Coming to the end of a winter season feels very similar to coming to the end of a long hike: it’s an intense period and it seems that it will never stop, then suddenly it’s all over. People who were automatically around go their own ways. Life as it is stops right there.
My last scheduled tour was a week tour with 6 guests. I had been looking forward to it for a long time: a week out with the dogs during those long, sunny spring days. I still wanted to go to a remote cabin far up the river, close to the mountains: Vieksaluokta. I hoped for the guests, the weather, and the tour schedule to be nice.
The tour turned out to be a dream of a final run. The group of 6 was amazing: three young and eager guys my age, an older couple who had dreamed about coming up for decades and one person who had been on a 4 day tour before. They entertained each other, helped each other and made sure everything was done without any encouragement from me. They knew their dogs and they knew the drill. They were one of the two best groups I had all winter.
Conditions were perfect for the days we went out to Vieksa. It was completely wind still, sun was shining, it was warm outside. The mountains gleamed white over the river. The trails out there are so beautiful. We drove upwards for 1,5 hours, parked the teams and had lunch on the side of a panoramic mountain lake. As they sat by the fire grilling hot dogs I watched the dogs and enjoyed the panorama. Finally I was here. Another variety of the great trails surrounding Kiruna. But out of all of them this one must be the greatest one.
Upon return to the cabin we sat outside in the sun for a while. Far on the horizon I could see the city standing high above the river. I love these moments when I can see it, but feel distanced from it: looking upon civilisation from places far away, surrounded by nothingness and peace and quiet. I knew I would miss it: being out here with the dogs. Driving through the frozen forests, driving on the frozen river. Being outside all day, away from the buzz of the world.
The remainder of the tour was stormy though good. One dog sustained an injury on his chest from stepping in the soft snow. PJ helped out by picking him up by snow mobile and we were worried for a bit, but he will be alright. I tried to keep clear of open areas and drove the group up and down the most fun hills in the area. There were only few times I had drivers good enough to go there. I was sad when the 6 left. We gave hugs and I thanked them for giving me such a great final tour. Really, the odds for it being this good were few.
A long time ago PJ and I decided this would be our last trip up to Kiruna so this tour was really the last one. The high I was on afterwards faded after a complaint came through which was very personally insulting towards PJ and me. It ebbed out even further when more discussions between us and the company arose and agreements were yet again broken. Nah. The time to leave and end this chapter had come. The good memories we can take with us, the bad ones we leave behind.
The one very sad thing was to say goodbye to the dogs. For four months we lived alone out there with them. We got to love every single one of them and I miss their automatic company throughout the day. These dogs are such amazing creatures: independent, strong and tough, yet so sweet and gentle. Sometimes I thought about trying other things: getting more into mountain guiding, taking glacier courses, things like that. Now that those opportunities are arising I don’t know if I will. I’m not ready learning about the dogs yet, all we have to do is find another way to be with them. One beautiful little lady is joining us on the way home and will be living with us from now.
After we gave all our four-footed friends a final hug we had to turn away and aim our steering wheel towards southern Norway, towards civilisation. If anything, this winter has been such a humbling experience. Living out there with so little, I feel incredibly grateful for everything I have at home. We all have so much to be grateful for. I’ve said it in the beginning of the season and I will repeat it again: more people should go and live in a cabin in the woods for a few months to realise the comfort, the luxury, the convenience we have in our lives. As for now, my time of outhouses, a lack of running water and limited power are over. And oh how it feels great to use a switch to turn on the light, to go to the toilet without even putting some socks on.