Sunday, December 22. Sunrise 10:59 a.m. Sunset 2:40 p.m. Temperature: 11F. Light snow.
We arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska, late on Solstice, the shortest day of the year. The purpose of our trip is twofold, to test various gear systems, as well physical preparations, ahead of the Iditarod Trail Invitational, which begins in a mere two months. Or perhaps this goal is a mere excuse, a reason to enjoy the holidays in a wintry landscape, a space where peace and solace happen as swiftly and deeply as apprehension and discomfort. Seeking the darkness for the light, as they say.
On the flight from Seattle, I picked up re-reading the journal of Capt. Robert Falcon Scott, written during the fatal South Pole expedition of 1912. Scott's record of events include two old-fashioned terms that I appreciate and plan to adopt into my vocabulary. The first is "manhauling" to describe the act of using human power (in Scott's case, they were all men) to haul supplies over the ice. There's something pure and raw about "manhauling" long distances on foot — the ultimate act of self-sufficiency. The second term is "trying" as an adjective to describe a particularly difficult situation. Temperatures of 73 below, white-out blizzards, major gear failures — events I would describe as catastrophic — Scott characterized as "trying," as though they were just another methodical challenge, a test with a difficult but ultimately achievable solution. I need to adopt this attitude in my endeavors. Although, of course, there are limits and always will be, as Scott discovered too late.