I had planned to start this with a quote. But that didn't really exist.
When Ernest Shackleton got stranded in Antarctica, lost his ship to the ice and had to abandon his plan to cross Antarctica, various members of his crew remembered later that Shackleton seemed calm and relaxed about this, never showing signs of despair or frustration.
And I thought I had read a remark by one of them that asserted that Shackleton wanted to be in Antarctica. While crossing the continent was a goal and a means to get financing for the exhibition, not being able to do this didn't matter much to him. He was where he wanted to be. So it held little importance whether he spent his time there going across Antarctica or trying to survive on the ice.
It would have been a bit presumptuous (well, highly presumptuous and arrogant) to compare that expedition with my dog sledding tour this year. But the general sentiment (it didn't work out as planned, but we were happy with it anyway) fitted well. Even if our 'hardships' mostly consisted of restaurant visits, hugging dogs, writing postcards and getting up early sometimes.
After a lot of searching it turned out that the remark about Shackleton was not by one of his crew members at all, but from a book of fiction. "Antarctica" by Kim Stanley Robinson. And while my recollection about the gist of it was correct, it covers a paragraph or two and doesn't compress easily into a short quote to head this page.
So no quote here.
In any case, for a tour that mostly didn't go according to plan, this was a happy one.
At some point we realized that plans are only that - plans and not goals.
If the plans didn't work, so what? So we had an unplanned good time. Works for me.
But from the beginning...
This was the tenth year where I spent my main vacation dogsledding. Four years in Canada, one in Svalbard, one in Finland and now the fourth time dogsledding in Sweden.
As we were the last tour of the season, we had a well thought out plan (that phrase alone should tell you that, ultimately, it didn't work).
That late in the season, it can be springlike in Umnäs, where the dogsledding company is located, which makes sledding difficult.
Hence the idea was to go further north and further up.
The penultimate tour of the season would go from Umnäs to Tjärnberg, which is just below the polar circle. The participants of that tour would drive the dogs and sleds up north (and then take a taxi to the next airport). And we would continue past the polar circle from there. We would also spend a significant part of our trip on mountain plateaus, where there is a better chance of snow and low temperatures than in lower altitudes.
A solid concept, but the weather turned it into a farce.
But that came later.
Even the trip to the 'starting line' didn't go quite as expected.
When I got to the airport, the first thing I noticed was that my flight to Stockholm had been cancelled.
Not a good thing, but when I went to the counter, they informed me that they had already rebooked me to fly to Copenhagen and then on a flight from there to Stockholm, with enough time to catch my connecting flight later to Hemavan Tärnaby. So I got were I wanted to go, but not the way as planned.
At the airport in Stockholm I met Constanze again. We already have been on five dog sledding trips together, two in Canada, one in Finland and two in Sweden, so this was the sixth time we teamed up for a dogsledding tour.
Once we arrived in Umnäs, we sorted out our gear (adding some of their stuff, like warm boots and mittens to our stuff, while leaving things we wouldn't need on the trail, like laptops, behind).
Side remark: There was a car at the airport in Hemavan with the label "Surface Friction Tester". That probably is some significant and important job related to airfield safety, but it still seemed to say to me "we're having fun doing some drifting on the runway when no planes are around".)
There was still a lot of snow in Umnäs, which made the garden fence slightly pointless as a barrier - people and dogs could just have walked over it.
But then, there weren't many dogs around, as most of them were 'on tour'.
And it didn't matter much in any case, as the kennel dogs don't get into the area around the house anyway (and the kennels were kept well clear of any 'snow bridges'). And the house dogs generally know better than going walkabout on their own.
Next morning we packed our stuff (and a lot of dogfood) into the trailer, put it behind the car and drove up to Tjärnberg.
The place is a starting point for snowmobile enthusiasts. Swedes drive there, bringing a snowmobile on a trailer. And they stay either in a caravan or rent one of the huts and go on snowmobile tours from there.
After we got our huts assigned, we started digging a hole in the snow as 'cold storage' for the dog food we had brought.
Then we prepared the 'dog rest area' as much as possible and waited for the dogs to arrive.
Out hut was a bit strange. Originally, Catte and Kenneth had booked two huts. One for themselves and one for the Swiss dogsledding group. The initial idea was that the latter would come back from their tour, spend a night in the hut and then proceed to go home. While we would arrive on our own the next day and use 'their' hut.
