Beitostølen, Sulseter, retiring a sled-dog and a lot of Danes

Photo by Mark Burton.

Finally got a good chance to do a new post – my apologies for being so slow – and for making this post so long. It’s been pretty hectic since last time and a lot of things have happened and changed. Some things good, some not so good. In fact quite sad. I’ve experienced so many different emotions lately and learned a fair bit about myself. Generally, since I started this trip, I’ve learned more about myself than what I learned about maths in school. Maybe. Probably not, but still. Anyway, instead of beating around the bush, I’ll get to it all now. Sorry!

My plan last time was to stay in Beitostølen for the weekend and try to put some weight on Jossi. At the same time, Mark was gonna come up and Becky had a visitor, Jamie, coming as well. So it was all set to be a nice weekend with loads of fun – we went on a ski trip all of us with two dogs each, ate some waffles at the local waffle-cabin on the ski tracks (picture below).

Vaffelbua in Beito with Mark, Becky and Jamie.

We also had a good time at home drinking beers, cooking food and just hanging out. We went dog-sledding with Becky’s dogs and with some of the dogs from Beito Husky Tours (www.beitohuskytours.com) where Becky works. It was so nice to be driving dogs again, I’ve missed that so much. More than I can describe. It’s like riding a bike – once you know how to do it, you go straight back into it no matter how long a break you’ve had. It’s fantastic. If you haven’t tried dog sledding – GO! Beito Husky Tours is a great place for a try – with kids as well. It’s somewhat close to Oslo as well. If you’re wanting to go further north and experience the arctic culture, then fly to Alta and go to Trasti & Trine! Okay, a bit off topic, but I was quite excited to be sledding again. I think you all got the point!

Coming back towards Beitostølen on our day trip. Jossi in swing! Photo by Mark Burton.

We went for a nice little trip all four of us out close to the lake Vinstre. We made a fire and cooked some sausages on it and Mark had a play with his new drone. A really nice day out.

Drone shot during our daytrip sledding. Becky in front and Mark and I sharing a sled behind. Photo by Mark Burton.

The sad stories are always the hardest ones to tell. It’s so much nicer talking about the great things in life, but the sad stories are also the ones that makes us grow and appreciate when things are good. It’s so easy to forget that.

Jossi waiting patiently while I took ages to take down the tent.

Today’s sad story is about a friendship that started not long ago. A friendship that was set to be for a life time. And so it became. This relationship started in early January, just a couple of days before I sat off on this trip. It was a funny set-up. Friend no. 1 knew about friend no. 2 way before they met that misty and cold January morning. Friend no. 1 had so many expectations about this soon-to-be friendship and had so many ideas to what they would be doing for the next few months. In fact, friend no. 1 had planned a long trip for them both, so that they could really get to know one another. A trip through Norway. From Lindesnes to North Cape. From A to Z. Bottom to top. South to North. You know, Norway lenghtwise. Friend no. 1 was so excited to meet friend no. 2. Friend no. 2 probably had no clue what was going on. He had been driven down south to a new family and met a ton of people on his way. Everybody loved friend no. 2 and wanted to keep him and be best mates. So did friend no. 1 – he was so excited to spend such a long time together snuggled up in a tent each night and having cuddles every morning. This relationship might start to sound a little weird if you haven’t already guessed who friend no. 1 and 2 is. Mads and Jossi. Human and dog. Me and him.

As you would know, Jossi and I have been on the go for a little while now. We’ve experienced so much together. Looooong nights in the tent chatting and early mornings where no words have been said. We’ve gone up- and downhill a thousand times. Slogging straight for miles. We’ve shared our lunches together every day. Mostly he had some of mine though, not so much the other way. We’ve been the best friends and we’ve been the worst enemies. I’ve loved him, hated him and everything in between (mostly loved I must say. Mainly hated when he had gone around me with his leash and tangled us up and made me fall)!

One of the best memories I have with Jossi was when we found this beautiful little spot to stay for the night. It was the first day out from Hovden and we slept up quite high in a mountain pass. I was fighting against the wind to pitch my tent while Jossi was standing right next to me during the whole scene. Followed me everywhere. It was really annoying at the time cause I kept on falling over him, but at the same time he was probably a little scared and just wanted to be close. As I finished pitching the tent, he crawled inside quickly and got comfortable. I spent some time outside fixing the last few things, but when I crawled in myself I was greeted with a tail-wagging dog that was happy to see me. Nothing special in the big scheme of things – it’s something that every dog owner have tried a thousand times. But at that particular time, it was like being in heaven. I spent the first hour inside the tent just cuddling with him and talking about the day. He didn’t have much to say, but that’s okay. Silence can be golden.

Jossi helping out Torbjørn on Hardangervidda.

Unfortunately, silence can be very silent as well. Dogs can’t say what they want the most and how they feel. It’s up to us to figure that out. So I made the choice to let Jossi off the trip.

It’s by far the hardest choice I’ve had to make on this trip. In theory, it was an easy choice, but to make the actual call was so hard when you’re so attached to that little four-legged creature. My decision was made because Jossi simply wasn’t enjoying himself on the trip. Don’t get me wrong – we had a good bond, he was comfortable by my side and definitely trusted me and felt safe with me. He just didn’t like to be on a trip and work. Jossi didn’t really pull – only occasionally when everything was perfect. He never really seemed to settle when we had breaks during the day. He never really relaxed until we had pitched the tent. There was something about all of this, that he didn’t enjoy. Towards the end he stopped eating as well and became really thin. I tried so many things to get him to eat, but he wasn’t really interested in any of it. Huskies can be funny like that. It’s not unusual.

