Wednesday, March 11, 2015


Scent is such a powerful sense, able to immerse our minds and emotions completely into the world around us. Whether it be the summer rose, wet autumn leaves, wood smoke telling of warmth on a cold winter day, or the olfactory crescendo of three months of cryogenically preserved urine and manure released as the true harbinger of spring.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Not so Fast

Ike got to run in the team today.  He was pretty good, distraction level age appropriate for a 9 month old. "Ooh, what's that!" 

The conditions were very fast, snow well packed and a bit slick under the runners though the dogs clearly had good traction.  I did a short run, which should have been simple as well.  Should have been.  There's one sharp left from an uphill section, with the trail immediately dropping fast from the turn, perfect recipe for the sled to get pulled into the turn too soon, cutting the trail and hitting the tree.  All turns have trees on the inside of the corner.  You notice these things when driving a dog sled.  You begin to have a personal relationship with the trees, assigning them personalities, and malice.  They want you. 

As usual the corner was too tight so I stopped the dogs to pull the sled out wider.  I noticed Ike had his tug line under his hind legs so I took a moment to fix his line, and another moment to get Jag back on the left as he’d crossed the gang line avoiding the tree himself.  I walked back toward the sled and someone bolted, so they all bolted.  I bellowed a LIE DOWN that could be heard in two counties.  Now going down a steep hill the sled ran into the wheel dogs.  I quickly pulled the sled back, set the hook, and put Levi (wheel dog) back in his collar which he’d slipped evading the renegade sled.  We were perched at the top of a steep and winding downhill trail.  Usually a very fun section to run, but I had 6 dogs on fast trail and the delays were percolating their little brains like a pressure cooker.  Today was looking like my day to die.   

The next quarter mile was brutal.  I’m still hoarse.  Every time I subtly indicated they could resume travel they hurled themselves forward in a run for the roses.  The turns were one on top of the other, always with that patient tree on the inside, waiting for you like a spider with a baseball bat.  I could not just ride the brakes as the more tension on the gang line the more tightly the sled is drawn into the turn.  You have to let it slide a bit to get yourself forward past the vertex before the dogs pull you around.  We ended up stopping some 50 times, bolt stop bolt stop, sometimes I only let them go 5 feet.  My poor wheel dogs, closer to the emotional volcano, were trying hard to moderate themselves.  Finally both slipped their collars rather than be dragged forward while I was commanding them otherwise.  I’m pretty sure the major sources of my stuck throttle were Chord in lead, oblivious Ike in the next pair, and Marcus in lead, in that order.   

Finally the trail leveled and straightened a bit so I could let them run.  Free to go they settled nicely though we finished the short run at quite a good clip.  All in all it was a wonderful run, with a brief, jumbled and miserable section in the middle.  If I run that trail with 6 dogs again on fast conditions I’m going the other direction so we go uphill through those turns!