But it was ultimately more convenient for us to go the Umnäs first and drive up with Catte, so we were at Tjärnberg the same time the Swiss were there. Hence, we needed an additional place to stay.
It hadn't been any problem to reserve an extra hut (months ago). But when we arrived, the people who manage the place in Tjärnberg were still taken a bit by surprise by this. No problem, though, a spare hut was available, since "there used to be a guy who stayed there, but he died, so it's available".
The hut must have been more like a semi-permanent rental and not like the other 'weekend cottages'. There was a lot of private stuff still in that place, including clothing in the cupboard, a snowmobile helmet on the shelf, photographs pinned to the wall - a bit like someone left a couple of days ago and didn't come back. So while it was a nice place, it always felt as if you had sneaked into someone's living room and stayed there. (Though the bag on the floor is mine - it wasn't that untidy when I moved in.)
Later in the afternoon, there was the first sight of the dogs.
It didn't take long for them to arrive at the 'dog rest area'.
Everyone human had a good time on that trip. The weather was great - blue skies for almost all of their trip and temperatures that went down to -15°C during the night, staying below zero during the day. So the trails were in good condition and they had been making good progress.
And most of the dogs were happy as well, except for two of them which had some problems (with their shoulders, as far as I recall) and had to be carried in the sled for some of the way. And two others that were still running, but weren't quite fit enough to go on another long tour right after this.
So four of the dogs were sent home (if my list is correct, these were Bilbo, Rönn, Gandalf and Zink), but we had one replacement dog (Sting) brought with us. (And "send home" means that someone put them in a car and drove them back to Umnäs - it's not like you turn the dogs around and tell them "run back".)
But, surprisingly, the 'young ones' were all quite happy and eager to go on.
Last year, there were two new litters of dogs at Kenneth's and Catte's place. One had been named after Harry Potter characters (Harry, Luna and Albus) and the other after rivers and bodies of water in Russia (Don, Valday, Baikal, Amur). Usually you don't take dogs on dogsledding tour in their first year, especially not on long tours.
But some of their older dogs (like Oboy) had 'retired from touring' and become house dogs, so they decided to take a chance and bring the young dogs along. And they were doing great. All that had started the tour (Albus was staying back in Umnäs) were still in good health. None of them had done anything stupid (though some of them still had some minor bad habits). And all of them were eager and motivated. (They stayed that way during out part of the tour as well. For dogs less than a year old, that's quite a feat.)
The dogs got lot of fresh hay to lie in. They seem to prefer hay to straw, as it smells more interesting. (You can see a lot of dogs noses down in the hay, having a sniff.)
Most of them enjoyed relaxing in the sun, lying on the dry hay.
But there always seem to be one or two which either don't get or don't like the idea.
While others figure that they can find softer and warmer things than hay and snow to rest their heads on.
In the evening we had dinner with the Swiss group, who had enjoyed their trip a lot.
Next day we emptied the sleds and hung up and laid out all the blankets, harnesses and booties (which were later sorted by size) to dry out in the sun.
Kenneth also tried to relax a bit. It had been a long tour to lead (after a long season). Our tour was planned to be equally long and he had gotten a bad case of influenza or something similar on the way, so he needed the rest and recovery days.
There were also dog related things to take care of, such as checking their paws, applying zinc cream where needed and clipping their toenails.
After two rest days, it was time for us to head out and start our tour.
It had been a bit warm during the rest days, which is great for being outside and going things, but not so good for the snow.
So it became clear that it would be difficult to start the tour from where the dogs were resting.
We put the dogs into the trailer, pushed/pulled the sleds about 200 meters down to the lake with the snowmobile tracks. Kenneth drove the dogs down in the trailer and we harnessed, bootied and attached the dogs to the sleds directly 'on the trail'.
Our 'dog team list' for this year was:
Of the eight dogs in my team, Yoga, Strider and Gran were dogs that had been running in front of my sled the previous year as well. Gran and Strider also had been in my team in 2016, so it was the third year in a row together with those two now.
The first day of sledding was great!
It was great in any case to be on a dog sled again. (I really like dogsledding - otherwise I wouldn't be doing this for the tenth year in a row.)
