk to Arctic Hive goes by quicker than you’d imagined. Perhaps it’s the fact you’re impressed with the layers you brought… they’re actually keeping you warm! Or how you’re pleasantly surprised you made fast friends with fellow retreat guests on the journey north.
Or perhaps you’re just in awe of the courage it took to get to this moment... because you have absolutely no idea where you’re going because it’s completely dark outside, aside from a sliver of a moon and the light of your collective headlamps.
Suddenly, you notice a glow in the distance...
As you get closer, you notice that there are twinkle lights, strung through the trees, illuminating a world that just minutes ago, was completely dark. The group goes quiet, with only the crunch crunch crunch of snow under-foot. Arctic Hive’s yoga studio, wilderness lodge and cabins come into view, as faint outlines of towering mountains become visible in the distance as your eyes adjust.
“This is magic in real life,” you think to yourself.
This is the magic of Winter’s Womb.
I had to tell this story because that moment is one that I look forward to all year. Admittedly, I feel that vibe with every retreat we host. But Winter’s Womb always hits different — a little extra magic, being the darkest week of the year with the turn of a new chapter just a few days away.
And to answer your next question:
No, it's not completely dark all day!
Over the Winter Solstice, when Winter's Womb is happening, we have four hours of "twilight" every day without the sun coming over the horizon. It's hard to put into words — you just need to experience it for yourself! We spend much of those four “daytime” hours outside exploring, and then as the darkness sets in, we’re usually winding down with restorative yoga and a delicious meal together.
For reference, all the photos I've put in this email were taken during an actual Winter's Womb retreat.
As the days goes on, I love seeing the camaraderie our guests feel with a group of women they’ve just met... their child-like wonder to see “Arctic Mascara” — which is when ice crystals from our breath stick to our eyelashes in the cold temps, making it seem like we have white mascara on!
If all goes according to our master plan, the Northern Lights silently paint the sky out the window each night.
And something that might surprise you about this retreat (and our REWild retreats) is that as much as half our attendees have little-to-no experience with yoga. They are open to it, and here for the experience... but they arrive as a blank slate.
I say all this because we’re headed into the “season of stuff.” Candy, mountains of food, gifts, parties and big ticket sales at every store. There will be money that needs to be spent, money that needs to be saved, and — perhaps — there will be resources carelessly spent because, well... ’tis the season.
The more time I spend living in the arctic, the more I’m reminded of an important truth:
We don’t take any stuff with us when we die.
Morbid, sure... but true. The magic I feel when I put on a snazzy new item of clothing can fade overnight, just as the vibrancy of the fabric fades after a few washes.
On the other hand, the magic of the things we see and the adventures we take? Those stick with us if they’re meaningful enough.
Those are the things that cause a welling up in our heart — that put life into perspective — and that feed our soul with the simplicity of being at ease in nature.
And if you’re anything like the guests who’ve visited before you: A visit to the Brooks Range will leave an imprint on your heart that will last a lifetime. If not this year, perhaps 2024 or 2025. We’re not going anywhere.
(Although, scientists do predict this winter will be the best Northern Lights in 20 years so…)
If you have any questions and you're on the fence, don't ever hesitate to shoot me an email! Just a few thoughts I’m grateful to share with you today.
The hike-in on arrival at Arctic Hive is one of my favorite parts of welcoming any retreat group to our home. It’s similar to what I remember feeling when kids hopped off the bus on day 1 of summer camp.
Looking around at faces and feeling the energy of the group, there’s always a mix of emotions circulating— especially during the seasons where it might be raining, or extremely cold, or in the summer/fall before snowmachine access when they get to hike-in their own luggage.
(Pictured below are the teens who visited us this summer for a fundraising retreat with Riding On Insulin. They hiked in all their own gear — and IMO, did a pretty amazing job of packing light!)
There’s the inevitable restlessness from travel, layered with anticipation and excitement. I know this feeling well, myself.
You’ve spent months preparing for this adventure, trying to anticipate the experience with 2D reenactments via photos, videos, testing gear, and chatting with others who’ve been… but (and here’s the best part) upon arrival and seeing the Brooks Range in full-color 3D, you realize it’s for the best that all your expectations are getting unceremoniously tossed out the window.
The only way forward is into the unknown!
