Dose of Awesome # 283

There were only two times I’d really questioned my decision to hike the John Muir Trail. The first time, I was clinging to a boulder in the middle of a waterfall a few hundred feet up a mountain. We were ten days, and almost 100 miles into our trek. Forced to take a zero day by delayed arrival of the mule train that carried our resupplies, some of us decided to take advantage of the extra time and attempt to summit the insurmountable Giraud Peak, which overlooked our camp. Though technically we weren’t on the John Muir Trail at that point, I was on an adventure of a lifetime and part of that, I felt, called for doing it all.

The second time was the very next day. Almost 11,000 feet above sea level, in a tent I was only able to half set up before panic got the best of me, I sat huddled atop both my pack and my Therma-Rest for insulation in case lightning struck (and inside my sleeping bag for good measure), as a thunder storm exploded all around me – an experience made all the more harrowing as thunder echoed off the mountains with an inescapable fervor.

Sure, there were other times throughout my 23 days on the trail that I would have given anything for a foot massage and a hot shower (a gallon of ice cream wouldn’t have hurt, either). There were times (near-whole days, even) that the straps of the 38 pound pack I’d carried felt like knives slicing into my shoulder blades, and I fought the urge to eat the entire contents of my bear can just to find a little relief. There were other times, between blisters and a sprained ankle (the result of a mishap involving an inconveniently-placed rock, a swarm of mosquitoes and a steep descent out of camp at Bench Lake), that I’d wondered whether I’d ever walk with grace or ease again.

But stronger than any discomfort endured on the John Muir Trail (even stronger than armpits smellier than I’d ever imagined possible), was an insatiable hunger for more – more mountains, more wilderness, and more of all the challenges along the way. It was this insatiable hunger that pushed me to keep going as I hiked the 350 kilometers between Cottonwood Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. It all but carried me as I climbed more than a cumulative 37,000 feet up mountains, ridges and passes along the way (which, for a matter of perspective, is as high as planes fly).

Awesome was the journey, which, try as I might, I will probably never adequately put into words, and awesome is celebrating the single-most challenging physical feat I’d ever completed. I’m still processing it. Awesome was reminding myself several times a day, every day, that I am capable of more, both physically and mentally, than I sometimes think possible. Awesome are all the small things – describable and not – that I will take from my experiences on the trail and carry into my day-to-day life.

And awesome was sharing this experience with a group of strangers – each and every one of whom had something to teach me about the world, about hiking, and about myself – and awesome was the magic of an experience that can never be replicated, even if we were all to do it again together. Emily, Aline, Henk, Lisa, Catherine, Sam, Patrick, Bob, Randy, Ted, and especially our guides, Alwyne and Jarrette, thank you for being part of this magic. As I try to capture the essence of our trek over the next few blog posts, I dedicate my efforts to your courage, strength, and little bits of uniqueness that I found so inspirational.

Nakurmiimairaaluk ❤️

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Dose of Awesome # 278

Snowshoeing season has rapidly melted away with this week’s rain and high temperatures. There is still a bit of snow on the land, but I’d imagine its texture is an unenjoyable mix of slush and ice. At the moment, I am taking advantage of the extra time to read, draw and play the violin as I await bicycle season.

1. Awesome was one last beautiful weekend of snowshoeing, two weeks ago. The weekend was full of sunshine, light wind and hours on my own enjoying the land.

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2. Awesome was finishing a new drawing – sled dogs, inspired by the recent Ivakkak dog sled race.

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3. Awesome was finalizing some of the biggest details of my upcoming summer adventure. This summer, I will be hiking the John Muir Trail, after spending a few days in San Francisco and Mammoth Lakes. With my flight booked and my trek organized, I can start looking into accommodations and plan some ideas for the rest of my time there. It’s starting to feel real!

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Dose of Awesome # 271

Life has entailed a lot of change and loss as of late. From a break up, to loss of community members and co-workers, life has brought its fair share of challenges – some unlike any I’ve experienced before. But, in the process of grieving, I’ve found myself dealing with things with a surprising amount of grace. I’ve also found a lot of positive and some wonderful awesomes.

1. Awesome are the people I’ve met, and the things I’ve had the opportunity to do over the past two months. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a whole new social side of Kuujjuaq. I’ve met new people and tried new things. I’ve found support from some amazing people, created boundaries where necessary, and I’ve learned tons about myself and what I need and want for myself. I’ve also reconnected with parts of my life I’ve lost touch with over the past couple of years. Awesome is feeling healthier, happier and stronger.

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Snowshoeing in Nuvik Bay. 

2. Awesome is showing someone the north for their first time.

After six years of trying to convince her to come, my mother came to visit at the end of January. While she was here, we went dogsledding, saw the northern lights, made bannock with my students, saw the land, experienced a Kuujjuaq Christmas party, and a low-key games night, among other things.

Whenever I go on vacation and tell people about my life in the north, I always experience a re-kindled love of all the things my life has come to be over the past several years. But, showing someone the north for the first time is even greater. And for such a reminder of why I am where I love to be, I couldn’t have asked for better timing.