But it was also a great day for dogsledding.
Blue skies, warm weather (I was riding in a t-shirt for a large part of the day). A long bit on a lake for starters, so it was easy to get back into 'dogsledding mode' without having to worry about the difficult bits. Great scenery. Nice, wide trails in the woods, so no worries about hitting any trees here either. After three days of rest, the dogs were quite glad to get going again as well.
It was also a short run - about 35 km, ideal for a first day of a dogsledding tour.
We did stop for a bit of a rest - the dogs appreciated it, as it gave them a chance to roll a bit in the snow and cool down. And we had time to sit down and drink some tea as well.
The rest wasn't really needed (by that time we were less than 10km from our destination). But we weren't in a hurry, so why not take it easy?
Not long after that we arrived in Vounatjviken.
We set out the stake-out lines for the dogs and made their camp.
(At least it was fairly safe from fires, with trees having their own fire extinguishers. Which, on second thought, was a clever idea. If there is a fire in any of the cabins, it's much better to have an extinguisher accessible outside than to have it somewhere in the cabin, where it might be inaccessible in a fire. Also, this is a snowmobile place. Not only might there be an engine fire on a snowmobile where an easy to reach fire extinguisher could be welcome, but it would also be easy, if a fire is at another cabin, to drive up to the tree with a snowmobile, grab the extinguisher and bring it where it is needed.)
In the early afternoon, we walked up to the restaurant for some snacks and drinks. And enjoyed to view.
And later had a very good dinner up there. (As I couldn't decide on anything specific, I took the "a bit of everything" plate, with elk, reindeer and local mushrooms.) I was surprised by the quality of the restaurant. Essentially, Vounatjviken is a snowmobile place, away from any roads, where snowmobilers drive to (as we did with the dog sleds), spend the night and then move on the next day. So it is (kind of) the snowmobile equivalent of a motel beside a highway.
And I would have expected the same kind of food - some sort of generic 'meat with fries' dishes and maybe a re-heated frozen pizza. And, given that there was no culinary competition within a 50 km radius, they could have gotten away with almost any variation of 'something warm to eat, preferably in large portions'. So finding that the restaurant there was really good and the dishes were more than just 'food heaped onto a plate' was unexpected. Nice. And the view from the terrace and the restaurant was spectacular.
Then it was time to go to sleep and end the first day of dogsledding.
We had a couple of dogs in the cabin, so there was the chance to pet some of the dogs (in this case Charlie and Frank) before turning in for the night.
Next morning we got up and started the second day of dogsledding.
We had about 80 km to cover that day (about the longest day trip planned on this trip), we got up around 5 o'clock for a 07:30 start.
We were running into problems almost immediately.
The snow had gotten soft due to warm weather (and some rain had presumably helped to erode and wet the snow even more). So while it still looked like a nice surface to sled on, a lot of it was 'quicksand made from snow'. The dogs were sinking up to their chest into the snow when running. The sleds kept tipping over when they hit soft spots in the snow. Aand it was difficult to get them upright again, as there rarely was solid ground to stand on. Trying to push the sled up usually resulted in pushing yourself even deeper in the snow.
Constanze and I fell more often off the sled here than we did on the whole ten days of last year's trip.
After 90 minutes, we had covered 2 km.
As we had another 78 km to go, it was clear that another approach was needed.
We stopped at a convenient bit at flat, open ground and weighted our options.
Some discussions about possibilities (and many, many phone calls) later, the plan was to hire two people with snowmobiles in Årrenjarka (our destination for the day) and make them drive towards us, flattening the snow and creating a nice, solid trail for us to drive on.
For us, there was little to do but to wait.
So we had a rest, ate our sandwiches, drank tea, snacked the dogs, wrote postcards, took many pictures of people and dogs and laid down on our sleds to relax in the sun (putting on sunscreen from time to time).
It took the snowmobiles a long time to reach us.
With (slightly) less than 80 km to go, we assumed they would make the trail in three hours or so, but it took them six hours. An average speed of less than 15 km/h is really slow for a snowmobile.
They got stuck in deep snow over and over again and had to work hard for getting to us.
So they arrived at our 'parking spot' around 16:00, took some boxes of dog food with them (so our sleds were a bit lighter) and drove back to Årrenjarka.