And, because you’ve done all the prep to get yourself this far, you’ve gently escorted your nervous system out of its comfort zone, into a challenge zone where you best learn and grow.
(Below, I'm hiking the winter trail with my mother-in-law, Mary Lou! She and Sean's father visited us this May, which really solidified their understanding of our life here in the Brooks Range.)
Sean and I make it our mission, as hosts, to help guests learn and grow throughout their stay.
No question is a dumb question — and no conversation topics are off limits. (Especially as we give everyone a tour and “lay of the land” on day 1!) If needed, we cover how to pee in the woods, how to brush your teeth without running water, how to conserve solar power in the cabins, and more.
Even guests that have camped all over the world seem to learn a little something new about the nuances of Arctic Hive.
(Below, on a hike with our March REWild Retreat.)
We value rest and relaxation time too; guests establish their own comfort zone in our cabins, dining spaces and yoga studio… and each day we venture out to experience new things — making all experiences customizable and optional depending how each individual is feeling. When one group wants to hike further, and another wants to head back, we split the difference and Sean goes with one crew, and I with the other — giving everyone just enough challenge for the day, without one group feeling overspent or unfulfilled.
The goal is to create (and hold) space where all needs are lovingly tended to, and guests stay clear of their personal “panic zone” — so they can challenge themselves in healthy ways while they learn new things about arctic ecology, the subsistence lifestyle and (optional!) yoga.
(Below, our April SHEWild Yoga Teacher Training crew — enjoying some freshies by the iconic Wiseman sign. This spot is a must-stop on every tour we take of the village with guests.)
Maybe you never thought you could have a “home” away from home in the Alaskan bush… but here at Arctic Hive, you’d probably surprise yourself — as all our guests do — and walk away a more confident version of yourself.
I remember in the first few years of owning a yoga studio, folks would come in for their first class and tell me: I’ve been following you for 2 years, and have finally made it to the studio!
And I'd always wonder: What is it that, after two whole years, finally makes someone book a class?
The same phenomenon happens today as people tell us that seeing the Northern Lights and/or crossing the Arctic Circle (or making the trek to Arctic Hive!) are on their “Bucket List."
We smile and nod… and now that we’ve been at it a while, we're seeing those folks finally signing up and committing to their dream, which is an honor to witness and a joy to guide as a host.
(Below, crossing the Arctic Circle during "Winter's Womb" last December)
But, I’ll admit I don’t know what exactly sends someone over the threshold of making a life-changing leap.
I believe it has to be deeply personal... a sacred inner oomph, and we finally give ourselves permission to say YES, against all odds.
My own life has been a long string of important, impulsive decisions that have led me to places beyond my wildest dreams, without any regret… so this idea of “waiting for the right time” isn’t really in my wheelhouse. (For better, or worse, ha!)
So this brings me to the present moment: Sean and I have watched some epic aurora displays over the past week — including some incredible moments during our Fall Equinox retreat, and I got to thinking what would push me over the edge if the Northern Lights were *still* on my Bucket List…
And then — thanks, Universe! — a family member sent us an associated press article this morning that read, “Scientists have predicted that the next 18 months will see the highest activity of aurora borealis in the past 20 years.”
Combine that with the fact we are located directly under the aurora oval here in the Brooks Range, so your chances of seeing them are not just good… they’re oustanding.
There are reasons to be patient… and there are reasons to just do it. Maybe this nudge will do it for you.
As the great ski cinematographer Warren Miller once said, “If you don’t do it this year, you’ll be one year older when you do.”
And that, my friends, is the truth!
Let’s talk about window trim. If you know, you know.
But, if you’ve never watched a home transform through a build process, you might not understand the magic that happens when the window trim goes up.
In my mind, it’s like coloring. You sketch something lightly, then add color, and blend textures — you spend so much time on the details. And then, one day, you take a ball-point pen and draw outlines. All of a sudden, your creation pops. It feels complete.
Or… maybe I’m just a big fan of coloring inside the lines?
In any case: Window trim, for me, is a finishing touch that signifies the end of a chapter is near. Now, the aesthetic of my chosen decor has finally come together:
As a result of the window trim completion, I feel more spacious.
I organized the cupboards.
I baked homemade bread.
I revived our kombucha scoby.
Nothing life-changing, but all life-enhancing. Aren’t those always the things that fall to the wayside when life gets busy?
Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) is a Scandinavian word that describes my shift in attention. And because Sean and I feel so deeply connected to the Norwegian lands and traditions — it’s no wonder their word describes exactly how I feel.
Hygge is the yin after the yang of summer… it’s is the perfect medicine for transition. And believe it or not, autumn is in full swing in the arctic.
Think of hygge like a commitment to cozy — for the sake of being cozy. Fluffing up the couch cushions, cooking comfort food, pulling out sweaters from storage, spending more time over coffee and tea… essentially creating comfort all around so that by winter, “home” provides a needed contrast to the harsh environment outside. By embodying hygge, your environment makes it easy to appreciate the simple pleasures.
Summer’s unique challenges here in the arctic give life an intensity that would be unmanageable year-round — we stay up many long nights in the midnight sun, there are endless maintenance projects around the property, and hikes with the dogs blend fun with pure chaos without the predictability of lines and a dogsled.
Cooler temps, picking lingonberries, and turning leaves (like the ones on the tundra in the photo below) are a welcome change… and this year, I feel more at home that I ever have, heading into winter.
Every time I look out our windows, I notice the trim and I’m filled with gratitude for being done. For feeling spacious. And for the opportunity to focus on the simple things that make living here so magical. I hope you can find this same pleasure wherever you are.
I’ll say this: We didn’t start out with the intention to own 14 dogs.
Of course I was warned… it’s called “kennel creep” in some circles. “Just one more…” is a common theme until one day you find yourself with a full sled dog yard!
In our case, I truly believe each dog arrived serendipitously, and each dog has played a role in making us the dog mushing family we are today.
But why? — is one of the most common question I’m asked by friends, family and strangers alike. And while you might assume it’s because I love dogs and I find puppies irresistible… that’s not even the short of it. In truth: The answer is multi-faceted and worthy of a few newsletters!
Growing up in Central Wisconsin, I always loved visiting my Aunt Susan’s farm. She had horses, Bernese Mountain dogs, cats, a wild fox she’d rehabilitated, rabbits, chinchillas, and aviary… there were animals everywhere, and given that I never grew up with pets (other than a cat who died when I was young), Aunt Susan’s house felt magical.
For one of my birthday parties in early elementary school, I brought my two best friends to Aunt Susan’s house to see the animals and ride horses. Not much of that day sticks in my mind, because the experience was eclipsed by the moment I fell off a horse. The wind was knocked out of me, and I remember feeling mortified that I was the one who fell off.
That is the moment in my life I’ve pinpointed as the day my stubborn self decided “I didn’t like animals.” From my vantage point today, it seemed like I made an overnight decision but I’m sure it was gradual, over time. I remember avoiding dogs at my friends’ houses because “I’m just not an animal person.”
I had a few experiences after college in the late 2000s that started to open my heart. All my closest friends had dogs, and most memorably, I would house-sit for a family with two Dachshunds named Stella and Lulu. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the pair were accustomed to sleeping underneath the covers, plastered to either side of me at night!
In February of 2010, I met Sean through a series of serendipitous events, and I made my first visit west in April of that year — and until I arrived, I had nearly forgotten Sean came as a package deal. I would need to share his affection with two rescues: Foxy (a feisty fox-red lab) and Daisy (a mischievous Weimerainer) and — just as quickly as I remember hating animals, all my walls melted away as soon as I met those girls.
I never turned back.
That same year Sean and I met, Foxy died suddenly from liver failure - and we knew Daisy needed a companion. We came across a Weimerariner rescue in California who had a sweet male Weim up for adoption named Dexter. From the moment he hopped in our car for the first time, Daisy and Dexter were inseparable… until my dad convinced me to leave Dexter in Wisconsin with him in 2012. Let’s be honest: It wasn’t really “convincing” me, so much as telling me Dexter was his dog after a three-month stay!
It made my heart swell to see how enriched my parents’ lives were with the presence of a dog. As the years went on, Dexter brought a light to their lives during Dad’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and I know things would have been much more difficult without Dexter’s goofy presence.
After six months of flying solo with Daisy, we were inspired to bring another dog into our lives.
So begins the story of Glacier…
(Photo credit below: DJ Pierce)
Which (as you’ve likely guessed) will be the story for the next newsletter! Have a great holiday weekend!
Flash forward to today in Wiseman...
