I thought it would feel like the end

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I thought it would feel like the end

Almost three hundred miles out we smelled the trees. One of those things I hadn’t realized I’d missed until my senses were awaken by their familiarity. Land was just within reach. Although I knew I had weeks to go, Canada felt so close to home. Landfall here would be different this time. I started to feel my mind press ahead to what comes next. This was our last big passage, afterwards it’d be a few overnight sails before I was boarding a plane in Newfoundland headed west.

I took the first night watch from nine to midnight. It was just past twelve and had I gone up on deck just one more time to see the stars before heading to bed; another thing I hadn’t realized I’d missed this summer in the Arctic. Up on deck my eyes fixated on the sight of the sails against a backdrop of the constellations. My eyes wandered north and landed on the best surprise, the northern lights. I was almost too excited to form words, “Ian! Um, it’s..there…aahhh..look..” I yelled while wildly pointing outside. Standing in the galley, preoccupied by making coffee he replied, “Yeah, I know…stars,” as if I was getting overly excited about our reacquaintance with nighttime. As he looked up his movement stopped and his eyes grew wide with amazement, “Aurora borealis”.

We stood for about fifteen minutes, transfixed by the supernatural lights dancing all across the horizon. I thought to myself that it was fitting for the final chapter of our journey. We’d come full circle from the endless light of the midnight sun to the mystifying darkness of the northern lights. I could tick off another wonder of the world that my eyes had seen. Eventually my cheeks turned numb by the cold and I made myself get some sleep.

There were clinks from the anchor chain as it came to a halt and we all stood silent. We had made it to Fox Harbour, the most easterly permanent community on the North American mainland. Captain Lou turned to me and thrust his hand outward, “Congrats, sailor.” My eyes felt misty as I was catapulted back in time four years to that first coffee shop conversation about sailing the Northwest Passage. I remember trying to imagine what it would feel like at the end of our trip, when I was preparing to head home. Strangely, I thought it would feel like the end, but really it just felt like the beginning. 

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Dancing with the Inuit, singing with the Polish (or at least trying)

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Dancing with the Inuit, singing with the Polish (or at least trying)

I never realized until I came on this trip how much I had settled into routine. My routines are different than most people (since I work from home) which gives the illusion that I have none, but my weeks did seem to involve a rotation of the same activities. However, after three months onboard Arctic Monkey the unexpected has become routine and our second morning back in Nuuk was a perfect example of this. 

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Disko Bay

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Disko Bay

“Hey, wanna go bundle up and look for icebergs off the bow?” said Ian. The day had been a low-key passage from our last anchorage of Christianhab and we were making way for Ilulissat. I went below deck to layer up and returned no more than five minutes later to find Arctic Monkey quickly approaching ice as far as the eye could see. At the helm, Ian casually slalomed through the larger pieces. The behemoth icebergs that had been on the horizon for the last few hours finally started to grow in front of our eyes like white canyons at the base of a mountain pass. The air was crisp and smelled like freshly fallen snow. Just another July day above the Arctic Circle. We cut in between two of the bigger bergs and started to navigate into the settlement. Awestruck, I couldn’t stop starring. For the first time in my life I felt my eyes go teary, moved by the beauty. 

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Birthday Fjording in Nuuk, Greenland

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Birthday Fjording in Nuuk, Greenland

We received no response from the harbor after calling on the VHF to let them know of our impending arrival. Creeping around the peninsula to the protected little marina just behind Nuuk we saw that our options for pontoon space were limited. We decided to raft up to a fishing boat that looked as if it moved only on rare occasion. The harbor was littered with garbage and old broken down looking boats that overcrowded the few available pontoons. Cranes and shipping cargo obstructed the rocky peaks in the distance. A dead seal and an old pair of Dynastars sat next to the dumpster providing a distinct smell every time you walked up to the Sjommjeht,  or what we liked to call the “Shimmy shammy” since our Greenlandic was a little rusty. 
 

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Rounding Cape Farewell

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Rounding Cape Farewell

It was 6:00 am in Reykjavik harbour and sunshine was bursting as if it were midday. The engine was on, warming up before our impending departure. Down below deck we filled our coffee mugs and rubbed the sleep from our eyes. Lou looked between us adult crew members with a light hearted half smile and said "Well, should we go to Greenland today?!".

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Iceland

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Iceland

Although not long in actuality, at 380 NM this was to be our longest passage thus far.