It was time for us to be on our way as well. A bit more than seven hours after we had stopped there (and roughly nine hours after we had started in the morning - by this time, we had planned to arrive at our destination).
The trail they had made was great, so, while we were travelling over land, we had a good run with no sleds tipping over at all on the rest of the way, if I remember correctly.
It was very different on lakes.
Here we very driving more along water canals than snow tracks. They were easy to drive in - we were running a lot faster here than on the mountain trails, as there was only little friction between the sled runners and the wet ice below - but it felt more like water skiing than dog sledding.
While the dogs didn't mind running through cold water, it's not the best thing for them either.
And there was a lot of water in some of these 'water trenches'.
Here's a short animated GIF that shows the wake behind Catte's sled.
Another issue was the time of the day.
It was getting darker and the light became more diffused, so it was getting harder to see the details of the track ahead. For about an hour after dusk, I drove more by following the motions of the sled in front of me than by looking at the track itself to see any bumps or irregularities. But somehow that worked well.
Then there was finally the call "Headlights on!" (you don't want to use them too early, as they run only a couple of hours, especially on full power, and you really, really don't want them to go off towards the end of the trip.
The trails became a bit trickier about 60 km down the line, shifting from wide plains, lakes and mountain plateaus to a smaller track between a fence and a forest (with some trees having snow-free circles around them, inviting your sled to drop on one side, fall over and crash into the next tree - here it helped a lot that we weren't carrying dog meat, the sleds were light and it was possible to lean to the other side and act as a counterweight). But we all managed without problems, even through three sets of fence gates (which were a bit of a personal nemesis for me on earlier trips).
The last ten kilometers wer ran in total darkness, but they were mostly lakes (with only short bits of connecting forest trails between them), so at least they were technically easy.
We arrived shortly past midnight in Årrenjarka.
The trail, as provided by the snowmobiles, had been great. It took us about eight hours over varied terrain for the remaining 78 km. This is, more or less, the time you would expect it to take on a good trail. Given that we covered a fair bit of it in dusk and darkness, we had made good progress.
We had planned to have dinner at the Årrenjarka restaurant, but it was a bit late for this. We were a bit disappointed that we wouldn't eat there (it's a good restaurant there as well), although we shouldn't have worried.
It was around 3 o'clock until we were done with everything and it was finally time to get some sleep, the first light of dawn already visible at the horizon.
The next planned destination was one of the mountain huts - either the one at Aktse or the one at Porte.
As we had a long day behind us and the distance to either hut was moderate (in the 40-50 km range), the plan was to get about eight hours of sleep and then start the next section in the late afternoon. Maybe running into the late evening and night as well, to avoid the warm weather during the day and make use of the colder weather at night.
But when we got up in the early afternoon, that plan was cancelled.
The snow had gotten so bad during the day (at least as bad as on the previous morning) that there was no point in leaving. We would likely only have made about a kilometer per hour again.
And Årrenjarka is a place accessible by road - so while we were there, we had more options.
If we went to Aktse, we would be in a hut in the middle of (admittedly, probably beautiful) nowhere.
Another thing to take into consideration was (dog) food.
We had planned to reach Aktse (or Porte) that day and then head on to Björkudden the next. And Björkudden was where we were supposed to have our rest day. (And where 240 kg of food and large bags of wood wool had been stored.) Our dog food was calculated to last for the current day and for most of the next day, with the assumption that we would reach Björkudden in the evening and feed the dogs with the food there.
While the food wasn't that sparse - you always have extra food in case of delays and emergencies, it would be much easier to get extra food in Årrenjarka.
More importantly, it seemed risky yo go to Aktse - if we got to that hut and got stuck there, we would be running out of food. And getting more dog food to that place would have been difficult.
So we switched to another plan.
Have dinner at the restaurant in the evening (so we would get to eat there after all - once again very good food!), go to bed early, get up at 01:00, be on the trail around 3 o'clock. This way we could use as much of the night cold as possible. And then don't stop at Aktse, but run all the way to Björkudden (80-90 km again) in one go. It would be a long day, but we would arrive in Björkudden on the day we planned to go there, so the dog food would work out as intended. And we would have our rest day there, so another early start and long day before that wouldn't matter that much - we (and the dogs) would have time to recover.
