He's Leaving Home

on the roof

I postponed the departure by another day. Packing up brought stress, and I realized it's not a good precondition upon leaving, and will affect team spirit on the trail. Moreover, when gear packing is not 100% checked it can be crucial on the trail when choices are limited. Historically, it felt easier for me to run into cold water or leap into the unknown with eyes closed - thus erasing doubts and gaining confidence that nothing crazy is going to happen. Well, something has changed. I try to minimize risks in advance and moving more consciously. The sled is heavy; I had hoped to reduce some load, but I still ended up over the limits. A bit less for the day's journey, but more dog food than last time. Torvi and Trond are lighter than malamutes, and in the end, 3 dogs are more than 2.

It's a Saturday afternoon, and Kvikkjokk hums with the roar of snowmobiles. Somehow, our paths don't cross successfully on the lake, and we start the ride very well. Soon, we are at the foot of the mountain, where I put skins on the skis. Tonight, I plan to stay on top of the mountain, in a cabin less than 20 km from Kvikkjokk.

Torvi goes ahead with Tomi, quite a good pairing. Although Tomi isn't the best teacher, Torvi needs decision support, and she doesn’t yet feel as confident alone or even with Trond. So, we manage a very good route sharing with snowmobiles, which occasionally drive down from the mountain. Tomi is calm and steady, which also ensures the youngsters.

Soon comes the first mistake. I veer off the main trail, thinking it's a winter alternative to the summer path. After a couple of kilometres and crossing a picturesque lake, I realized the mistake. The adventurer in me says we can keep going and the direction will even out, but the sensible voice suggests turning around. Of course, the dogs aren't pleased either, but we prioritize safety over adventure. A little test of patience in the wrong crossroads, as we can't figure out how to turn left. I'm starting to get into the road life, where things never go as smoothly as planned. Slowly, I stop pondering all the 'what ifs' because I don't know. Whatever my mind sketches, the present state rewrites it - sometimes crossing a thick line, but other times painting so beautifully that it makes me cry.

It's already noticeably colder at the top of the mountain, and the wind is getting stronger. Along with the sled, we reach the cabin and slowly unharness the dogs for the night, which they don't fully grasp, and there's a bit of bickering among them. Torvi has managed to wreck her harnesses in two minutes, and I thank my intuition for carrying spare ones, especially tailored for her size. The wind is gaining strength, but I'm grateful for my cabin. The stove isn't playing up, the wood is damp, or maybe something else, but I don't really feel like delving into it. The wind cover is on me, and the sleeping bag is warm. Around a dozen degrees below zero. I finish all the tea, eat some energy bars, and doze off in a second.

I wake up with the sunrise. I'm on my way; it's THAT feeling. The dogs are still confused, but now calmer, especially after getting breakfast. Then everything's fine. That's how it should be. Breakfast coffee, porridge, and the sun. The sound of strings from McCartney's 'She’s Leaving Home' in my head. A very fitting theme, though with a slightly different context for me.

There are some traces of history in the cabin. These trails and mountain settlements have been around for more than 100 years. Kungsleden (the King's Trail) was originally from Abisko to Kvikkjokk, then extended south to Hemavan. The mountain pass, which stands before me today, is almost as high as Tjakta, where I crossed last year. Okay, so that's history; today's trail has changed, and the elevation is not as steep as expected.

It's time to hit the road.

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