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Faroes

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Faroes

We managed to find a short weather window of about a day and a half in order to make it to the Faroes. We were all a little on edge heading out to sea as it seemed that every time we tried to leave we experienced what's called wind against tide. 

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Arctic Provisioning

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Arctic Provisioning

After playing canal boat on the Caledonian it was time to make our final preparations for the arctic. Gathering three months worth of sustenance is no easy task. It felt like finals week, and we definitely hadn't been studying all semester. Planning is also synonymous with list-making, a dreaded activity for left handlers like Zetty and I. The first evening we attempted meal planning ended in us drinking cider and watching Netflix...
Somehow we managed to get everything done; Lou stocked up on replacement parts, Zetty coordinated grocery store runs and Ruth and I did our best to distract the mini monkeys with park days and museum visits. 

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The Caledonian Canal

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The Caledonian Canal

My knowledge of canals was limited prior to this trip; not exactly the kind of skill I ever thought I'd use as an adult. So, I didn't really know what to expect when we pulled up to the first lock in Corpach. We stood out in the rain, protected by our foul weather gear, waiting for the lock keeper to let us in. Ben Nevis, the UK's tallest peak,  stood in the background, shrouded by eerie spring clouds. 

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A Tyrolean Road Trip

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A Tyrolean Road Trip

My mom and family friend, Eliza Yeager, were able to join me for a part of my time in Europe last month. We met in Munich and headed south for an epic road trip through Tyrol and down into central Italy. Here are a collection of photos from the first part of our trip.
 

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Arctic Monkey

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Arctic Monkey

A few months before heading west to Park City, I decided to make the trek from Minneapolis to home one last time. It was a sleepy, fall morning in Oconomowoc and I had driven into town for coffee. As fate would have it, I happened to run into Lou Morgan who was doing the same.

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Sweden – land of lagom

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Sweden – land of lagom

Over the past year I have been creepily stalking my friend Jenny’s social media feeds, living vicariously through her. After completing her masters, my sorority sister took off for Sweden on a whim. With complete admiration for her fearlessness I knew Ihad to get there for a visit. It was different to arrive in a more urban setting after being in the mountains for a few days, but Göteburg is a manageable and charismatic city that I never felt uncomfortable in during my stay.

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The Beginning.

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The Beginning.

When I decided to join the Arctic Monkey, I began looking at flights. I was searching all major cities in Europe when an inexpensive one way ticket to Trondheim came up. I booked the ticket and made it official, this would be the first stop on my adventure. Time flew and before I knew it I was packing my bags and saying my goodbyes in Park City.

Following an overnight flight with less than an hour of sleep (note to self, the rows surrounding the exit aisle on Icelandair don't recline!) I arrived in Norway. My first impression of the country was the coastal town of Bergen. Small islands covered with trees and quaint houses dotted the coastline. Soon after we were descending into Trondheim where I took the bus into town to meet my friend Conor. Although I was traveling in a place far away from home I felt a sense of relaxation set in now that I was finally starting my journey. We spent a low key Friday strolling through Trondheim. In between spells of rainy drizzle we popped into pubs and tried Norwegian brews. 

Always the adventure seeker, Conor had asked if I would be interested in a ski trip while I was visiting. My obvious answer was absolutely! So, on Saturday morning we packed the car and set off for the mountains. We made our way to the smaller town of Oppdal where Conor's adopted "Norwegian family" lives. The Slinds were kind enough to lend me their ski equipment for the weekend. Upon arrival we were invited in for some coffee and food and what was meant to be a quick stop turned into an afternoon of warm conversation. We probably could have stayed all night but with many kilometers left to drive we continued on. A couple hours later we found ourselves in the town of Kristiansund.

There are hundreds of places in Norway I would like to see but since I knew I would only be there for four days I decided not to put pressure on myself to squeeze in too much. But one place I had always dreamed of seeing was the Atlantic Ocean Road. You know, It's one of those places that every twenty something female has seen and probably pinned on pinterest. Not ever thinking that it would be feasible for this trip I was completely caught off guard when Conor pulled up to the tollway and I realized just where we were. I can't remember the last time I was so surprised! There's nothing quite like seeing a place you've only imagined from photos.

It was starting to get late so we decided to grab dinner in Molde. We had aspirations of finding seafood by the coast but surprisingly, our options were limited so we settled for Italian. We then hopped on the ferry that took us across the fjord.