And while Björkudden isn't on any road, there's one across the lake from it (about 2 km away), so we would be able to get out from there somehow, if the trails wouldn't be better by them. Also, there was lots of food there - enough for the rest of the trip. And also wood wool, so the dogs wouldn't need to sleep on wet snow, but have it more comfortable.
A good and reasonable plan.
We had a nice, early dinner, went to bed around 19:00, got up at 01:00, started to get ready, when Kenneth came over to the cabin we were staying in and told us to go back to sleep.
It was still warm outside (the lowest temperature at night had been +5°C, so the quality of the trails hadn't improved). And it had also started to rain, ruining the snow even more. So the conditions we would be facing were even worse than the ones we had when we set out from Vounatjviken. As there was no point at all in trying to leave, we might as well get a good night's rest.
The decision not to go was validated around 7 o'clock.
Someone at Björkudden, who knew that we were coming, called Kenneth to ask him where we were and told him that it was raining, The conditions around Björkudden were abysmal. We were unlikely to get there at all, so we'd better turn around or go somewhere else. They seemed relieved that we hadn't even started and weren't on our way to their place.
So we had a very long breakfast the next morning and worked on the next plan.
Kenneth and Catte spent most of the time on their phones and what emerged was this:
The situation was the same all over northern Sweden, sometimes even worse.
Miekak (one of the places that we had visited last year and where we were supposed to go a couple of days later) had posted a note on their web page, essentially telling customers to stay away from them, as the trails had deteriorated badly. Some of Kenneth's friends were involved in evacuating skiers from the mountains. Many people do multi-day cross-country ski trips at that time of year. The snow became so bad, that they were sinking into the snow and not making any headway. Even the front end of snowmobiles were sinking in at some places. (Which is unusual - in general, it's the back of the snowmobile that is heavy, so they tend to sink in there first. Going in head first means really bad snow conditions.)
And skiers and snowmobiles have a lower weight/ground-surface are than dog sleds (and dog legs). If they already had problems, then we would be in serious trouble.
Additionally, even if we made it to Björkudden, where would we go from there?
All the places that we planned to go afterwards were away from roads, so once we left Björkudden, we would need to be able to go exactly where we wanted to go, as there was no easy way to evacuate or go anywhere else.
And the forecast for the next couple of days didn't mention temperatures below freezing.
So we decided to stop the tour right then and there (after two days of sledding).
Kenneth kept apologizing about that, but it was obvious that there wasn't any sensible alternative (and that the weather wasn't his fault). To quote Constanze's remark to him: "You can change Rosie's harness, but you can't change the weather."
While that was not quite what we had hoped for, that's the way it turned out.
But then again, the situation was clear and that's the way it was, so there's also no sense of whining about it. Which is a big reason why I like to do tours together with Constanze and also with Kenneth and Catte as tour guides. All are quite pragmatic, communicate openly and may be disappointed, but rarely frustrated.
It would have been a unpleasant situation, if someone had been gung-ho about it and had wanted to press on for the sake of doing so and not "quitting" or "failing" on the plan.
We all quickly agreed that it made no sense to go on with dogsledding and discussed what would be the best thing to do now.
Going back to Umnäs seemed the best option.
Sitting around here in Årrenjarka would be costly, we would run out of dog food soon (although Kenneth had already contacted a local musher to check whether he could buy some food from him), the dogs would continue to be outside in the wet snow. There would be more rain and we wouldn't be going anywhere for the next three or four days anyway.
So it was better to head back to the kennel and wait there. Kenneth, Catte and the dogs would be home and Constanze and I would have their own halves of the guest house again.
Going back would take some time (it's more than 400 km to drive back) and it would be a long way up again, if conditions would improve. But better to have two long drives than sitting around here.
After we had a plan again, Kenneth needed to figure out how to get the car and the trailer to where we were.
While it was about 120 km per dog sled from Tjärnberg to Årrenjarka, the distance along the roads is closer to 450 km.