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Dogsledding with George Kauki.

3. Awesome is learning something new. During my Christmas holiday, I gave in and bought myself a violin. The violin is right up there with the harmonica as the world’s most beautiful sound, and for years, I’ve dreamed of being able to play. Upon returning to Kuujjuaq after my holiday, I started taking lessons and, though it’s slow-going, I’m making progress and can actually produce sounds that resemble something other than a dying cat. I can even play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (on a good day). Perhaps I will be ready to perform at Kuujjuaq’s next Aqpik Jam?

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I realize I’m holding it wrong, but it was my first time trying my violin 🙂

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100 Days of Awesome – Day 83

1. Awesome was leaving the dentist’s office yesterday morning with sparkling teeth and no big problems.

2. Awesome was finding the perfect shade of green fabric to finish my project.

3. Awesome was finally finding, after a frustrating and fruitless hour sifting through this season’s rather hideous (in my opinion) fashions, a top to wear out to the bar tonight.

4. Awesome was, as I was leaving the gym yesterday afternoon, chatting with one of the front desk people. It always makes me feel part of a place when I get to know the people who work there – especially considering how infrequently I am able to go.

5. Awesome was coffee with friends at a nearby Tim Horton’s. Also awesome was listening to room full of buddies – old men who’ve probably been meeting there regularly for years – laughing and goofing around while I waited for my friends to arrive. They reminded me of my father and his buddies, years ago.

They also reminded me of this video. I’ve neither ever met these men nor been to this Tim Horton’s, but it made me smile:

100 Days of Awesome – Day 70

1. Awesome was gathering the energy and motivation to literally roll out of bed, into my workout gear, and down to the hotel’s fitness centre for an hour long workout session at 6:30 am.

2. Also awesome was the fact that this hotel has literally the best fitness centre out of any hotel at which I’ve ever stayed (which consists of weights, treadmills, ellipticals, stairclimbers and bicycles, whereas any others in which I’ve worked out have only consisted of weights, a treadmill and a bicycle, at most).

3. Awesome was having breakfast and lunch at the hotel restaurant and being served by a waiter who remembered my friend and I from the previous day. Not only did he remember us (which, having worked as a waitress in a busy hotel restaurant before, I can say is an impressive feat) but he was also quite humorous (which made for an entertaining start to my day).

4. Awesome was the abundance of practical knowledge that I acquired yesterday during the day’s training session, and the feeling of being better equipped to fulfill my role as union delegate, as well as protect my rights as an employee (something which, as hard as everybody works, is quite the process, given the complexity of it all). It was a very informative day.

5. Awesome was relaxing for the evening with room service and television. As much as I wanted to take advantage of my time in the big city, I was exhausted by the mentally taxing past 2 days, and physically draining travel day before that.

100 Days of Awesome – Day 58

1. Awesome was waking up yesterday morning knowing that this weekend was a 2-day weekend, and feeling completely determined to enjoy it. Last week, I worked Saturday as it was a pedagogical day, and by about Tuesday, I was feeling the effects of that extra work day. Yesterday morning, I slept in (just a little), and didn’t rush into anything, because I didn’t have to. Then I cleaned, cooked, read and went for a run.

2. Awesome was going for a run, and doing so in weather sunny and mild enough to ditch my toque and mittens.

3. Awesome was finally getting around to sitting down and writing a letter to my friend Paul – something I started several weeks ago  but wanted to re-do, as much as changed since then (thus nullifying much of what I’d written at the time). Now, an hour and a half, a cramped hand and a pen with little ink remaining later, it’s ready for mailing.

But it wasn’t only finishing the letter that felt awesome – it was the process. There’s something about writing things down on paper that makes them feel a bit more real or a bit more tangible. This letter was all about some pretty exciting stuff that, though still a little uncertain, I’m completely ready for. Writing Paul’s letter was the first time I’d laid everything on the table, in writing, regarding mission September, and doing so made it feel significantly less like a pipe dream and more like something that is going to happen.

100 Days of Awesome – Day 56

1. Awesome was receiving the rest of my cargo on yesterday afternoon’s plane. Within this load was the chocolate and the fresh produce – the best parts.

2. Awesome was getting a start on my 2012 income tax return, knowing that this year’s will be significantly less complicated than the last two. Oddly, I kind of enjoy the process of calculating my income taxes. Bring on the number puzzle.

3. Awesome was learning that Canada Post had pulled through, and two big parts of my application package for mission September had arrived at their destination. Things are coming together.

4. Awesome was my workout yesterday evening. I’d finished my cardio workout and headed to my yoga mat with the intention of doing a few sun salutations to wind down. I’d worked out quite vigorously for a bit longer than usual when my workout is paired with a yoga session, so I didn’t plan on really doing more than 15 to 20 minutes of yoga more for stretching purposes. Once I got started, however, I didn’t even think about the time as it flew by, until an hour later when I laid down in savasana, ready for anything. It’s been awhile since I’d had a session quite like that.