Sledding through Winter: Recap of the Season so far

I have written it before: coming back to normal life was a bit of a shock. Staying in one place for 7 months, a working rhythm, a boss telling us what to do and when to do it… It took some adjusting in the beginning. After being nomads for a year however it has also been good to stay put for a while. We were tired from the traveling when we got here. We have been able to relax and to feel at home at our little cabin in the woods.

Luckily it wasn’t a 9 to 5 office job we had to come back to, and I am 100% sure neither of us would have lasted as long as a month if this would have been the case. Our jobs are physically intense, so we can lose our energy, and this has enabled us to keep in shape throughout the winter. Our stomachs still feel like bottomless pits, only this time we have the opportunity to have second breakfast, lunch, second lunch, four o clock cookies, dinner, and second dinner if it must. Well, if the time allows. It has been incredibly busy and it has been more stressful than we anticipated which has made us doubt if we made the right choice. But, we are still here, we are still smiling, and we are still loving the dogs. So I reckon we did.

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Originally hired as handlers, we’ve been progressing to drive more and longer tours throughout the season. Being in the kennel has been a good start: we got to know a lot about all the dogs, we got to know them well, and we got to learn slowly and steadily so we could gain the confidence we needed in order to run those longer tours. It got frustrating after a while, especially for me: seeing everyone go out, hearing about all those nice places, and only getting to glimpse the vast wild that lies beyond our doorstep. PJ seemed to cope better with the being stuck ‘down there’, but it was tough for me. I feel that my mind is more at ease now that I can go out and into the unknown again.

The one thing that I had definitely underestimated was how the darkness would have an influence on me. After the year of eternal summer I had forgotten exactly how dark it is here from December through January, and how hard it is not to feel the sun shine on my face for over 6 weeks. December has its nice sides: the shimmering light that is there is absolutely stunning as the sky appears to be painted by artists every day. Yet, I felt very down by the end of the month and I longed for the sun. Running around at temperatures of -20 and below and needing to use headlights all the time took a toll. I really, really just wanted to see the sun.

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So I was counting down to the second of January, the day the sun would come over the horizon again. What I had not counted on was how much longer it would take to see the sun here, in Jukkasjärvi, lying deep in the Torne valley, or even in Kiruna, where the hills and mountains make the horizon disappear. It took until the 20th before it finally reappeared, and I will never forget driving up the hill and suddenly needing to squeeze my eyes for the fierce light. I can not describe that feeling of relief, and of joy, when it is finally there again. And now that the light is increasing greatly day by day, I am happy every day when I am feeding in the morning and in the evening without needing to use that head torch. It is the little things in life, that keep you smiling!

However, coming back to it, January is fantastic and my absolute favourite time to be here. As I have described December, every month has its features, its qualities, and its things to look forward to, but January just sticks out a little bit more. For the first time, the trees glow gold under the sunlight again. The colour of that first light is cold, and pale, yet with a beautiful yellow-golden glow that provides colour to the otherwise eternally white landscape. The ice on the river glowed golden and red as we sled across it with the sun in our faces.

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January is often the coldest month, as the return of the sun makes the temperatures plummet. This January has been intense, with most days below -30 and a record note of -43 outside our cabin. Go down from that 5 degrees or more and that is the temperature while crossing the river, or at the wilderness camps. That also, has been hard: having to use the toilet outside, having trouble heating up our cabin (it never got above 10 degrees at the time, and as low as 2), and generally never feeling warm anywhere but in our sleeping bags. Yet again, there is also has a good side. Every little branch, every little twig on every single tree is frozen, and every tree looks like a giant fluffy snow sculpture. It is pure magic when the sun illuminates that. And as the sky is mostly clear on such cold days, there were some beautiful aurora, that we happily watched from inside our sleeping bags from our own aurora viewing window in our bedroom.

Every day is a new challenge, and every day has brought something new to learn. I thoroughly enjoy how we have gotten to know the huskies, and how through the season we have come to bond with several of them. Every dog has its own personality, and though they are all lovely with some you really develop a friendship, but with others you just never really connect. So in short: it has been cold, dark and hard, but it has also been good fun and very interesting. And it’s not over yet. There is another month of ever increasing light ahead of us before we pack our bags and head south once again.

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2 thoughts on “Sledding through Winter: Recap of the Season so far

  1. Dear Eef,
    we wish you and PJ the very best for the rest of the season and we are looking forward to see jou both again. Love and kisses. Btw. happy anniversary, Evelyne! nonkel Willy & tante Elianne

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  2. Hi, here I am again, reading your stories. Great!!
    Pj don’t be to angry with me but my written english is not so good so I will continu in flemisch…..
    Eef, je schrijftalent is onovertrefbaar. Je beschrijving van wit en goud….. Heb het even zelf gezien en ja , ik zat er zo weer in…. Je hebt de gave ‘trekker’ te zijn op vele vlakken, knap!
    Gemis aan licht en zonneschijn, ik kan het me een beetje voorstellen hoe zwaar dat wegen kan. Ik vind dat onze regio al behoorlijk grauwe winters kent en ervaar dat al als negatief, laat staan het weken ontbreken aan dat licht dat ons zo oppept. Dat weekje toen in Lapland was voor ons facinerend maar ik kan me voorstellen dat de gedurende weken dag in dag uit donkerte geen echte bondgenoot wordt. Dus, elk wondertje natuur is boost he en elk bijkomend minuutje licht een herademing.
    Een winter vol mentaal en fysiek gevecht en dat overwinnen…weer een extra pluim op je hoed. Ik vind het meer dan bewonderenswaardig! Volhouden he!
    Uitkijkend naar nieuw verhaal, dikke dikke knuffel,
    Nicky

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