Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Frozen Tearsicles

The Iditarod Trail is an ephemeral thing, lasting for just one season each year. It is also essentially perpetual, renewed again the following winter after inevitable spring thaws. Unfortunately, the continuity of our own lives is never quite so certain and none of us knows exactly how many seasons we will have.

I arrived at the final checkpoint of the Iditarod Trail Invitational to learn that my father had passed away the previous night. He'd been dealing with a number of health issues with significant degeneration over the past couple years, but I did get to spend time with him before departing for Alaska. He had just been released from the hospital and we were hopeful to see this as just another minor setback. It was, apparently, not to be.

Encouraged by my family to finish the race, I knew I would not be able to get much sleep at that point so I headed back out into the night. Walking the frozen trail, watching the northern lights and, eventually, falling asleep in my bivy beneath the star-filled Alaskan sky, I thought about my dad.

The next morning, I continued down the remainder of the final 50-mile stretch with a lifetime of memories as my companion. There were some difficult moments and one near-complete breakdown, but I'm glad that I was able to spend this time "with him" on the trail.