Remember that time I moved across the country to live in the Yukon? Well, it’s coming up on SIX MONTHS ago! I can hardly believe how fast life seems to pass by, the older I get. And I’m not even that old. Unless you’re asking my daughter, according her her, I’m ancient.
Speaking of my daughter, she had her very first sleepover in Whitehorse, YT this weekend, so of course the first thing I thought of is GOING OUT AND SOCIALIZING LIKE SOCIETY CONSTANTLY PRESSURES US INTO THINKING WE SOULD BE DOING. Immediately after making a plan, I bailed out and honestly admitted, I just need time, in nature, by myself. Like 98% of the time I make social plans. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .
This is my newest fur babe, Kinley’s (named after Mt.Mckinley, which I haven’t climbed, YET) first camp out. Maybe? According to the Humane Society, he is approximately 3 years old. I don’t know what his previous owners did for physical activities, but I assume it wasn’t much. Kinley barely knew how to handle being given basic affection when we brought him home 3 weeks ago. I suspect he was also left outside most of the time. For the first two days and nights he laid at the front door like he was in trouble for being inside. Now he takes up 1/2 my bed, leaving Luna (his 5.5 year old fur-sister) and I the other half to Tetris ourselves into. So considerate, thank you, Kinley.
Kinley is a German Shepherd. He is a fierce PROTECTOR, and will act like he’s going to murder you if you come anywhere near me. His prey drive is insane. He can, will and does jump fences like a fucking angry gazelle, running faster than any dog I’ve met, howling with his deep, terrifying bark EVERY time he sees a dog, squirrel or that helpless, screaming kid on his bicycle yesterday (so sorry). He’s just a strong boy. A very strong boy. Too strong. Teaching him to walk on a leash, and not chase ALL THE THINGS, is a very tiresome task that often ends in injury. With [possibly] 3 years of NO training under his belt, I have some serious work ahead of me.
He is also a sweet, cuddly boy that needs to be at my feet every moment. Literally. He is currently curled up under my desk in an area 1/4 the size of him, so that he can be ON my feet. Once he established our love for him is real and unconditional, he let his love loose on us, and this love knows no boundaries. Literally. Like please, stop trying to sleep on my face. [start dog-parent voice] Okay don’t, you’re too cute, so cute, my little Mr.KinKin [ End dog-parent voice]!
His rough and toughness was what attracted me to him. I needed a strong dog that could handle life on trails, in tents and in the mountains.
So I did not expect what would come next. In fact, I feel awful about it. Having done a 4 hour, 13km climb to the Ice Cave in Kluane two weeks ago where his energy and stamina seemed unfaltering, I figured a 7km climb’n’camp would be no problem!
After dropping the daughter off at 6:30pm, I drove 30 minutes to the base of Fish Lake Peak. With a quick glance at my watch, and the sinking sun, I slug my full 55L osprey pack on back, and head onto the trail. The dogs hungry for wildness, took off like lightning, infrequently pausing to look at me as if to say, “What the f*ck mom, hurry up.”
I’ve climbed this peak 5 times in the past 6 months. Sure, the ice makes it a bit tricky in some spots, but, of all the peaks I’ve climbed, this one is not technical, and certainly not difficult. A gradual incline hike that will still get your heart pumping. However, this evening climb was much more difficult with a 25-30lb pack on back. Many times I had to focus on correcting my breathing and found myself repeating those familiar mountain affirmations, “One step, breathe, two step, breathe” and, “Just keep going, one foot, step, two foot, step. Good. I’m doing great”. All the while hating your life until you reach the top. AND BOY DID WE REACH THE TOP.