From there we picked our destination for the night. Tresfjorden was the town closest to where we would attempt to ski from in the morning. We drove to a farm where we stopped to place money in a box. In Norway, you are legally allowed to camp anywhere. This meant that as long as we paid the farmer to drive on the dirt road he maintained we were good to go. We drove up as far as we could before reaching snow and found a flat place to park.

It was a cold and rainy night so we opted to camp in the car rather than pitch a tent. This meant we had to maneuver all of our belongings from the back to the front.

Somehow we managed to organize our things and get a good night sleep. In the morning we woke up to the most stunning view. The mountains surrounded us on three sides while the fourth side provided a view down the valley and the farm from which we’d come. After observing in the daylight we came to the conclusion that the original route would be impassable. The terrain was not favorable for what we wanted to do.

With that we decided we would shoot into town for a coffee and head to another nearby peak just fifteen minutes away.

The mountains in Norway are the kind of mountains I’ve always dreamed of skiing. Wide open bowls of untouched snow. Complete solitude as you rip down the slope. But unlike the U.S. you are never far from water. Reaching the summit means you are rewarded with a view of the fjords that leads your eye all the way out to the North Atlantic. It is truly spectacular.

When the first ridge was within reach the wind picked up considerably. We pushed through and made it up to a small outlook under a cliff.

I found myself standing on one of the most incredible vantage points I’ve ever experienced. I hadn’t prepared myself for the immense beauty. Seeing pictures is one thing, but I don't believe you can fully capture the landscapes of Norway. You need to see it with your own eyes. The wind whipped snow flurries by us while the sun peaked through the clouds. Below laid the royal blue Romsdalfjord with red and yellow houses along the banks. To top things off Conor pulled out a kvikk lunsj (Norway’s version of the kit kat bar). for some sustenance.

From there we were only about twenty-ish minutes from the summit. We pushed on even though the wind continued to escalate. Thisprovided an increased sense of intensity. Once at the summit we quickly popped into our skis. Conor went first down the slope, unfazed by the weather conditions. Backcountry skiing is still somewhat new to me. I was tentative down the first pitch, intimidated by the conditions. However, the sense of accomplishment was totally gratifying as made our way to the bottom.

We skied down as far as we could and hiked to the car. With achy legs and happy smiles we cracked open a Norwegian IPA and pulled off our boots. I think aprés beer is a universal enjoyment.

Since we were so close to the Arctic Circle the sun didn’t set until about 10:30 pm. We drove around the fjord to our next location and the mountains grew even more dramatic. The town we were in, Isfjorden, was so perfect I felt that I could of stayed there forever.

Once we arrived at our next location, Conor began making a fire while I prepared dinner.  We ate salmon, peppers and potatoes seasoned with a mixture we bought at the store called “Scandinavian forest”. Why is it that food tastes better when you’re camping?

The next morning we set off to ski a peak called Smørbottfjellet. It was a gorgeous bluebird day and while the sun is always appreciated (especially in Scandinavia), that meant it was exceptionally warm. I didn’t anticipate being quite as tired as I was and during the first hour of the climb I doubted myself more than once but I kept pushing on. I couldn’t quit; I knew I’d be happy once I’d made it to the top.

Once we got to the steeper part of the slope things got a little better. Conversation made the time pass and soon we were within reach of the summit. However, there was one minor hang up. When we were leaving the Slinds we had declined their offer to take crampons. Feelings of regret came crashing down as Conor and I found ourselves slipping all over the place in what felt like an ice field on the side of the mountain. Exhausted by this point (and maybe a little hangry) I had a tough time masking my frustration (sorry, Conor!!). But by carefully dodging ice patches we finally made it to the top and as Conor says “the juice was worth the squeeze!”.

The ski down was a storybook run, one you think of often and remember forever. I felt the most perfect corn snow under my skis as I carved methodical turns. When you get those turns it makes you forget everything you’ve just endured. I recently heard someone say “it gives me my greatest sense of self” which is the perfect way to describe that kind of skiing. The only downside of the afternoon was the bittersweet feeling I was left with knowing I had just enjoyed my last spring turns for the season.

Exhausted and a bit slap happy, we made the long drive back to Trondheim. When we arrived we found that Conor’s friends, Martin and Oda, had so kindly made dinner and keptsome warm for us. The rest of the night consisted of laundry and preparations for the next stop on my trip.

I don’t think I could have dreamt up a better introduction to Norway. I’m so thankful that I had such a generous and adventurous host to show me around. It's safe to say that I'm slightly obsessed with Scandinavia and I know I will be back.

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