Today I loaded the dogs onto the truck, the trailer onto the hitch and the four-wheeler onto the trailer to take the team over to my friend's place on the Baseline Trail for a longer training run than I've been able to give them here at the house. We ended up running the team almost twice as far as we'd originally planned due to my clumsiness and Just's persistence.
We launched out of Stephanie and Casey's place with the four-wheeler in neutral and 2 adults on the machine like a rocket, and the dogs continued to drag the dead weight all they way up the first hill. Then I put the machine into gear so they could pull against the resistance of the engine yet get instant 'help' when needed on the hills. After all, they were hauling more than 1/2 ton of weight and the four-wheeler doesn't roll particularly freely even in neutral.
We took a 'haw' (left) onto Pheasant Farm Rd., which degenerates into a logging road. I handed Stephanie my little video recorder (sort of like a "Flip" camcorder) and as she was shooting video we encountered a logging truck.
Just, running up in lead, balked at the truck, as he frequently does when encountering machines with which he's unfamiliar. Steph handed me the camera and ran up to help the leaders pass the truck. I tried to stuff the camera into a pocket, but apparently missed the mark, and didn't realize it. We got down to the bottom, did the turn-around loop and were within a mile of Steph's place when I decided to show her a side trail she can use while training her own team. After making the turn onto that side trail I stopped to give the dogs a blow, and walked up forward planning to shoot a photograph. That's when I realized my camera was missing.
I thought about the situation, and decided to finish the run before going back for the camera, as I didn't want to over-tire the team. They've only done about 5 miles since I returned home and I wasn't sure they were ready to bump up the mileage. So, there were were mushing along the field when Just spied an access trail back to Pheasant Farm Road. He's run past that trail maybe hundreds of times in his life, but today he tried to take a 'haw' onto it. As we mushed along I thought about his attempt to bolt down the side trail, and decided he knows his team mates as well or better than I, and if thinks we can go back, then by golly, we'll go back. At the next little access trail I called a 'haw' and we headed right back down Pheasant Farm Road.
We found the camera undamaged and without any great difficulty, went all the way back down to the turnaround loop, and all the way back to Stephanie and Casey's place with a willing and hard working team.
So, here is the video that Stephanie shot, which ends rather abruptly when we encountered the logging truck:
Now, for the TEASER: Last night I got a message from an acquaintance who is a Yukon Quest champion and has placed as high as second in the Iditarod. He is thinking of re-homing a dog on his team who ran on his winning team that year, and asked if I'd be interested in him. In addition to being an official Mushing Magazine "Superdog", this particular boy is of special interest to me - and my immediate response was "OMG YES".
If the deal goes through I'll let you more, and share the details that I'm sure you are curious about.
Here is today's entry in our Training Journal:
11/14/10: 11 miles from Stephanie and Casey's place to Baseline Trail to Pheasant Farm Road back to Baseline, down Pheasant Farm Rd again and back to Stephanie and Casey's. 1 inch new powder on hardpack.. Temp about 20 degrees F.
Just and Grace (Lead)
Rose & Nels (Swing)
Orion and Capella (Team)
Cassiopeia (single Team)
Seamus and Beau (Wheel)
I trucked the team to Stephanie Little Wolf and Casey James' place to train today. We originally planned to do a 6 mile run, but circumstances and a very sensitive and persistent lead dog combined to extend the run to a full 11 miles. Just knew better than I what the team was ready for.
We left the yard with the four-wheeler in neutral and two people on board, and dogs launched with purpose, hauling the load over the first hill before I shifted it into gear. For the remainder of the run I kept the machine in gear, letting them pull against the engine compression and maintaining a speed range between 5 miles per hour up hills, and up to 12 miles per hour down hill and on the flats.
While hooking up I extended Just's tug-line by a couple of inches. Grace barely snarked with Just at all, and I think it may be because the tug-line extension put him more nearly nose-to-nose with her. All of the dogs were eager to run and we made good time down to Grange Hall Road.
About ½ mile down Grange Hall we had a head-on encounter with a logging truck while Stephanie was recording video with my camera. Just balked badly, but willingly followed Stephanie when she ran up ahead to show him the way to pass. A little further down the trail we had to stop so I could fix Cassie's neckline. One of the snaps to the "O" ring on her collar got snapped around the gang-line. Not sure how that could have happened, but she seemed a lot happier after I fixed it.
We did the turn-around down by Mullen Slough with no problem and the dogs maintained a really good traveling pace all the way back up to Baseline. I decided to show Stephanie how to add a mile to the run by quartering the field. After making the haw onto the trail around the field I stopped the team for a rest, and walked forward to shoot a photograph, only to learn that my camera which Steph had handed to me before dashing up to help Just around the logging truck had fallen out of my pocket.
I figured that I could go back for it after we finished our run, but Just had other ideas. As we passed by an access back to Grange Hall Road, which Just has run past a bajillion times during his life, he tried to take the 'haw'. I corrected him and we continued on, but as we were moving I decided that Just might know better how his team mates were running than I, so I cued a 'haw' on the next little access trail, and we headed back down Grange Hall.
We found the camera lying in the trail, undamaged, right where we had encountered the truck, and continued on down to the turn-around loop by Mullen Slough. On they way back up toward Baseline we had to slow down to accommodate Rose, Orion and Seamus, who were apparently tiring though still more than willing. Grace stopped the team once to defecate, and all three of the two-year-olds did a nice job of pooping while on the move.
When we made the turn into the driveway I asked the team for a sprint home, and by God they gave it to me, pulling into the yard at a hard lope and looking grand, as seen in this photo by Casey James.