The first bit was easy - lots of snowmobilers were leaving Årrenjarka (partly because the weekend was over and partly because, even with snowmobiles, there was little else to do but to sit in the huts and hope for better weather), so he managed to get a ride to Jokkmokk. (In the meantime, he also had arranged for the car and the trailer coming closer to him. He had left the car keys in Tjärnberg anyway, so that someone could move the car or the trailer if needed. And he found someone willing to drive both to a place closer to him. I think it was Arjeplog, but it might have been Arvidsjaur.) Getting out of Jokkmokk proved to be harder. He tried to hitch-hike, but that didn't work, so he had to find some other form of transport. There was also the plan to take the bus at some point (which runs once a day, so timing was critical for him to catch it), but I don't know whether he managed to catch it.
In the meantime, we were tending to the dogs, which, for the most part consisted of sitting down or standing somewhere next to a dog and petting it.
It became also clear that the dogs were getting bored as well.
Especially Luna had discovered that there was a tree stump under the snow right next to her and began some major landscaping activities to unearth it. Later helped by her brother Harry as well.
Harry was digging for some small pine cones next to the tree stump, to have something to chew on.
Others started a pulling contest with the local vegetation, which the vegetation was bound to lose eventually.
Digging in the ground near the tree stump also allowed Luna to sleep on a bit of dirt, which, while dirty, was a lot dryer than sleeping on the wet snow.
Other dogs had more luck and found a ready-made bit of soil, without having to dig for it.
We also distributed the (nearly) last bits of dog food.
Due to the temperatures, we had been distributing the slabs of meat on the first days (they are more likely to spoil in warm temperatures) and were now feeding special 'dog sausages'. Each of them contains a kilogram of meat and since they are individually packed, they are better protected, get less soggy and easier to handle.
By then, we had feeding well organized. Catte would slit the plastic skins around the sausages and Constanze and I would peel the sausages and pile them.
Then we would each grab a handful and distribute them to the dogs.
Which would (in most cases) devour them quickly.
Robert, for example, easily eats a sausage in 40 seconds. That is one kilogram of meat, wolfed down in less than minute.
Talking about being impressed by the dogs - we had Idun as a 'house dog' in our cabin at night. Partly because I like the idea of having a dog in the cabin when on a dogsledding vacation, but in this case mostly because she was in heat and it seemed better not to let her stay with the other dogs in Kenneth and Catte's cabin. (Like some other dogs, Idun usually stays indoors at night, but as she is usually Kenneth's main lead dog, even if she was in Catte's team this time, she tends to stay in their cabin. But that didn't work well with some of the other 'indoor dogs', so we were hosting her in our cabin.)
In any case, once we let Idun into our cabin, the first thing she did was to jump into my bed and settle down. As she's supposed to stay on the floor (there was a specific blanket she was should stay on), I took her by the collar and moved her off the bed.
She stood on the floor, turned around and jumped on my bed again.
So I put her back on the floor.
And she jumped back on the bed.
I put her back on the floor a third time.
And then Idun got it and stayed on the floor for the rest of the time we were in that cabin. (And also when we got Tall as an extra house dog the next night.)
And the amazing thing was that Idun stayed off my bed, even when nobody was around. There were times when she was alone in the cabin (for example, when we were at dinner) and even then she stayed where she should and didn't try to sneak into the bed. (Where a dog-shaped impression on the blanket would have been easy to notice.)
Like I said - I was quite impressed by that.
(Quite unlike, for example, by Oboy, who wasn't on the tour, but was in my cabin when we were in Umnäs. Oboy did stay off the couch for most of the time. But when I needed to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, he used the time to get up from his sheepskin rug on the floor and jump into the bed. (As this was Oboy, one of the retired dogs, it was more crawling into the bed than jumping). So he seemed to have made the rule for himself that obviously it was only forbidden to sleep in the cold bed, but once it was pre-warmed and emptied, it would be a pity to let it get cold...)
While Kenneth was trying to meet up with his car and trailer somewhere in northern Sweden, we had a relaxed dog-care, clean up, post-card writing and note taking day. Followed by another visit to the restaurant and a somewhat later bedtime than the day before.
By now the whole place was feeling a bit deserted.
On the previous day, we couldn't get a restaurant reservation at 18:00, as the restaurant was fully booked for the evening. So we had to have dinner at 16:00. (Which suited us well, as we wanted to go to bed early, as, at that time, we were still aiming to get up at 01:00.) This time, there was no problem getting a table at any time of the evening, as there was only one other party staying for dinner.
