Thursday, March 27, 2014


Some feel that a scientific view of the world is sterile, lacking beauty and magic.  When I see a sunset, a hummingbird hovering before his floral feast, or the buds unfolding in spring, I am always enamored of the complexity behind the visual beauty.  Knowing that each is the culmination of an elegant interplay of events, built of particles and energy, each behaving precisely as explained through mathematics, gives an intellectual texture to the view that involves my senses all the more.  I love science.  I understand some of what I see and enjoy any chance to increase my understanding of the workings of the world, whether miniscule at the particle level, or the broader patterns of behavior and action that are compiled from those components.  The mind itself is one of our senses.  Understanding brings richness to any experience. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Quarry Road Sled Dog Race

I ran Song, Levi and Cass in the 2.5 mile recreational class.  No placements, just a fun run.  Good thing as I've never run three, had no experienced leaders, and Cass has had little mileage.  I cut the course short at the end as the dogs had worked hard enough for me mentally.  I learned that Cass is a creative and adventurous leader.  Some of her choices were not trails at all, but she took the lines with gusto.   

Then I ran Marcus, Pi, Chord, and Jag in the 4 dog race.  They were great.  Ran well, we even managed to pass a couple teams and be passed on the fly.  They had no concept of following the groomed trail.  In fact Marcus said "Hey, check out this awesome snowmobile track down the power lines!" and took us all that way quite quickly.  Got that settled.  We had a couple more of those before the end.   

 The course was hilly and twisty.  My dogs worked their butts off for me mentally and physically.  I held the sled and ran best I could up the bigger hills.  Among the many things I learned was be ready and dressed to do some running.  By the end I'd figured out a few things I was doing incorrectly as far as how to handle the sled on that course.  In particular I was trying to not use the brake so much down hills to save the dogs.  I realized towards the end I need to use the brake enough to keep a taut gang line for them to lean into, and more importantly to keep the sled lined up with the dogs.  Otherwise when the trail curved back up the hill the dogs hit a hard sideways pull.  Getting the balance on braking will take some work.

Pi was my savior in lead.  She does not have directional commands, but I watch where she’s looking.  If not the trail I want I slow them.  She’s learned to make a different choice then I’ll give her the cue to move out again to confirm.  For most of the decisions this worked. 

I’d like to think we could have placed well “if only” we had not had our mishaps and I had not stopped them on the side of the trail while several bunched teams passed (they don’t have commands to stay on the side while running).  In reality, those times allowed my dogs some respite from the hard work.  We  are nowhere near as fit as the teams we were running against.  These mushers are all about conditioning, starting the dogs up in the fall and building the mileage.  

There were 10 dogs in the heat, and we were 7th.  I think our time was decent, but did not think check it in the excitement.  I’ll have to wait till they post the results.   Our competition was mostly sprint dogs, leggy pointers and crosses, some Alaskan huskies.  My biggest dogs were small there.  Good thing I'm a little person.  The guy who won came sweeping by me with 4 rangy dark dogs, striding along like ring wraiths, all business, very impressive particularly since we’d given him little room to pass.  He grinned with a friendly “Hi Border Collies” as he went by. 

The people there were awesome, friendly, relaxed and very helpful for a novice with questions like “to which side of the trail should I pull over to let someone pass”.  Jim and Sharon Perkins came so I have these great photos.  The sun was shining.  The people were friendly.  I accumulated a lot more knowledge.  It was a great day.
All photos by Sharon Perkins.  Do not copy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

She's Back!

Mamma Cass is back on the sled team! Her bags are drying up, particularly the front two that are under the harness. I just did a short run with her today, a couple miles. She ran in lead with Song in a 4 dog team. She was looking to be a great lead dog when I had to pull her out for maternity leave. Still looking great despite not having the mileage and training of the others.  She is ecstatic to be back at work.

I wanted to try my dogs in a 4 dog team as a race I want to go to this weekend does not have a 6 dog class. They did fine. Conditions were dreadful, icy and rutted. A decent path for the dogs but the sled would get in the ruts. Been a while since I've used the brake that much and flipped the sled anyway. Slow motion capsize. Then there was the turn where I'm hanging off the back with one leg turned under, other one almost on my knee, also going fairly slowly and desperately trying to keep the sled upright. I succeeded (that time)!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

And They're Off

I did not feel like going out with the sled today.  The conditions were going to be hard and fast.  I like fresh snow, so pretty and helps slow the team down.  A few inches of fresh snow softens the landing for any mushing mishaps.  Also a few warmer days and filling out some dog trial entries had my mind thinking stock work.  However despite thinking stock work, my pastures are still full of deep snow and ice, and my dogs had not been out for 5 days so they were getting mighty antsy.  Besides, the reason (rationalization) behind this dog sledding adventure is that it will keep my dogs in shape.  
I arrived at my chosen trail and found the conditions even harder and slicker and rougher than I expected.  Oy.  I tied the gangline off to a sturdy tree and looked over the lumpy, frozen field my dogs would soon be racing across on the way to the trail through the woods.  Oy.  As I hitched I felt the usual surge of adrenaline, fueled by the screaming and bucking dogs.  All hitched I stood on the runners, gangline still secured, and considered my fate for a few moments before reaching down to pull the release and sever my connection to that stalwart tree. 
The first stretch of this run is a slightly uphill winding trail through the woods.  I enjoy the relative silence of running the team.  Today my background music for the first mile or two was the loud grinding and scraping of the drag mat on the ice.  I relish some dare in my life, but that first strip had the adrenaline welling up through my body and sweating out any open pore.  Finally we made it to the railroad bed, straight and level.  Whew.  This route is out and back on the same trail.  I’d have to go back through those icy curves downhill on the return trip.  Not ready for another bobsled run I decided to take the dogs quite a ways, ensuring a slow and settled team for the home stretch.
We went 8.1 miles, our longest run.  We also clocked our fastest time, over 25 mph.  I’m alive and I think perhaps I should show up at church tomorrow.