Jossi in Voss.
Torbjørn and Jossi on Hardangervidda.

Everytime we would be inside a house, he was a totally different dog. He loved it. Could sleep all day long, would naturally come for cuddles every second of the day and his tail would be wagging all the time basically. It’s a bit hard for me to explain, but you would know what I mean if you had seen it. It happened both at Mark’s in Evje, at Lars’s in Voss and at Becky’s in Beitostølen. He would eat again as well. And then he loved it at Becky’s where there were other dogs to be social with as well.

The next day was the same conditions, but now I was back on land so a little more up and down. Took me a solid 7 hours to do a little less than 5 km’s. It wasn’t particularly hilly – no big climbs or anything. Pretty straight forward. With this speed I wouldn’t be able to make it in time in terms of food supplies. Plus, the going would be slower as I would start to climb up in the mountains and on the other side of a big pass the conditions would be the same. Dragging that pulk through the snow was so hard. Becky called me and offered to drive her dogs in and pick me up. No reason to just push and push and push and have a shitty time once again. Of course, on a trip like this it can’t all just be unicorns and flowers, but when it’s tough going pretty much 24/7 it can be quite soul destroying. So after discussing this for a bit I said yes. A few hours later Becky and Jamie showed up with two dog-teams to pick me and Jossi up. We drove home in two hours and went back to Becky’s.

Probably the best ice-beard I’ve ever had. We drove through a lot of fog coming back towards Beitostølen. Was quite cold.

The decision about Jossi was already made. He acted the same way as earlier on the trip and definitely wasn’t excited to be out again.

We have to do what’s best for our loved ones. In this case, it was to let him off the trip and let him live a happy family life as a retired sled-dog. So Jossi now lives with Mark and his family in Evje. He’s even got a sister, Stella, a really nice and funny staffy. Good on him. I’m so excited for Mark and his family to have Jossi. It makes me really happy and calm that Jossi lives in a good place where he’s taken good care of. Luckily, I can see him as much as I want and take him on trips (probably shorter ones next time!), so it’s not like I’ll never see him again.

Beautiful place, beautiful dog.

But Jossi, even though you’re analfabetic and probably don’t know how to use a computer, I’ll tell you this here. You are one great dog. I love you to bits and I always will. So strange how you can get so attached to a dog so quickly. I wish you could all meet Jossi and see for yourselves. It was hard as fuck leaving him behind, but it was for the best.

Jossi resting his head on my lap at Becky’s house. This was the last night we had together and this definitely made me drop a tear or ten.

After Beitostølen I went up to Sulseter near Vinstra to spend some time with my girlfriend Gry and I’ve been here since then. Sulseter is a very popular place for a lot of Danes and the company Skilejrskole (www.skilejrskole.dk) that Gry works for teaches Danish school kids cross country skiing in the mountains. So I’ve been helping out a fair bit here. Been on skis every day which has been nice. I’ll talk more about these days in the next post.

Obviously, this has made me think a lot about the rest of the trip. I was so confused about it all, not knowing what to do. Things goes wrong on trips and we’ve gotta be prepared for that – but when things goes wrong all the time and there’s not much enjoyment to any of it, then I start questioning myself why. The weather and the conditions have been really crappy this season. The snow came so late and didn’t really have time to settle properly. A lot of lakes are open and no good to ski on. The temperatures are rising all the time and just these last two weeks in Sulseter (at roughly a 1000 meters) we’ve basically had more days with plus-degrees than with minus.

That’s one thing. I can deal with that for a long time, but if it keeps on being like that, then I’d rather stop and try another year. There’s no point in it for me then. I can deal with really rough times, but if there’s not much enjoyment, then I can’t see why I should continue.

Vaglfjell at Sulseter. This is roughly 1000 meters above sea level. Not much snow!

The lack of Jossi is really messing with my mind. That’s the main thing. I’m not sure if I feel like continuing without a dog. This trip became a thing that I wanted to do with a dog. I didn’t know anyone who wanted to go with me, but when Becky offered me to take a dog from Beito Husky Tours that was gonna retire anyway, then the decision was made. Just myself and a dog. Wonderful. I would have some company – and for me, a dog is more than enough company. But now that there’s no dog, I’m not sure how I feel about it all.

My time here at Sulseter have been absolutely amazing (I’ll write more about that in the next post). It’s given me some time to really reflect on things and see it all from a different perspective. I still really want to continue the trip – the motivation for that is still there. Just not sure if I wanna do it all alone.

Gry in front of the sun on a very windy day.

I’m not gonna find out til I try, so tomorrow morning I’ll set off again through Rondane National Park up to Hjerkinn north of Dovrefjell all alone. Without Jossi. I’ll try and see how I go and take it day by day. If it’s no good I’ll stop and maybe think about doing it another year. If I’m still unsure I’ll give it some more time and if it’s great.. well, then I’ll continue!

So yeah, a pretty eventful time for me lately. So many thoughts going through my head. There’s been a lot of personal growth lately!

Reading my book and drinking coffee in Tronds cabin at Sulseter. Quite nice, yeah.

This post became a fairly long one, I’m sorry. I struggle to keep it short. It’s nice for me to get it all out and write about it. So whether it’s for myself or to keep family and friends updated, I don’t know. Probably a mix. I hope you enjoy reading it though.

Thanks again,

Mads.

PS: A little extra pictures below!

Erik and I having a chat. Erik is the earlier owner of Jossi.
Cora in lead during a short trip Becky and I did.
Becky and her team.
Jossi on our last day together.
Gry in front of one of the cabins we stayed in at Sulseter.
Gry and I on a sunset trip.
Mikkel during training. A little teaser for the next blog post. More fail-pictures to come!
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