February is in the past and Alaskans may officially be hopefully for warming weather and longer days. There’s time for nine-to-fivers to get a dog walk or ski in under the setting sun after work. Many of us are able to enjoy a little sunrise on the way to work these days as well. No matter how little of your best laid plans came to fruition last year, Alaskans are welcome to dream big for the coming months of warm days, midnight sun, dry roads and open waters.
For me, this time of year is all about planning… and skiing. On my mornings off I navigate a checklist of event and venue opportunities to lock in and am beginning to build up jewelry inventory for the summer season. I begin laying out plans for fun in the sun as well. Hikes, road trips and floating.
Other than that it seems that all my time recently has been spent skiing and upgrading my set ups. Spring skiing is the best and I am well acquainted with skiing of the nordic kind. I began skiing about 8 years ago. Some friends and I took our second-hand set ups (mine was $90 total) to the UAF ski trails and proceeded to have a grand time falling on our butts, running into each other and sliding, uncontrollably, into the deep snow and brush lining the trails. Beyond that I learned to stay upright and moving forward on those crappy skis just by following my girlfriends around on the local trails and occasionally improving my technique at those amazing UAF loops.
The following year I signed up for a legit and infamous ski race down in Talkeetna, AK. The Oosik is touted as a party on skis and while I found the whole experience wonderful overall, the last half of the 16 miles I signed up to race were challenging and less than pleasant. I finished toward the front of my friend group but very, very near the end. And I did it all on those crappy skis that the wax tech had offered to throw away for me rather than wax up. Take that Snooty McSnooterson! Last year I ranked at what I like to call the Lower Upper Middle of the pack. This year I will shoot for Upper Upper Middle of the pack, or even Lower Lower Upper. We’ll see. I think it’s possible.
It must have been 2013 that I went on my first cabin trip with a group of friends into the White Mountains north East of town. While no expert I was able to get myself over those 14 rolling miles to the Eleazar’s cabin without breaking down and asking for a ride. On the way back out the following day our group of skiers was passed by a lone woman in spandex skiing in a very athletic and intense fashion. She skated on by with a small overnight pack and a loose dog. Watching her go by I adjusted my baggy snow pants and said aloud to everyone who could hear “That’s going to be me one day.”
Easier said than done that goal never left my bucket list. The next year I purchased a crappy set of skate skis, boots and poles and began huffing and puffing around the flattest, smoothest trails in town. I found the technique doable but oh-so strenuous. Over the years I have picked away at this skill and even purchased nice skate skis but it is still an elusive beast to me that I can only engage sparingly or in short workouts.
The next ingredient in my ski life was to be a good skijor dog. Someone who could pull me effortlessly over the trails and who never lost enthusiasm or loyalty. Well, I found a dog but she is more of a princess than beast of burden. My husband suggested I adopt Rhonda because she was quiet and sweet when he visited her at the pound. Not being entirely confident in my skijor skills and holding loyalty and demeanor above speed I thought this furry pit bull mix would be a good fit. Rhonda is a loving, gentle and steadfast partner but no strong puller. She loves to run but will only pull me on very narrow and fast trails, which is not to my taste. However, she is a wonderful adventure buddy and has great stamina. She is large enough to carry her own pack of food, bowl and booties but also fits quite nicely curled up in the corner of the tent. She is my partner in crime on the trails.
So far I have my skis, my fitness level and my dog up to snuff. Next step is to overcome my fear of going on such an adventure alone. To have only myself to rely on over a long, tiring trek and then to gather wood myself, brave the dark, wild night alone and find comfort and contentment in my own company may be the biggest challenge yet. However, it should be the quickest to overcome as I just have to get out there and do it. So, in three weeks I go for my first solo overnight to Lee’s cabin. It’s a stepping stone to a 3 night loop I am hoping to do before the snow and ice melt and a very big step forward for me in my Alaska life.
While it has taken me longer than anticipated I feel that I am on the cusp of becoming that woman on skis that I admired several years ago. Although, I think I will forego the spandex.