Skudra's Day

The day starts calmly, the weather now clear, yet a certain restlessness stirs within. I've sensed the proximity of our destination, sparking odd feelings. How could this journey be nearing its end? Nevertheless, someone always plans way points, marking both the start and the finish, ensuring our return home with health, happiness, and new experiences. Again, I find myself contemplating the finish line, but I swiftly shift back to the present moment. Another mountain awaits us on this path, and, as always, we brace ourselves for new surprises.

We move swiftly, quickly finding our rhythm. Passing by STF Sitojaure without pause, we dart onto the lake amidst sharp headwinds. At one point, Skudra adopts a posture of stubborn resistance, but that resolves swiftly. Crossing the lake, we finally pause for a brief tea break and the last of our cookies before continuing. This section of the winter trail deviates from the summer's Kungsleden route; evidently, the winter path poses challenges even for snowmobiles. Nonetheless, I had chosen this alternative route beforehand, and everything is unfolding as planned. The final steep ascent looms ahead. As the day warms up, the snow turns wet and slushy, yet I anticipate it'll get easier with the ascent and wind. And indeed, it does, but the climb remains serious, at times exceedingly steep, testing the dogs' limits. It's reassuring to acknowledge the sled is much lighter this week, yet it's not devoid of cargo.

Soon, something that's been nagging at my musher's intuition becomes apparent. When the sled gets stuck uphill, getting it moving requires triple the effort. While Tommy, experienced as he is, looks to me for help, it's Skudra—this small, athletic body—with a powerful thrust, propelling us forward again. It rejuvenates the team, and together we conquer the toughest part of the climb with united determination. If there's any friction, it's Skudra whose efforts instill confidence in the whole team to push against the mountain. I admire these dogs, compelling me to focus more on the road and the upcoming descent—it's vital to not betray the trust of the dogs who now rely on my decisions more than ever.

At the mountain's peak lies a small plateau where I adjust the sled with braking ropes. Initially, the descent isn't steep—the dogs seem to read the terrain well. Opting to keep the ropes on for a slower descent proves right. The descent transforms into a snow-covered bobsled track. Everything unfolds rapidly, and just when it seems I'm not in control of the speed anymore—a few more degrees of slope and I lean back onto the dogs—the descent smoothens. Relieved, but not done yet, we navigate the remainder, alternating between strength and swift braking on winding descents. We arrive at Aktse STF. With the dogs eager and motivated, there's no pause. I'm left with no choice but to yield to their enthusiasm, and we press on without a break. Ahead lies the lake and beyond that, a cabin—a mandatory stop now.

Basking in the bright sun, the dogs sprawl around, well-deserving of rest. I sip tea, yet the memories of the intense last leg linger. Peering at the map, I estimate reaching Pårtestugan by tonight, with just one stretch left to Kvikkjokk, potentially finishing by tomorrow afternoon. It's a mere assumption, a reminder to myself as I urge the dogs to continue.

Throughout the afternoon, we ride steadily, with landscapes changing—lakes, forests, and hills unfold. Fatigue creeps in, although I'm skiing with the dogs' aid. As the path twists, I decide on a brief five-minute break to re-center, especially as evening draws near. Unable to secure the snowhook, the dogs resist stopping. Well, your call, pals! We glide through the wooded nature reserve, now adjacent to the Sarek National Park. I belt out Beatles songs, trying to keep spirits high despite the weariness. More streams, bridges, and the sun playing hide-and-seek behind mountainside clouds. In the evening, we head towards Pårtestugan, encountering the host, Matt (maybe not his name, but that's how I recall it).

I secure the dogs and prepare their dinner. After today's 45 kilometers (including the ascent!), it's thoroughly deserved. Skudra is my hero of the day; it's evident now that we can accomplish much together. Most likely, she wasn't even aware of it herself.

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