A question we’re often asked is how everyone in Wiseman makes a living. I’ll preface this by saying the people here are some of the smartest people we’ve ever met. Not surprising when you consider everything it takes to subsist in this part of the world. What we all share in common is self-sufficiency, a deep love for the wilderness, and for preserving this incredible place.
Although I’m not privy to the inner workings of every household, I can confidently say one’s living is usually made by a mix of government/national parks jobs, tourism-related contracts, and entrepreneurial endeavors such as running lodges/B&Bs, artistry, trapping and dog mushing.
Internet-based work hasn’t been reliable up until just this year, with the construction of an AT&T cell tower 17 miles to our south, cell phone boosting devices that amplify the signal, and companies like Starlink that are rushing to launch enough satellites to service regions of the arctic. While we're grateful for the increased bandwidth for connection, I'm also grateful I can walk outside my door for a few paces and find myself immersed in an infinite "no reception zone."
(Below: A gathering at mail day...)
Every week, on Monday at 11am, the village gathers at one couple’s home for Mail Day. Our mail gets delivered to their home in the village once a week, and the time is much more than just “grab and go.” If our schedules allow (which they usually do!) we typically stay an hour or two for tea and coffee, chatting about the latest news — of which the aforementioned Haul Road drama, subsistence rights and wildlife preservation, and tales of everyone's current projects makes for a lively conversation!
For the longest time this fall, there was a sled of 8 tiny puppies that would also attend mail day! Their mother, Iris, belongs to one of the villagers, and it came out after six weeks that they were looking for homes for the pups — ideally in the village.
You know us: If you show us puppies every week for six weeks, how can we NOT get one? Or two? (This is how we acquired our little fluffy puppies, Poss and Ulu.)
People also ask us if there are any trails here in the winter. Our answer is always an emphatic: YES! There are tons of bush trails which we all put in via primarily snowshoe and dog team, and (rarely) snowmachine. All the trails are unmarked, ungroomed, and go at your own risk — just like everything up here :-)
Winter trails are always dependent on snowpack and weather conditions year to year, but many of the same trails are made annually with names like “The Gravel Bar,” “Minnie Creek Trees,” and — new this year, “Mario Land.” There’s also somewhat of an unspoken code for re-breaking trails after big snowstorms and wind events. We all pitch in, so we can enjoy the trails all winter long.
In fact, this was a big reason we’ve been expanding our dog team the past few years… Sean and I both like to mush our own teams, and it takes 5-6 dogs per team to go the distances we want to go. Do the math, and you’ll realize quickly how we ended up at 12 dogs… and might just have a few more coming soon!
To live (and thrive) here year-round, you have to fully experience winter… and survive completely on your own. Getting outside and enjoying the season and — ideally — enjoying the chores that go with it is what keeps us from cabin fever and seasonal depression. A hefty supplement of vitamin D helps, too!
For Sean and I, dogsledding isn’t just a hobby. It has become our lifestyle — and our family. The dogs are also part of the experience for guests who visit Arctic Hive, too. We've even realized our dream of dogsled assisted backcountry skiing and snowboarding! There will be much more of that in the future as our team grows to necessary capacity.
Funny enough, there are far more dogs in Wiseman than people. As of today, there are 38 four-legged friends that call this village home. And yes, we know every single one by name!
I was moved to write all this after a few days ago, nearly the entire village got together to help a fellow neighbor raise his massive 14-18 foot walls on his new home he’s building this summer. Although it’s somewhat rare to all come together for a common cause like this, it felt good to work together. There were smiles all around after a job well-done.
As independent as we all are, I guess it truly can “take a village” :-)
“So what’s the population in Wiseman?” a friend asked.
“Right now? About thirteen.”
“Oh, that’s a decent size,” she mused.
“No, not thirteen-hundred,” I laughed. “THIRTEEN PEOPLE.”
Living in a village of roughly 13 year-round residents is definitely a conversation starter — especially considering there isn’t another village with permanent residents on the road system between here and 270 miles south to Fairbanks.
(Below: A photo I took on a drive south around the winter solstice with the moon and my favorite cotton-candy sky.)
When we say we’re “going to town” for supplies, we mean the 6-hour drive to Fairbanks. As Alaska’s second largest city, Fairbanks has many resources we utilize such as hospitals, an international airport, a university, Costco, grocery stores, construction suppliers, and tons of small businesses.
