The euphoria of 4 inches of fresh snow was too much. Only an inch was forecast. This was like winning the snow lottery without buying a ticket. I could not get away from work till afternoon, when I gathered my mushing paraphernalia and started getting ready. Icy winds made getting the racks on the van a rather punishing task. Then I sorted the gear in the sled bag. Note to self, next time order the medium booties in a different color than the small booties. I brought the sled inside to check if the runners needed maintenance. The sight of our chariot began the fires of anticipation in the dogs. Finally all loaded I went to the town forest in Hollis, close, lovely, and in my mind groomed. But there’s not enough snow for grooming so I really knew they would not be. My mind also envisioned the snow on top of frozen ground, a relatively safe surface. Pure optimism as all the rain we got converted most of the existing snow to ice. The parking lot was difficult to traverse on foot, slick ice under the light snow.
The hitch went smoothly. Then I turned and walked to the sled, stepped on the runners, and pulled the release. IKE YOU IDIOT! He’s in the middle grabbing various lines in a giant compulsive tug of war. And of course now we are too far from my tie off so I have to fix this loose on the trail. I did not like Ike. My poor open dogs wanted to hide under the sled. Ike did not much care. Finally off the run was not bad except for one dreadful hill. This is always a dreadful hill, steep and winding. A tree sits on the inside of the curve at the top like a sled trap The taut line from the climb pulls the sled right to that tree as the dogs curve left to continue down the other side. I have to stop them at the top and pull the sled out to the center of the trail, stand on the brakes, and ask them on again. Except today that hill was like a bob sled run with a dusting of snow on top. Today I had 6 dogs on the line, 4 of which were crazy to go. Today, despite my attempts to ease them into motion with a quiet word (and both feet on my bar brake) they hurled themselves forward at the slightest whisper, whether it be my voice or the wind in the trees. My snow hook was useless on the ice. My drag mat brake skittered along even with both feet on it. My bar brake couldn’t hold me even with all my weight on the two studs. I managed to piece them down the hill partially on the sled, partially leading, always bellowing LIE DOWN. At the bottom, with the dogs, sled and me in one piece, I said three Hail Mary’s and hopped on the runners for the rest of the ride.
On my way out in the van I had been thinking to leave the sled on top tonight and maybe go out after dark tomorrow. Now that I’m crystal clear on the trail conditions I’ve put the sled away. Maybe during the day Friday, but not after dark tomorrow. If I’m going to die in a cold New England wood I’d like to see the winter sun one last time.