Dose of Awesome # 281

I’ve been on summer vacation for two weeks. Like previous years, I decided to stay in Kuujjuaq to enjoy the beautiful (relatively bug-free) weather, finish up some projects, and relax before I travel to California and hike the John Muir Trail. My days have been full of playing violin, reading, drawing, biking, hiking, and just enjoying the land both alone and with friends. I could not have asked for a more rejuvenating and fulfilling time.

1. Awesome was finishing not one, but two new drawings.

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Amaruq – Wolf

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Kayuqtuq – Red Fox

2. Awesome was the opportunity to enjoy 7…yes 7…hikes on the land?

3. Awesome were picnics, and road trips and little walks past the end of the Road to Nowhere, where we found one of the most beautiful spots around Kuujjuaq, had a healing ceremony, and saw muskoxen. Further awesome are muskoxen – a symbol of strength and endurance, and their timely appearance.

 

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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 # 277

The community of Kuujjuaq came together yesterday to welcome the competitors in this year’s Ivakkak dogsled race at the finish line. The race began in Quaqtaq, and went through Kangirsuk, Aupaluk, Tasiujaq, before finishing here.

1. Awesome was an early school closure that allowed everybody to head to Stewart Lake to welcome the Ivakkak teams. Team 10 was the first to arrive in Kuujjuaq, but team 7 won the race.

Waiting for the first team to arrive.

Team 10, from Puvirnituq.

2. Awesome was a mid-week afternoon of snowshoeing, thanks to the early school closure. Since I’d gone in early to get some work done in my classroom before school began, I decided to take advantage of some amazing weather and get a few more hours of snowshoeing in. I went for a beautiful 3 hour loop through Nuuvuk Bay and by the marina. What I love about that loop is that every time, it can be so different, as the land is so vast.

Snow drifts and tree shadows inspired me.

3. Awesome was progress made with a challenging student – thanks to an awesome and dedicated team of people and their support. Sometimes things take time, and sometimes lots of it, but this, I hope, goes to show that if you don’t give up, great things can happen.

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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Dose of Awesome # 260

Two months ago, I’d booked an all day hike with Arctic Adventures. My hike was scheduled for what turned out to be my first day in Iceland. However, after more than 30 hours of flying, waiting and sleeping on a bench in the Boston airport, and considering the fact that I would have only gotten 4 hours of sleep before the hike, I had to reschedule. Thankfully Arctic Adventures were extremely accommodating.

So, my third day in Iceland took me 2.5 hours driving by super jeep outside of Reykjavik to the Þórsmörk valley.

The Þórsmörk valley is an incredibly beautiful mountain ridge situated in the south of Iceland between the glaciers Tindfjallajökull and Eyjafjallajökull (this is the site of the first two massive volcanic eruptions you may recall happened in 2010).

Picked up conveniently right in the lobby of my hostel, our guide Otti drove myself and seven other hikers to the start of our hike.

The drive first entailed both smooth driving on the Ring Road, and very bumpy driving on a dirt road into the valley (complete with stream crossings!).

Arriving shortly after 11 am, we began our 6-8 hour hike up and back down the Fimmvörðuháls volcanoes, eating lunch at the summit overlooking the glaciers.

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We lucked out weather-wise (which was apparently far more beautiful than on the day I was originally supposed to hike). The sun shone strong throughout our entire ascent, and, despite a nasty black cloud forming behind us, the sunshine seemed to follow us until we were halfway back down. Though it did start to rain the last 1/4 of our hike, I was fully prepared with rain gear.

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This hike was unforgettable not only thanks to the breathtaking landscape, but also Otti’s great sense of humour and story-telling abilities. I’ll also never forget the fun hilarity of pretend-skiing partway down the steep mountainside.

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We concluded our hike with coffee, traditional Icelandic “Happy Marriage” cake, and the Seljalandsfoss waterfall before embarking on the 2.5 hour drive back to Reykjavik, the same way we’d come.

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Dose of Awesome # 255

1. Awesome was a weekend camping and hiking trip in Kuururjuaq National Park. We camped at Qurlutuarjuq, on the Koroc river, which is approximately 25 minutes by plane from Kangiqsualujjuaq. The weather, though questionable upon departure in Kuujjuaq (lots of fog, drizzle and wind), turned out to be perfect in the park. And despite a superabundant mosquito and blackfly population, we enjoyed two beautiful hikes on the land – the first, a five-hour scramble up and down the mountain overlooking the camp, and the second, a three-hour bushwhack to the chutes Korluktok.