(Below: What my carts usually look like on a Costco trip. Sometimes I need more than one! Because we don't go to town often — sometimes every 3 months — it's imperative to shop smart, preserve what we can, and subsist off the land however possible.)
Throughout the last century, Wiseman — which sits on traditional Koyukon lands — has been home for indigenous peoples, gold miners and homesteaders alike. In the 1920s when the village was in its hey-day (around 80 residents), Robert "Bob" Marshall spent a year here taking copious notes on all the happenings in and around town, and wrote a book on his experience called “Arctic Village”. He called Wiseman the “happiest civilization of which I have knowledge.”
However, rumor has it the villagers weren’t too pleased a book had been written about them without their knowing! Alas, the book was a best-seller of its time, and it’s one of the books we recommend our guests read before visiting.
Despite our ability to “drive to town” today, Wiseman was a roadless community for most of its history. Like many villages, it was fly-in/fly-out, access on foot, dogsled or via rivers/waterways. In the 1970s, the federal government decided to make a road from north of Fairbanks to the Arctic Ocean to complete what became the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, to transport crude oil 800 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez. The resulting “Haul Road” is the road we drive today. Some other villages in northern Alaska have seasonal ice roads, but none have year-round driving access like Wiseman.
You might think, “Oh, that’s sad. We should pave roads to all those places!” Think again. Although there are upsides to the ability to “drive to town” as I’ve mentioned, and it has made tourism much more common here, villagers who lived in Wiseman back in the 70s were devastated when the road was built. It wasn’t even open to the public until the 90s. We’re fortunate to hear the tales of that time from our neighbors who grew up here, and still live here today.
Still today, it’s one of the most dangerous roads in America. What makes it so is heavy industrial traffic carrying hundreds of thousands of pounds of pipeline supplies, the potential for treacherous weather, lack of resources (or cell service) for help in an emergency, and wild driving conditions on a (mostly) gravel road. To get your car towed, you're looking at a couple thousand dollars. Don't expect a tow membership service to cover this area. Traditional rental car companies don't allow their vehicles to travel the Haul Road either. Just this past week, a propane truck rolled over on a corner known as "Oh Shit" corner. In short: You need to be an extremely competent driver.
When it comes to modern infrastructure, the arctic tundra is unforgivable. “Paving roads” is so much more complicated and destructive on permafrost, mud, and ice. For the other villages, bush planes, hiking, snowmachine, dogsled and traveling on waterways are the preferred modes of transport from a purely practical standpoint — especially when you consider that the State of Alaska Department of Transportation spends copious resources year-round for the maintenance of the Haul Road.
Despite their efforts, even rebuilding and maintenance does no good sometimes… just this week, the breakup from the raging Sagavanirktok River washed out a section of the Haul Road south of Deadhorse. The subsequent delay in transport of critical goods and services while the road is rebuilt will likely cost the state greatly… while potentially trickling down to affect the price of gas at the pumps, truckers’ livelihoods, and extra burden on those businesses that serve primarily pipeline traffic.
Here's a screenshot from a local news article/video released on Thursday this week:
There’s quite a bit of controversy in our area as foreign mining operations, oil/natural gas companies, and those fighting for the preservation of indigenous lands, native peoples, and wildlife all come to a head. As our friends at the Brooks Range Council recently summarized current events: It's a clash of "subsistence issues, environmental issues, economic issues and basic human rights issues" up here.
All this certainly gives us villagers something to talk about at Mail Day! I'll tell you more about that in "part 2"…
As I reflect on the nine incredible and unique retreats we hosted this winter at Arctic Hive, I've decided that a group’s last day here feels exactly like the last day of summer camp.
My dad always told me when I first boarded the bus to camp at age 6, I was crying because I was scared, and didn’t want to leave home. A week later when the bus returned, I was crying again because I wanted to go back to camp!
That bittersweet feeling of completion was confusing — and heart breaking — and exciting, all at once. On that last day, I looked forward to seeing my family and friends and to share all the new skills I’d learned.
But on the flip-side, I was leaving Utopia.
