Today is Ophelia’s birthday.

ATAO has made it home, to Alaska. The land that calls and calls me, and won’t let me go.

It’s been a very long and winding year for me. Probably for Ophelia too, and Hooch as well, for that matter. Hooch and Ophelia and I have driven down from Alaska to Minnesota, flown back to Alaska, and I flew back to Minnesota and then drove back to Alaska! And all the while I’ve slept on couches and floors and good beds and bad beds. I have rented a room in an apartment, and been fairly vagabondish. I have nursed a sore heart and lifted a happy one. I’m grateful for everything that’s happened– even the parts that have sucked. Those parts teach you something. I really believe that.

Ophelia has grown into a “big dog” … Last I saw her she was taller than Hooch and she was only 10 months old then! Soon I’ll get her back where she belongs at the new stomping grounds of ATAO.

ATAO, by the way, is official, it’s grounded. We have our cabin and now we are getting gear from a collection of generous mushers and mentors. And… I don’t want to give away any spoilers… but there will be puppies soon. More on that when it’s all sorted out officially!

While the Odyssey part of the journey has wrapped up, at least on my end, I think the next chapter is the digging in part. The hard part– no sleep, a lot of work. I am so excited. So excited to have my own (rented) dog lot, so excited to get to cobble together a team I can love whole heartedly and all the way to the start and finish line of some races.

ATAO is about adventure. That’s such an important thing for me, and I think in a lot of ways it’s saved me more than once. When I was a kid, I thought adventure was when epic, sometimes terrible, things happened to you. Now I think adventure is looking at every moment, every obstacle, with curiosity and excitement and the belief that you can work your way through and over and onward. And so all of this is part of the adventure. Even the parts that are hard. Even the parts that suck. I am so, so lucky to be having this adventure.