"The goal is to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we were called to be." -Patricia Deegan

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Yukon Quest: The After Story

Thanks to the #yukonquestbyfoot, I have a new skill. I can now leave the dirty dishes by the sink all night. Yup, that's right. I'm serious. I can let them sit there piling up all day and then tuck myself into bed and fall asleep easily, whilst all those dirty dishes sit by the sink.

This guy needs to go winter thru-hiking. Then he'll learn what a bad time is! ;)

And that's not all. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning when this has happened, and I eat my breakfast before I do the dishes. I can just turn my back to the dishes and eat my yummy cereal. My favourite meal of the day - with Udo's Oil, soy yoghurt, cinnamon, and chia or hemp hearts. Oops, sorry, I digress. I loooove breakfast!

The Yukon has given me a great gift in this new flexibility.

Maybe you were born with the gene that lets you leave your dishes unwashed, your clean laundry sitting in the hamper, or your car floor full of rubbish. I was not. I think this same gene allows people to leave emails in their inbox for more than a day, too.

A lot of my suffering in life, I have noticed, is when I rail against what is. When I have made a story in my head of what should happen next, of the way I think things should go. At times, I make tough situations or experiences worse through my intolerance to accept what is present - the inflexibility to go with the flow.

Starting at the lower right, I travelled northwest towards the Alaskan border

In the Yukon, I experienced a lot and I emoted a lot. My journey of 40 days took me physically from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to the Alaskan border, 530 miles (850km) northwest. Emotionally, I think I went a lot further.

I experienced temperatures ranging from about -42C to +2C. The weather was erratic this winter, with extreme highs followed by extreme lows. I started in a low and gave myself a bit of a scare. I got my mojo back and made it to Day 12, when the temperatures started to plummet again towards another -42 degree spell. I came off the trail and went to volunteer for the Yukon Quest sled dog race. It was a perfect fit, given the trail I was thru-hiking. I hitchhiked up and down the Klondike Highway with pulky for a week or so, whilst we helped the Quest race happen.

Day 12. The trail crossed the Klondike Highway and I chose to stop before the next -40C spell.

Once the race passed, the weather started to break (-20 to -25C), so I found myself back out on the trail on Day 22. The weather slowly warmed more, but sunk again by the time I reached Dawson. I sat it out again a few days before I filled pulky with 6 more days of food and made my way to the border.

So many experiences, from northern lights to lynx sightings to pulling all-nighters volunteering for the racing mushers, to stove malfunctions, to soaked feet, to drinking snowmobile-exhaust-laden water. I have enough memories and a diary large enough to write a book from.

For now, though, I'm doing up a series of short videos. As of writing this, two videos are up on YouTube - the "Freakin' Miserable Start" and "From Cold to Carmacks." Part 3 in the series will include my leaving the trail at the next cold snap, volunteering for the Quest, and the angst of wanting to get back on the trail again but without the extreme cold. I expect 5 videos will get me to Alaska!

In the weeks since I've been back in Perth, Australia, I've been teaching my lungs, heart, and tendons how to run again, getting tight muscles loosened with massage, and trying to remember that delicious feeling of peace that comes with letting go.

#yukonquestbyfoot was everything I hoped for. The competition with myself against my own weaknesses was one I couldn't really lose. It was just a matter of how good the PB would be.

Sunrise Day 29 with the moon still up. Exposed camp, but wind stayed down all night. Magic.

Hopefully, I'll take my mental development "PB" on to race a 48 hour event in the coming months.


  1. A chance to gain insight into the mindset of an astonishing person's athletics journey. Amazing ability to set and achieve personal goals by accommodating and realigning as circumstances change. Thank you, Bernadette for this blog.

  2. Good job. I started after you. On foot. 31th January 2017. Ended in Fairbanks on 4th March 2017. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=rundog%20micha%C5%82%20kie%C5%82basi%C5%84ski

    1. Hi Michal. I'm aware of your expedition. In fact, we met at Pelly Crossing. I had stopped in another -40C spell and was helping with the Yukon Quest race (volunteering). You came through and spent the night and used the facilities to dry your gear, get food, etc. We talked about the weather and the route ahead. I followed you online after that and I also met several local people you had passed (when I carried on from there to Alaska). I have to say that they were not pleased with your lack of safety gear, your gaunt look, and your frostbite. They were worried I was another "risk" like they felt you were and it took a lot for me to convince them I had much more gear, a Delorme, fire-building capacity, a tent, etc.

      I saw that when you reached Circle, Alaska (approximately 1200km), the trails on creeks were melting and the snow was blowing over the Yukon Quest route, as all the dog teams had gone through and the dog race was over. You had to walk on the highway to finish most of the last 400km. Your pulk fell apart and you took to hiking the last bit without a pulk, even. Although you didn't complete the actual Yukon Quest route from beginning to end, you certainly completed an incredible winter expedition, in which you survived many very dangerous situations. You certainly have a lot of mental toughness!