Monday, February 18, 2008

Confessions of an Ice Road Runner

It’s funny just how quickly one’s perspective can be completely skewed. Prior to coming up here, it had been the better part of two years before I was in any sort of sustained wintry environment, and even then it was in Ottawa – arguably the coldest capital city in the world, but still fairly innocuous weather-wise by Yellowknife standards. Funny, then, that after only about a month in the NWT, I considered Saturday afternoon’s –23 with bright blue skies to be a warm, sunny day.

After having been cooped up inside (bipedal commutes and dog walking excepted) for the past three weeks, I jumped at the chance to get back into the elements on what felt like a balmy Springtime afternoon. It didn’t occur to me as I slipped out the door for an afternoon run, that never before had I enjoyed “Springtime” recreation wearing long johns, extra thick running tights, two layers of merino wool, a fleece, a windproof shell and a balaclava, but that was beside the point. My perspective has been suitably retooled (screwed with?) since early January, and so it felt like Spring to me.

As I bounded through Latham Island and the neighbourhood known as Old Town (think Yellowknife’s equivalent of Ottawa’s Glebe, Victoria’s Fernwood, or Lake Placid’s Keene Valley, depending on where you’re reading this from) I thought I could hear the faint howl of a husky dog just up ahead. “Ah yes, that majestic - if domesticated – symbol of the North,” I thought to myself, as though trying to impress whomever was listening to my inner monologue. “What better way to complete this vision of the rugged man of the land on a nippy afternoon than to have a bold Territorial mascot plodding along faithfully beside me.” Turns out my sense of hearing isn’t quite as finely tuned as I had thought, and it was actually a small and slightly less iconic yellow lab that joined me for a few paces. Not quite the same as a stoic husky, but it would do.

Further down the same crescent, I once again heard what I thought were the yips of an edgy husky, keen to join me on an afternoon odyssey. Sure enough, as I rounded the bend there waiting for me in all of its unmistakable pride was…a black labradoodle. Right. A further step away from the husky vision, but a feisty breed nonetheless. My second new friend accompanied me for about the same distance as the lab did before losing interest, and left me to my own devices.

Still on the same street, I trudged forward and once again heard some calls of the canine variety in between tracks on the iPod. This time I felt as though I had surely paid some sort of dues, and was ready to have a proud husky that looked rather like a small horse join me just long enough to have our picture snapped for the new packaging of Brawny paper towels. The barking got closer and my pulse quickened as I prepared to have my new friend join me in a scene straight out of the musical montage in the middle of Rocky IV (I think that's where he fights the Russian). I caught a glimpse of something scampering towards me out of the corner of my eye, and turned to behold my newfound grizzled companion. The husky I had been waiting for? Not so much.

It was some lady’s stupid Pomeranian.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Here I am, ice in my beard (see the post-run picture at left), brandishing my newly honed internal thermometer and reveling in what ordinary mortals would call a freezing afternoon, and the climax of my experience with wildlife is Mrs. Ackerman’s show dog? How am I supposed to look tough if my trusty sidekick is a live-action incarnation of a Malibu Barbie accessory? To make matters worse, this yippy and fundamentally uncool new companion stayed with me longer than the other two dogs put together, and I’m convinced I heard it call me a Southern lightweight as I left its block.

Undeterred but with a bruised ego I continued on and had what was my best run in months (on the enjoyment scale, at least). It was indeed a spectacular bright blue day, and I spent the final fifteen minutes of the excursion out on the ice, which is a beauty way to punctuate any wintertime outing in Yellowknife. My elation at being able to enjoy the great wide open after weeks of house arrest was such that at one point I found myself running with arms outstretched and weaving across the ice road, like a six year-old mimicking an airplane.

When it’s Wintertime in the North you take what you can get and be grateful for it, and I think that the run was, for me, a prime example of that. May in Victoria it wasn’t, but that’s not what I came up to the North expecting to find. Sunny and –23 is near about the best we’re going to do this time of year, and from my brand new Northern perspective, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.



P.S. Compare the picture below with the one I took in the same spot at (almost) the same time a few weeks ago. Looks like the pitch-black walks to work are a thing of the past.


Micah C said...

Don't take it personally Hart. "The Pomeranian originated from the sled dogs of Greenland and Lapland, which were eventually brought into Europe in Pomerania[... t]he Pomeranian of today is small due to selective breeding, but the breed still retains the hardy disposition and thick coat typical of dogs in cold climates." (wikipedia).

Peter Loewen said...

Wow. Just wow. Why can't i write like you? Or grow a beard like that.

Your mother said...

Oh. Yellow Lab. Labradoodle. Pomeranian. I was hoping at least on of them would have been a wolf. Or maybe not.
After years of practice, you have the airplane thing down pat. It's wonderful that you got to do it on the Ice Road as you celebrated that warm - 23. Quite the concept.
Great writing.

Rod MacIvor said...

Dog runner of the North! Great
writing !

PBSC said...

dear hart
it had somehow slipped my mind that you had a blog

i only remembered because it's thursday of reading week, i haven't done any reading, and i desperately needed to procrastinate

i'm so very very glad i found your blog again and was able to read it ALL (save the first entry) at once. in fact, i was sad that it ended.

be well. be warm. be friendly.

miss you like a crazy person.


PBSC said...

that's also really funny that it published as pbsc

i had no idea we had a blogger account

Nicole said...

NoNoNo, I don't envy you ;)
Even though you have the fresh air and all.

The last time stuff in my face was frozen was on a hike in Norway before a snow storm ;)
Nah, thanks, not looking forward to 50 celsius over here in summer, but I rather have it warm :P