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Our chartered plane on the landing strip at Qurlutuarjuq.

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The camp.

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The view from the camp.

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Bug nets saved the day, even way up high.

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Koroc River from the mountain.

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My boyfriend and I – so happy we got to do this together.

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Inuksuk leading the way to chutes Korluktok.

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Chutes Korluktok – worth every scratch, bruise and bug bite.

2. Awesome are early morning bike rides – something I’ve been doing a lot lately. The temperature is perfect, the traffic is minimal, and there’s no better way to wake up than some post-coffee physical activity. Also awesome is coming home to find a cup’s worth of coffee still warm in your french press.

3. Awesome are boat rides. Recently I was invited on a boat ride on Stewart Lake. Though freezing (it gave me a chance to test out my new hiking gear), it was my first time out on a boat since moving to Nunavik. I’m hoping for an invitation on a sunny day.

Dose of Awesome # 234

I’m back in Kuujjuaq after an amazing vacation in Italy and Austria. Starting with two days in Venice, my vacation took me from the tourist-ridden canals of Italy, through the Dolomites and up into the Austrian Alps before returning back to Venice and flying to Montreal for a day of pampering, shopping and all you can eat sushi with a friend.

My vacation was relaxing, challenging, refreshing, productive and a lot of fun – everything I needed!

5Venice canal from the Rialto bridge.

1. Awesome are mountains, and the opportunity to hike approximately 160 kilometres on steep mountain terrain (think: 1000 metre ascents and just as crazy descents) over the course of the last 3 weeks.

After a few days in Venice (which I explored, but did not take very many photos of because I’d been there and done that already, two years ago), I went to the mountains.

First, I hiked alone on the trails of Domegge, to a rifugio where I drank a tiny, yet delicious caffe americano while watching cattle frollic in the fields surrounded by a panorama of the tallest, most rugged mountains I’d seen to date. I continued my hike to another rifugio where I had an amazing mountain lunch of meats and cheeses, and complimentary shots of grappa with the hosts.

11View from the dining room at Albergo Adelia – the albergo where I stayed during my solo time in Domegge.
9Trail marker showing the way to the rifugio, on my solo hike.10Rifugio Padova – where I drank coffee and watched cattle run on my mid-morning coffee break.

Then I hiked 120 kilometres – from Cortina to Bolzano – with a group of people I did not know. Like the Tour du Mont Blanc and the Camino Inca, I booked the trek through G Adventures, so as to enjoy the expertise of a mountain leader, and the ease of having all accommodations and most food taken care of for me.

For the duration of the trek, life was like this: wake up, pack up, eat delicious gourmet mountain rifugio breakfast, set out on a 7 to 10 hour day of hard, steep hiking, arrive at next rifugio, shower, relax over beer/wine/coffee with new friends, read, relax some more, eat fabulous 3- to 4-course mountain rifugio meals, sleep, repeat. It was wonderful.

16Lake at our first rifugio.19Rifugio Croda da Lago and its fantastic view – where we slept on our first night.24Foggy second day of hiking.15My favourite parts were the ascents (this was at a little flat bit of a big ascent).
29Amazing view at our second rifugio – Rifugio Scoiattoli.

33Beautiful view of the valley.40Another beautiful view of another beautiful valley.
43The group, trekkin’ away.
13Lunch break!
35The views just kept getting better and better.
44The group, just before the rain came.52The group at the summit – the highest point of our trek.

After the trek, I continued my trip with more solo hiking – once up the Alpe di Siusi, from Seis to Compach, and another time up one of the mountains in the Austrian Alps near Innsbruck.

2. Awesome was sightseeing in a new city.

I spent three full days at the end of my vacation in Innsbruck, Austria. For the first two days, it rained, and though I did go on a hike during one of the rainy days, I took this also as an opportunity to spend lots of times in museums – including the Alpine museum (a museum dedicated entirely to alpine mountain climbing and hiking).

57Part of the alpine museum in Innsbruck, Austria.
58Cool houses across the river in Innsbruck.
59Innsbruck’s old city.
62View of the city of Innsbruck from the top station of the Nordkettenbahnen cable car.

3. Awesome is a productive day of getting ready to return to the north, in Montreal. My list of things to do included getting a haircut (a priority, since my last one was last December and my hair was growing large and out of control), get a pedicure (after 3 weeks of trekking in the mountains, this was also a priority), buy some new clothes, and see a friend or two. I only had one day, and was very lucky, as it turned out to be a holiday and things very well could have been closed, but they weren’t.

In one day, I managed to cross everything off my list, and then some.