(Below: Students enjoying the Yoga Hive during this spring's SHEWild Yoga Teacher Training)
I was leaving a group of friends who’d temporarily become my family. Our tight-knit group had felt so seen and heard. We’d bonded over a deep love of the outdoors and through an adventure in the backcountry. Of course, we all swore we’d keep in touch by writing letters, but neither handwritten letters nor modern-day texting/emailing can bring back the feeling.
Truthfully, nothing brings back the feeling of a profound shared experience.
So, this begs the question: If we’re destined to not re-create (or even fully remember) that magical Utopia, then how do we know the experience was worth it?
The answer became clear once I started facilitating those journeys. I saw it in the eyes of my campers as they finished their first backpacking trip. I see it in the confident smiles of the women who complete yoga teacher training. I see it in the glow surrounding anyone leaving a retreat here at Arctic Hive.
(Below: Part of the 11-member crew from Rove Co. that enjoyed three blissful days of XC skiing and snow science education in the Brooks Range!)
The experience is worth it because we are changed.
Nature is defined by change — if you look outside, change is all there is. But as humans, we possess a unique ability to unconsciously stay the same. We get stuck in a rut of our life like a hamster stuck on its wheel.
Then one day, for whatever soul-stirring reason, we wake up and decide to hop on our own metaphorical bus to summer camp. As we stare out the window of the bus and wipe away our tears, we acknowledge the fear in our belly and we muster all the courage we have for the task ahead.
The change that occurs on a journey of shared experience and self-discovery is profound because we’re aware that it’s happening. We’ve consciously signed ourselves up for an experience outside our comfort zone. Assuming we’re open to learning and growing, our minds take what we learn and apply that wisdom to other parts of our life.
In other words, learning through adventure helps us grow.
(Below: Guests snowshoe hiking during REWild this March)
Although we may never feel the exact feeling of Utopia after we leave it, we know it was worth it because our mindset has changed. And here’s the magical part: the world around us changes simply because the lens we’re viewing it through has changed.
Eventually, our world “at home”(regardless of the daily struggles) starts to feel more and more like a personalized, sustainable version of Utopia. If you change your mind, you change your life.
To me, that’s not only worth it… it’s priceless.
Sending you lots of love and adventure, wherever you are! 💕
“Which way should we hike today?” I ask Sean, as three of our sled dogs run circles of excitement around us. The rest of the dog yard howls in envy as Sean leads our small crew out of sight down a trail from our home.
“Let’s go this way and let the summer trail heal a little more before we walk it again.”
This simple suggestion from Sean about allowing the earth to heal — one that I’ve heard him make a million times before and during “breakup season” — struck a new cord.
I love this idea that Mother Nature, in all her muddy goodness this time of year, is healing in transition. After being covered with a heavy, insulated blanket of snow since early October, she’s finally exposed to the sun. She’s melting, shedding water, churning earth, and birthing new life around every corner.
I couldn’t help but apply the metaphor to my own life, and how “insulated” I’ve been since the new year — and likewise, how tender I’ve been feeling since the snow melted and the rivers are running.
In January, I closed the “Yoga Studio Owner” chapter of my life. After seven years of owning multiple Yoga Hive studios in the lower 48, it was the end of an era. The transition allowed me to pour my energy into the one "yoga hive" that's just a few steps out my front door in the arctic.
Likewise, since January I’ve been immersed in hosting retreat groups and running yoga trainings… until now. I’ve been so busy since the shift took place in January, I haven’t had time to pause.
As I watch the water transforming the landscape all around us, I’m taking her cue and allowing this transition to sink in.
As the sun shines in the sky longer and longer each day, I can feel my soul shining in a new way, too.
(We took the below photo at 11pm on May 14th... the midnight sun is on her way!)
As our vegetable and herb seed starts begin sprouting toward that sun, I am proudly seeing my own sprouts from seeds I planted long ago, as we launch new retreats and yoga trainings for the coming year.
As I watch our new pup, Sansa (yes, our 12th!) go through her own transition as she learns to be a part our pack, I'm filled with joy as we get to know her quirks and personality.
There will be more surprises to come as our schedule for 2024 falls into place — just as I know Mother Nature has surprises and lessons in store for us with every passing day. I am eternally grateful for her wisdom as I adjust to this new phase of life.
