Friday, January 23, 2009

The Chinese Curse

Remember that old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times!" That has described today thus far. It has been - um - interesting.

Okay, it's my own fault for being bull-headed and doing things my own way rather than listening to good advice. Lynn Orbison recommended I set up the hook-up and launch area in my yard differently than last year, to avoid having to make a sharp right hand turn with a fresh team of dogs. In my own bull-headed way I decided that what worked fine last year should be equally as good this year. Well, I'm a big boy and I can admit it. I was wrong.

This morning I hooked up a team of six dogs, which should be pretty easy duty really. I frequently run larger teams than that. Anyhow, I got the dogs hooked up, popped the quick release and we were off. The sled clipped the right hand gatepost just as we were hitting that right hand corner, and I went over the high side. The good news is that I was able to pull the sled over with me just before I slammed into a tree and lost my grip on the drive bow. The bad news is the sled bounced back upright onto the runners, so the team was off like a shot, ignoring my cues to "whoa".

I fired up my snowmachine to give chase. Fortunately they didn't get terribly far, about a mile before one of the loose snow hooks finally caught and held them. When I arrived they were lined out perfectly, apparently just waiting for some wayward musher to come along and pull the hook. I parked the machine and we finished out our training run.

We were working our way up the Two Rivers Road wood cutting trail just as the sun peaked over a southerly ridge. I was managed to capture this image of the team working hard to drag the sled uphill in the golden light of dawn.

Further up, we turned off onto a side trail that doesn't see so much traffic, so is more narrow. At this point the sun was again hidden under the terrain, so the image is darker than the one before.

Once I got the team home, snacked and settled in I hiked back to fetch the machine. That damned thing decided it did not want to start, and I ended up pulling the cord for literally an hour before I was able to get it to actually start and run. Sheesh, I'm starting to really hate that piece of junk. I wish I could afford to replace it with a newer machine, preferably one with an electric starter and a reverse gear.

To answer the question that is hanging in the air - yes, I am changing my hookup and launch area in accordance with Lynn's wise suggestion. Even an old-school fellow such as myself can be trainable.

Here is the report from today's training journal:

January 23, Friday: 8.5 miles. Same trail as yesterday but in reverse direction. Temperature +12 degrees. Toboggan sled on fast groomed trails.

Max speed 20 mph (no musher on the sled)

Average speed 7.3 mph

Six dog team:

Grade and Just

Beau and Gump

Rose and Nels


I’m going to have to change my launch pad. On the way out of the yard the sled clipped the fence post on the right side of the gate and pitched me over the high side. I held on just long enough to slam into a tree. The only thing hurt was broken frames on my “unbreakable” spectacles, but I lost the team. The darned sled somehow righted itself and six fresh dogs headed down the trail totally ignoring me.

I fired up the snowmachine to give chase, and caught up to them about a mile from the house. One of the hooks had finally caught, bringing them to a stop. All six dogs are lined out nicely, acting as though they were just waiting for me so they could take off. So, I ditched the snowmachine off the trail, pulled the hook and away we went again, this time in a much more controlled fashion.

I called for a haw onto the swamp trail and the leaders went into it, but at the last second Just pulled Grace off and back onto the main trail. I wasn’t quick enough on the brake to be able to correct them, so we did the loop in the opposite direction.

The rest of the run was pretty uneventful. Just and Grace did a nice job of following my “easy” cues through the rough stuff in the swamp. Other than the runaway start it was a very pleasant training run. Now it’s time to hike out to fetch the snowmachine.


  1. Old School Alaskan, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments and the photos are great. And have visited a couple of your referred sites/blogs - am so glad I found your site - very interesting. Regards, AussieAlaskan

  2. Glad to read no broken bones from that mishap! Enjoy your posts and photos!