“Don’t judge me…

“Don’t judge me now, just judge me tomorrow…”

After four days of films- Mr. Peter Menzies spouts his wisdom once again.

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My First Yukon Quest Experience: Part One

Evening, ladies and gents. 

I have been meaning to write sooner- but my internet decided to disappear for a while- causing homework as well as traditional blogging and internet brain frying to cease temporarily. (I still had 3G on my iPhone- but typing full blog posts would be a bit of a painful thumb numbing adventure on the little keyboard my phone provides) 

On to more exciting news.

So last weekend I was able to experience the rush, chaos, joy, excitement, and bitter cold that the Yukon Quest has to offer. I was lucky enough to volunteer at the Percy DeWolfe Concession, Thursday and Friday evenings, while waiting for my hometown connection, Jerry Joinson to come sweeping in to town on his sled pulled by a team of happy alaskan huskies. 

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If you do not know much about the Yukon Quest- and would like to know more: Check this link out- http://www.yukonquest.com/

“The Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race gets its name from the “highway of the north,” which is the Yukon River and the historical winter land routes travelled by prospectors, adventurers and mail and supply carriers traveling between the gold fields of the Klondike and those in the Alaska interior.” – http://www.yukonquest.com/about/yukon-quest-race-history

For more info on the Percy DeWolfe Race I was volunteering to run the concession for, check this link out: http://www.thepercy.com/

Friday evening I got a cheery hello from Lisa Joinson- (Jerry’s wife- who is also a well accomplished musher in her own right) and Alex, a volunteer dog handler from Denmark. It was great to see a familiar face- and soon I was wishing for my concession shift to end so I could trek over to West Dawson to have a few drinks and meet the dogs and the rest of the crew.

This is Lisa- Thanks Laura V. for the photo! 

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I know Lisa and Jerry Joinson from Fort St. James, and have been tracking their progress on the Yukon Quest website during the whole race- It was a great way to leave the school stress on the back burner and focus on more positive things, like cheering for Jerry! 

This is Jerry- 

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Go Jerry Go! By the time this post is published- you will almost be finished your Yukon Quest 2014 Race!

 

Shift ended at 8pm- ran up the old dome road to put on longjohns, headlamp, and stuff a few ciders in my wonderfully large Canada Goose Parka pockets, (I still had room for an extra pair of socks!) – with a cider in hand I took another run down the hill- this time- taking full advantage of the brilliant Bum-Sliding-Trail. The one day I wear a dress under my snowpants and I get invited to hang out with the Mushers. WHY. If I had worn my longjohns like every other day I wouldn’t have had to channel my inner snowshoe hare and bound home for a wardrobe change.

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So I may not be as adorable as the fellow pictured above- but you get the point- I WAS ON A MISSION. 

Oh well. All in all- it took me only 55 minutes to run home, change, and run back down to town. (I asked a friend to time me- to see if my fitness level could handle the lung freezing parka sprint up the hill- 3KM round trip) (add the bulky winter gear and full backpack of homework, plus icy stretches)

I probably looked a bit like this after my dash up the dome road- 

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Back in town- hitch ride across the ice bridge with two of the handlers from Whitehorse- Charles and Lucy. The mushers stay (or at least their dogs) at the campsite across the river. I had not been over to west Dawson since freeze up. It was simply beautiful- with a slight aroma of dog poo… 

BUT THERE WERE DOGS. SO MANY DOGS!

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Thankyou Louise C. for the photo! – The dog smiling is Mickey 🙂 

The evening started off with brief parka hugs, introductions to Nico, the other dog handler from Switzerland, and personal introductions to all the dogs! YAY!

Plus a feeding, dog poo scooping, and walk for Jerry’s team, and a dog drop, feeding, and a dog poo scooping for Lisa’s team. 

THIS IS SO MUCH FUN. SURROUNDED BY BEAUTIFUL DOGS. LOVE IT.

To be honest- the tasks I was given while I was over for a visit were SO REFRESHING. No homework, no deadlines, no angry peers, no bizarre art school bull crap, no nothing. It was just me, the dogs, and some huge doggie doos to watch out for while working in the dog tents. 

