It seems a long time since 3rd May when I published my final reflections on my three weeks in Alaska and the Yukon in 2016. It seems a very long time since 21st February when I left Whitehorse and spent an emotional journey to Vancouver and an equally emotional day in the Airport waiting for my BA flight back to reality.
Since then Sheila and I celebrated our 25th Wedding Anniversary in March and renewed our wedding vows in May. After that we had a big party in our garden which was a lovely opportunity to get together with old friends again.
In between we did a lot of work on our garden and had our patio rebuilt. That including having to deal with a very silly dog who decided to eat a lot of builders sand which caused us and him considerable stress.
Sometime shortly after returning from the Yukon I had “volunteered” to lead the team delivering our village fete so that occuppied a lot of my time in July and August. There was even a Siberian theme at the Fete as Mohammed Ali very kindly came and provided a sled dog demonstration.
Throughout this time I had been continuing the thought process around “what next” for me from a career perspective. I was still going through the process of leaving Atkins, where I had worked for the last fifteen years, and deciding what direction the new path should take. As it turned out that path was only to veer a little from its previous direction.
So it was a long summer as I was mostly free from the fetters of work (although still employed) for the first summer since 2001 and although there was quite a lot of uncertainty to deal with I was nevertheless able to relax and think about the future a lttle more. I watched cricket. I did more gardening. I walked Ash.
Over that time I put weight on and I lost weight, albeit much more slowly. However the “Yukon Quest beard” has endured!
Throughout most of the summer the Yukon Quest rarely entered my head except when Rob’s name came up in conversation or people ask what I did for my holidays. And yet it has always been there in the background. I was always going to come back in 2017, if not from the Saturday morning I stood on the tag sled at Fairbanks, terrified I was going to fall off, certainly from the Finish Banquet in Whitehorse though I had never consciously mentally committed to it. Then somehow it all crept up on me. As we entered the last few weeks of 2017 I started to realise that I needed to decide, confirm, commit and book.
The decision to go in 2017 has been very different to 2016. It’s not because this time I’m going with some knowledge of what to expect having done it before. Neither is it because it is less of a financial commitment because I have all the cold weather gear and photographic kit. Nor is it because the time is more difficult to take off work this year. It was just that, as I said in my May 3rd blog, life has entered a new chapter. The 2016 Yukon Quest was an important segway from the previous chapter to here but the summer had been very much the start of the new one and I really do find myself going into this year’s Yukon Quest a slightly different person.
But I will come back. I must come back and experience the race in the other direction and see all the wonderful friends I made last year all over again. So having left in a flood of sleep deprived emotion in February 2016 is the decision to return in 2017 equally emotional for me? I’ve decided to save that for a separate blog. So more on that story later!
By Christmas I was squaring away the three week leave with my new employers and booking flights. No need to buy new equipment this year although I have decided to invest in some new warmer boots which I have bizarrely had shipped from North America for me to carry them back two weeks later. I also may invest in some new camera equipment to potentially solve that problem I discovered last year that I can’t take video and stills at the same time on the same camera. I have resisted the strong temptation to use this an excuse to completely replace my camera and lenses with something new, bigger and more expensive.
So here we are with just over one week to go before I fly and the big bag is pretty well packed and prepared. This year it is packed more sparsely since I now know how little I actually need on the trail.
See you all in Whitehorse, Dawson or Fairbanks I hope. Next stop Vancouver!
Actually because we live in the UK it wasn’t a very hot summer of course, despite my apparent suntan in the pictures, but you have to give me some leeway for dramatic effect.