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I’m struggling to find the words to adequately sum up 2018. It was one of the most overwhelming, exhausting, and difficult years of my life. But also one of the proudest and most ambitious. If you’ve been following along, I started last year by driving across the country to live in Big Bear, California. The mountains were beautiful, but they would eventually break my gear, spirit, and heart. Southern California was not meant to be and a hard decision lead me back east, alone, to buy a house in upstate New York.

That’s all the recap I care to do—you can read past posts if you want to know more. I’m looking forward and in the words of Mari of ATAO Kennel, onward. I’m ready to dig into mushing: longer miles, colder temperatures, more gear, and new trails. The team has a lot of catching up to do and new things to learn. Dog box training hasn’t gone so great, but every dog has at least been inside a box, so that’s something. We don’t have much snow right now, and no promising storms in the forecast, but we’ll keep chugging along the best we can.

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When I bought this house, it filled my head with big, exciting ideas. I didn’t have to abide by parental concerns, or California laws, or landlord limitations, or even the consideration of a partner’s feelings. Finally, I could do what I wanted.

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As it turns out, there’s always going to be something in the way. Being completely on my own creates new complications. I have no one to dog-sit if I want to spend a night away from home. If something breaks in my house, I’m the one who has to fix it. I’m the only income provider, so I’m covering every bill.

I’m not complaining; I’m doing fine. I still have my emergency fund intact. After the usual January bills are paid and the dogs have their annual wellness exams next week, I’ll be able to start saving money again. Starting this month, I have better health insurance coverage, and none of it will be coming out of my paycheck. I’m also due for a raise.

In 2019, I’ll be moving forward in this solo, dog-centric life, but proceeding with caution. I need to think twice before mushing on trails that might be dangerous due to ice or lack of snow. If I get hurt, I won’t have immediate help to come rescue me. And if I’m injured long-term, I don’t have anyone here to help with day-to-day dog care.

I also realize that I can’t expand the team as quickly as I initially thought. I wanted to add a yearling this season and two puppies in the spring. This would round off a 6-dog team and have replacements for Denali and Knox’s retirement on deck. The wildcard I didn’t expect was Hubble’s attitude towards dogs he doesn’t know and making sure he adjusts to any new team members. I also need to focus on the big play yard this spring. Once the season ends, the existing dog yard won’t be enough space to keep the dogs I currently have exercised, let alone three new ones.

Outside of mushing, I have a lot of other work to do this year. I should be getting a promotion soon, which means more income, but more responsibilities. I need to continue writing my book and setting time aside for art. I want to grow food—lots of it. I hope to have gardens, bees, and chickens on the property by mid-year. And then there’s firewood to cut and stack for next winter.

Right before ringing in 2019, my friends and I gathered for a diner breakfast, as per tradition. We wrote down our past years’ achievements as well as goals for the upcoming year. We’ll meet again next year to check off the goals we accomplish and start the lists over again. So let’s go, forward and onward, into that unknown trail. Don’t forget to enjoy the ride.

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