Bilbo

Out and home again

Bilbo’s Great Adventure

Watch the ski track move on and on and on
Since it began at my house,
Now I must follow the trail where
It winds forward, if I dare
Pursue it eagerly
Until we reach a bigger place,
As many paths rush towards
And leads to where then? I don’t know.

On February 5, my two friends, Anna and Anders, and I left Green Dog’s safe home with cozy dog houses in a row, Bolterdalen’s familiar mountainsides, and the many happy people who came all day long to pet, feed, and to entertain me and the other dogs. We set off into the dark in search of great adventures, and it was three months before I saw my home again. By then it would be bathed in spring sunshine and the snow would have begun to melt, but for now it was still dark and cold. In those three months, I have experienced a lot, and I will only tell you a small bit here because we cannot get to it all. I also have a sled to pull and a bunch of puppies to train, so there is plenty to do.

Bilbo

From Bolterdalen, we went east in February’s beautiful twilight, where the sun lies hidden below the horizon but during the day casts its indirect light across the sharp silhouettes of the mountainsides. Like Anna and Anders, I pulled my own sled with my feed and equipment, as well as some of the things that people drag with them into the wilderness. Happy and proud, I left with my tail in the air because pulling the sled is one of the best things we sled dogs know! We reached the Rabot glacier and began the long, steep, and hard ascent to the large glacier system that covers the eastern part of Spitsbergen. Up here, the snow-covered glaciers look like waves on a huge ocean, in which the sharp rock peaks float around like the icebergs in the fjords. At this time of year, neither many people nor dogs come here, and we were therefore completely alone in the infinity of silence and nature, where you quickly feel very small.

One morning it suddenly blew up strongly, and even though Anna and Anders had just packed up the camp, they had to pitch the tent again while the wind tossed it around chaotically. I curled up into a ball and covered my nose with my tail to keep warm under my good fur, and here we lay for the next day until the wind died down, while Anna and Anders regularly made sure that I did not get buried by the great snowdrifts that formed around the camp.

Suddenly it was quiet again, and I poked my head out of the snow that lay like a broken eggshell above my head. The sky was clear and deep blue with a strong purple and orange glow on the horizon, and not a wind stirred. We packed up the camp, braced ourselves in front of the sleds, and dragged our equipment forward for 5-7 hours, as it had quickly become a daily routine. In the evening, I made myself comfortable in the snow next to the tent, ate my food with a good appetite, and enjoyed talking to Anna and Anders, who always came out, checked my paws, and greeted me during the evenings.

Suddenly one day, the sun rose behind us and cast its warm rays on the snow that sparkled in the light. All three of us misted up a bit with our eyes and just stood for a while, enjoying the feeling of the rays hitting our faces. From here, the light returns quickly – part of the magic up here – and one day is 20 minutes longer than the previous one.

We climbed Newtontoppen – Svalbard’s highest point – where there was an endless view with mountains on the horizon and lots of hills to play on. From here, we continued north before turning west through the jagged peaks of the Atomfjelden and continuing over the sea ice where the bears live, through long valleys and deep gorges, and up and down steep glaciers, whose blue ice here and there poked up through the white snow. The many hardships and great experiences linked us closer and closer, but trust is also one of the most important things out there, far from other people and dogs.

On the way to New Ålesund, we had to climb a steep glacier and suddenly we were caught between the mountainside and a deep meltwater channel. It was too steep to go around, so instead, I and all the equipment were hauled down the wall of ice in the meltwater channel, then hoisted back up the other side. With my paws dangling in several meters of free air, I didn’t feel strong anymore, but Anna and Anders got me up and I signed off by licking them all over the face and then hurrying away from the edge. I probably won’t become an ice climber for the time being.

In Ny Ålesund, we reached the halfway mark and, after a few days of luxury rest, headed home on new roads. The sun now hung in the sky almost 24 hours a day, and spring was slowly gaining ground. After many days of temperatures below 30 degrees Celsius, all three of us enjoyed the warmer weather and all the life that came with it. I suddenly saw grouse and seabirds flying around us, seals sunbathing on the sea ice, and not least all the caribou grazing calmly around us. In the warm spring sun, we could bask together outside more and more often when we got to camp, and I enjoyed taking midday naps with my two human friends in the afternoon sun.

When we reached the Van Mijenfjord at the end of April, the thaw suddenly took hold, and in the warm temperatures, the snow began to melt quickly. We therefore headed home, while one patch of tundra after another appeared and conjured up plants that had magically survived for months under the snow. Suddenly there was a scent of life everywhere, and I immediately got busy exploring with my snout, and at the same time enjoyed being able to find small puddles where I could quench my thirst. Sometimes the puddles were so big that we had to wade through them, and then both I and my human friends got wet feet.

On May 4, I was very eager to see my home again, and after 90 days on the road, I happily led Anna and Anders into the kennel, where both people and dogs welcomed us festively. It has been a huge adventure for all three of us, which we will not soon forget. The Arctic winter is beautiful, changeable, and adventurous, and it creates a very special bond between humans and dogs.

Up here, nature is magnificent, and the adventure literally starts right outside the doghouse.

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