At some time during the night, Kenneth arrived with the trailer (I didn't notice when, but when I went 'walkies' with Idun around 2 o'clock in the morning, I noticed the trailer standing on a nearby parking place. (Kenneth intentionally hadn't driven it up to the cabin at night, as that would have gotten the dogs needlessly excited.)
(Because, when Kenneth is around, the dogs take notice - this is a picture of the dogs when Kenneth came out of the cabin the next morning.)
After breakfast, it was time to walk the dogs to the trailer, load them into it, pack our stuff and the sleds, lift them on top of the trailer and leave.
We weren't driving back to Umnäs directly, but went to Jokkmokk first.
There we checked into a nice hostel (with a large, empty parking lot) and fed the dogs. This time on dry food. We were pretty much running out of sausages anyway. But had been a couple of bags of dry food in the trailer, so at least we were not running short on dog food at the moment.
After that, we went 'into town' (i.e. 200 meters down the road) and had dinner.
(That's what I meant at the beginning of this page - our 'hardships' in having a 'failed' trip largely consisted of more nights than planned in places with showers and having more dinners in restaurants. So our 'suffering' was limited to not spending much time on dog sleds. But even that wasn't as bad as it sounds, as we had more time to interact with the dogs in exchange.)
Next morning, Catte and Constanze stayed in Jokkmokk to look after the dogs, visit the local museum and do some shopping. Kenneth and I took the car (without the trailer) to drive to the road near Björkudden.
Someone from the camp there had put all our stuff (dog food and wood wool) on a snowmobile trailer and driven over the lake to the road to meet us.
The scenery, once again, looked great, but the weather didn't.
And a look at the trails made me glad that we didn't go there on dog sleds.
Lots of water on the lake again and the trails on land either partly without snow already or soft stuff to sink into.
And even the lake wasn't that 'wintery' anymore.
It was still solid ice around Björkudden, but less than 10 kilometers down the road it was open water. Not even unsafe, broken ice or water with lots of ice floating on it. Simply open water.
Not at all suitable for dogsledding.
Quite a clear sign that it was time to leave. Even with a week of sub-zero temperatures, that wouldn't freeze over again.
We put the food and the wood wool in the car, went back to Jokkmokk, repacked the trailer and started our drive back.
On the way back to Umnäs we had one photo stop at the Arctic Circle sign.
We had crossed the circle on dog sled this year and the previous year, but there weren't any suitable signs next to the trails, so we couldn't 'properly' pose for pictures.
Although, given how the place looked, you might also assume that 'Polcirklen' is the name of a very tiny lake, which I happen to be standing in.
There were some more impromptu stops along the way to take pictures of reindeer at the side of the road.
Before we left Jokkmokk, we were wondering what the dogs would be doing when they were in the trailer. Whether they would lie there and sleep, whether they would be jolted around by every bump in the road, whether they would put their noses to the breathing holes to sniff the world outside or whether they would stand there and try not to fall over or bump into the sides of their compartment.
So I put camera into one of their boxes.
As that was an ad-hoc idea and I didn't have a suitable 'action-cam to dog-trailer' mount with me (and I think that's a very special niche not covered by any manufacturer), the camera was a bit oddly mounted in regard to the dog. But what the footage showed was a dog (Frank or Charlie) doing the same thing it would do when sitting at the stake-out line. Lying down, looking bored, sitting up for about ten minutes, looking bored as well and then lying down again for some more boredom. Being driven around in a trailer clearly isn't an exciting thing for them, but it isn't something that they strongly dislike either.
But the footage of it is - calming.
While typing doing other things, I had the video of the dog in his trailer compartment running on my laptop and it is something relaxing to look at. If the camera had been mounted a bit more professionally, sitting level and showing the whole dog (instead of just the upper part of it), this would probably sell as a relaxation tape - if there are videos of aquariums and blazing fireplaces on sale, there must be a market opportunity for watching a dog in a box for two hours...
The dogs got a lot more excited when we parked at the dog yard in Umnäs. That clearly smelled like home.
So we brought the dogs into their kennel and then into their individual dog houses, had some nice dinner and then moved back into our guest house halves.
And that was pretty much the end of the tour for now.
Luckily, that was only temporary.
How the tour continued can be found here.
If you don't care what happened next, then click here to go back to other travels