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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