I could easily preface almost every journal entry with how the day was one of the coolest of my life… but I’ll save that for the sake of brevity.

We got in cars with no idea where we were going (sort of the MO of the entire trip) but followed signs to a ski hill! After reaching the end of the road… 30 seconds later something straight out of a war documentary emerges from around a corner. It’s painted in camouflage, has tread like a tank, but also has an attached cabin for transporting soldiers. We later learn it’s a Swedish machine built in the 80’s. “Get in” we’re told. Sick.

What are those!?
What are those!?

We’re transported on a trail through snow, gravel, and dirt, above the tree line to a group of breathtaking cabins with one of the most spectacular mountain backgrounds I’ve ever seen.

As directed, we walk through the snow while being filmed, when over the hill to our surprise come two men on skis dressed in  super old fashioned garb holding a baby… they ski down and throw the baby around my neck.

We’re given a scroll which tells us the baby is in trouble, and that we’d need to become Birkebeiner. I’m almost laughing out loud as Jeff has been talking about the “Birky” – a cross country ski race he’s participated in, and would love to do here in Norway – for at least the last week. If Birky knowledge is needed, I thought,  advantage blue. If it’s more cross country skiing related, advantage red… Then we’re thrown for a TOTAL loop.

We’d be given a fake baby with sensors that cries sporadically, requires lots of attention, and constantly needs to be cared for. This would be our Haakon Haakonson, the future king that would unify Norway and the baby in the Birky story.

We’d take this child with us on our cross country ski trip… and then would need to care for the child from about 8 PM until 11 AM. I realize that compared to real parenting, having 5 people care for a baby for 15 hours isn’t too much… but STILL!

We’d drew straws and would go second. After waiting for a few hours for team blue to complete their ski race, we strapped on some old cross country skis and got started. Save an initial binding malfunction and a pole strap break in the first 15 seconds, as a team, we knock the challenge out of the park. The baby literally doesn’t make a peep the entire time… even when we take a tumble while holding the child.

We make it up hills, down hills, past guards (after a detour for an incorrect phrase), past snowball throwing hooligans, and cross the finish line together. On a number of occasions, we were required to stop so the crew could catch up with us. As a team we’re feeling great about our prospects – me and Derrick had never cross country skied before, much less on the old school boards we rode, but we did well… and Kelsey, Joni, and Johnny kicked some serious butt.

But the competition was FAR from over.

We arrive back to find incredible campsites set up for us. We have teepees with a fire rolling, meat and veggies for cooking, and mead for drinking. Under our teepees we find animal pelts on tarps for camping on the snow. Magical.

Our baby gets turned back on, this time on a more difficult setting. Kelsey and Joni’s motherly instincts take over, and they assume baby duty. I get things organized in the tent and start securing the outside of the tent so that no wind or rain can get in at night. Derrick and Johnny make dinner – and what a dinner they make! Grilled (we think reindeer?) meat with grilled onions, all in soup with carrots, cabbage, turnips, parsley, and other veggies. Long story short I’d be happy if they served this meal in a restaurant. Mead is happily shared amongst the group (even Joni!) and we work out a plan. Kelsey will stay up late with Derrick and Johnny, Joni and I will go to bed, then take the next leg after Kels bows out.

Around midnight I purposefully hit the hay knowing sleep would be fleeting but important.