Plus some pretty inspiring people who were also DOG LOVERS.

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-Jerry’s team

After the dogs were looked after, the campfire was built to a roaring fire, the beer was brought out, and everyone (even just for a short moment) was able to take a rest. While swapping stories and laughter- the Northern Lights decided to join in on our merrymaking- lighting up the sky with vibrant greens, pinks, and purples. I have never seen anything so magical. Soon the beer was forgotten, and everyone got up to move to the road where we could follow the lights as they danced along the river, skimming up and above Moosehide Slide, and into the hills beyond. If it wasn’t so bloody cold- I may have shed a tear out of appreciation- but all I could do was stand there- while my eyelashes frosted, having to remind myself to breathe as I soaked in as much of the beauty the Aurora Borealis would let me.

This is why I live here I thought to myself. Not for the school – which has left me with more disappointment than a blog post could handle, but for THIS. Mother Nature’s raw lands, skies, and extremes. The North was calling me- It was just by chance that it was Dawson City that I settled in. Ever since I stepped into this Territory- this landscape of wonder and dreams, I felt a hunger to explore, to learn, to experience. To feel, to thrive, to struggle, to be frostbitten and to second guess if I was strong enough to handle it all. THIS is why I followed my heart’s inner compass North. And I am so happy that I am here. I am so happy that I can stand beneath such pristine, strong forces of energy that shimmer and glisten in hues so strongly pigmented my hands itched for my pastels, and feel the ice and snow beneath my feet, surrounding me, feeling the -35 degrees C bite into my cheeks and nose.

“This is why I am here. This is why I am here. This is why I am here.” I kept repeating to myself, as the lights danced and bowed, whipped and flashed, so close you could reach out and imagine what they might feel like- Silk? Water? I could not tell you- I was too busy imprinting their beauty on the insides of my eyelids, for when I am very old and can not stand beneath the lights, I will always have them when I close my eyes. 

These photos don’t do the lights justice- as my camera had froze and these were taken earlier in evening on the other side of the river, by a different photographer- I wish I could scan my brain onto a photo scanner so I could share what I saw- but here is a little taste of Dawson City Northern Lights

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The lights I saw were surrounded by a dark dark sky- similar to these taken while on the road to Mile 101 

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After our feet started to get cold, and the fire died down low, the five of us retired to the small canvas wall tent to make a large nest of sleeping bags, parkas, snowpants, and blankets. 

The floor of the tent was covered with wonderful bison and caribou hides, – I was living in a dream! What a Friday night! 

As we all tucked in for a chilly night- I remembered my spare wool socks in my parka- after slipping them on and bundling up into my parka, pulling down the hood to cover my face, allowing the coyote fur to tickle and warm my shoulders, I could not help but smile. I had always wanted to camp in the winter time- and here I am- with double layers of fleece, wool, and blankets – 

I went to sleep with a grin- 

The five of us slept for a few hours while the temperature dropped below minus forty degrees C… Until 5am or so- where I was poked and prodded in the middle of the cold darkness only to be welcomed by headlamp beams invading my warm nest of parka and blanket warmth. I forgot where I was for a second. My eyes slowly focused to see Lisa and Alex, my skin soon turned to goosebumps- the fire had burnt out, and DAMN IT WAS FREEZING. 

as I fumbled to put my legs into my snowpants-( which seemed to be quite difficult when you’re still half asleep dreaming of warmth and hot baths) I could hear Lisa waking up Charles and Nico- “The Dogs are shivering! Time to get up! Let’s go!” 

So my Saturday began in the dog tent, tucking in the sleepy sled dogs with yellow fleece blankets, and then covering them with straw. – Again- I was more than happy to be given a task, I was outdoors, with furry sweethearts, and there was no homework to be spoken of! Just frosty ears to be rubbed and more dog poo to be avoided. 

I love my life. 

 

Stay tuned for Part Two 🙂Image

xx