Hope this email finds you well — and with an open heart to this season of change 💕
We’re on the cusp of breakup season in the arctic — which (sadly) means we’re done dog mushing here in Wiseman. Temps are still getting below freezing for a short period of the “night”, which means the snow is melting fast during our incredibly long days — and we're still gaining 12 minutes more daylight per day! The creeks and rivers are building up overflow as they prepare to break up, and… we’ve still got a pack of dogs that need to run!
Daily hikes are a must — and while the dogs are busy sniffing every single tree and tussock that has emerged from its winter blanket, hiking in the snow for Sean and I goes like this:
Left foot, tentative step.
Right foot tentative step.
Left foot confident step — PUNCH THROUGH SNOW TO YOUR KNEE.
Right foot, tentative step.
Left foot — PUNCH THROUGH TO YOUR KNEE.
Right — PUNCH THROUGH.
Left foot— PUNCH THROUGH.
*Pause. Reflect in defeat.
Convince hip flexors to keep going.
Wonder if you should have worn snowshoes.*
Right foot, tentative step.
Left foot, tentative step.
Right foot, confident step. *Feeling lucky*
Left foot ste— PUNCH THROUGH.
You get the idea.
We get emails from prospective guests asking if our retreats offer outdoor activities if it’s too cold/dark/buggy/rainy/muddy, etc. Our answer is always the same. We get outside no matter the conditions because, quite simply: We live here to be outside as often as possible!
Breakup season might not be our *favorite* time to hike, but like all times of year, it has its special moments.
A few things I love about this time of year: It’s not so hot that you sweat easily, and it’s not too cold so we can easily wear rubber boots to tromp through wet terrain. Sunny days are gorgeous and long, and the mountains are still covered in snow — my favorite way to view them!
The melting snowpack is teeming with life, like stone flies, spiders, and moths, while our little friends-who-shall-not-be-named (mosquitos!) haven’t hatched yet, thank goodness.
Oh, and the birds are back! They migrating to the arctic from all 7 continents. If you just step outside and listen, it’s crazy to hear so much beautiful “noise," after a long, quiet winter. Their music is a welcome addition to the changing landscape.
The alpenglow hasn't been too shabby either:
I’ll admit, I have occasional of moments of frustration when we’re out and about… slipping and falling into a puddle of overflow. Stepping in six-month-old dog poo that’s been resurrected and disguised as tundra. Forgetting my sunscreen and sunglasses … and hat — and feeling the burn (literally) of my unpreparedness.
But each time I’m caught off guard as I adjust to the changing season, I try to lean into the lessons I’m learning through nature’s symbols. The overflow ice and puddles turn into streams and creeks that take away our snowmachine access, reminding me of how powerful I am on my own two feet.
We hike in and out of our property all summer long without any sort of vehicle/machine, till the snow is stable enough in October/November to snowmachine again. I become hyper-conscious of what I’m carrying and what supplies are needed when I’ve got to carry it all on my back!
(Below, I'm standing with all the siding for our new house — thankfully we were able to snowmachine all this up our hillside before the snow melts. This would NOT be fun to carry on my back!)
As the snow melts, we get to see all the things we left/lost back in September before the snow arrived… many of which (like forgotten dog poo) need tending because they don’t stay hidden forever. This is a powerful metaphor for cleaning up all the mental baggage that’s accumulated over the winter, too. To-do lists are made, tasks are checked off and chores are completed.
We also occasionally find buried treasure like this old Caribou antler shed that was hidden in the river bank:
I think any outdoor enthusiast can identify with the changing of the seasons and the changing of routines. What we’d typically bring for a winter hike is different than a summer hike — and the first few adventures of any season always feel like a junk show — especially sun-related adjustments because we’ve gone so long without even *thinking* about the sun let alone squint from it! Each time we get outside though, we get smarter, we refine our packing list, remember the bear spray, and we feel more at ease.
This is the school of Mother Nature. Some might even call it the Church of Mother Nature. For us? It’s Home. Mother Nature is our guru, and we’re learning new lessons from Her every day.
As I’ve been reflecting on the past few months of our winter busy season and the eight — yes EIGHT! — groups we hosted since late February, I’ve learned that I need more writing in my life. I realize how much I’ve missed writing updates about life in the arctic. Cheers to showing up in your inbox more often — and thank you for opening up and reading my words, and sharing our love for this incredible place in the Brooks Range.
I hope you, too, consider what might have been missing in your life this winter, and choose to fill your cup with what’s needed for the warmer weather ahead.
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