The sunset streaked the sky like fire to the West and soft blue, purple and pink pastels to the East. Mountain ranges in all directions, and not a sound to be heard, except me, gasping for breath as I dropped my pack to the ground. It’s 8:01 pm, I have an hour of limited light left. I must collect some twigs to warm my body which is now chilling rapidly because of the sweaty climb. I grab my binoculars first, and look for The Revenant, aka bears. I am terrified of being Leonard DiCaprio’d. I scan slowly, trying not to shake. I hold my unsteady breath and pour over the mountainscape once, twice, three times, before lowering the binoculars, satisfied, for now. So much to do, but first:
And even a little:
Alright, enough. I struggle internally with wanting to photographically document my adventures, and simultaneously, not wanting to cheapen my experience and my adventure by taking photos. But, I always end up at the same conclusion: If I inspire ONE person to get off their couch and into nature, into adventuring, exploring, discovering, then hell, it’s worth it take the damn photos.
(which can be found on Instagram: @thecompanyoftrees)
(Which are also not taken by a fancy camera/I have no photo skills beyond LOOK AT THE PRETTY THING(S) )
With cold hands getting colder, I put up my Marmot Tungsten 3P then start collecting twigs. the light is nearly gone as I sit to warm my hands on my tiny flamed fire and quickly sketch the mountain range in the distance. I sip my peppermint tea, considering the mountains.
I am home here. In the Mountains, my heart lunges in adoration, infatuation and respect. I am comforted by the stillness, by being the only human in the “room”. I am not home downtown Whitehorse house, even though it is quiet enough. There is a wall between me and the cars and the fashion, the expensive bikes and the over-priced groceries. I pine for a cabin in the woods, a home in the Mountains.
BACK TO THE DOGS. They are lying beside my feet, curled up like little foxes, trying to stay warm in the increasing winds; tuckered from the running, satisfied and sleepy here in the wild.
I put the little flames out, and call the dogs to the tent. It’s 9:10 pm. I climb into my cold, summer-rated sleeping bag and shiver. I take out my emergency blanket, aka, FOIL, and try to tuck it over myself and the dogs. Luna is seasoned, and knows camping very well at this point. She was snoring before I even got into my bag. Kinley on the other hand, was not settling well.
He cried. And cried. And cried. He would not sit still. He put his face on my face and cried. Repeatedly getting up to cry and try to get comfortable beside Luna, or on my feet, or, my favourite, trying to squeeze himself in my mummy bag. His butt out, he cried.
It is March 31. The bears have been spotted. We know this time of year well. Predators are hungry, especially in these remote locations, and I realize I am not safe with a whimpering animal. We are not safe. I look at my watch, it’s 10:43. Weighing the pros and cons ( sunrise and exploring the further mountain ranges > getting killed by a hungry bear/wolves/coyotes), I finally make the decision to start packing up.
I’m terrified now, my heart pounding, thinking about the decent on the ice, in the dark, exposed. But I’ve put too much expectation on this poor boy. I thought his tough attitude would excel out here in the mountains, but in truth, I thought only of myself, my night out. Kinley has been through so much. First, losing his family, then living in a shelter for a month, and then introduced to a new family, and now I throw cold-camping at him? RUDE.
I opened the tent and my thoughts vacate, my heart quiets. I stop everything, paralyzed by the sights above. Millions of stars twinkling, and dancing green lights streaking the sky above in all kinds of patterns. The aurora borealis. A sighting this late, is a cherished one.
WHELP, back to being terrified!
I’m shoving the tent in it’s bag, yelling at the dogs to stay in my sight, already sweating with fear. I’m shaky and weak from lack of water and food (I did not bring food because: The Revenant, aka, bears). I run. I slip on the ice. I get up, I run I slip, and repeat this process. I turn music on and sing shivering with scared. And when the dogs bark I nearly piss myself. They never stray from my heels.
The run down the mountain was a friggin’ blur. I make it down in 30 minutes, drenched in sweat, throw my pack off and realize I HAVE TO PEE NOW. I crouch beside my car and pee, letting out a huge laugh.
WE’RE ALIVE. And goddamnit, that dog’s gonna be a camper if it’s the last thing I do (because: The Revenant, aka bears, probably).