Yesterday I ran two small teams (6 dogs each) with a friend riding in the basket of my fancy new traveling sled as a helper. In between I had a kennel visit from a very nice couple who are helping me transport a new puppy in late January. More about that when it actually happens. Nita and Josh operate Sirius Sled Dogs as a tour operation and are interested in some of the same lines of old-school dogs as I.
Trail conditions are not particularly good. The rain and freezing rain we got the other day, on top of already hard packed trails, makes for difficult mushing conditions. The section of trail I call the "Wood Cutting Road" is an active logging road, and the workers have plowed it very close to the surface. With the hardpack and ice it is impossible to keep the sled, any sled, tracking directly behind the team. Finding a safe place to plant snowhooks is also a serious concern, to I am running only small teams and relatively short distances to try to keep things safe and under control.
Here is a photo of one of yesterday's team, along with my friend Trish, standing the brake to keep the team in place.
|Trish on the Sled, holding the team back.|
For the first team, I put Orion and Cassiopeia in lead, followed by Just and Selene with Seamus and Rose at wheel.
|Today's team, with Cassie (left) and Orion (right) in lead.|
This team was truly a joy to drive. We left the yard in great fashion, and the leaders were very responsive to their cues. They missed a few, but corrected very quickly making it easy to keep things moving along. Even the straight-ahead to go past the driveway happened with very little hassle. As far as I'm concerned, today's run was their "graduation ceremony". They are no longer consider "Leaders in Training". I have no problem running either of them in lead in front of any team. Here are some of the highlights.
We returned home, put the dogs away and watered them before grabbing a quick hot lunch and beverages, and hooking up the second. I wish I could report that performed as well as the first, but I'm afraid I'd be lying if I did. On the second team I put Capella (usually a stellar performer) in lead next to Midnight's Son, Beau and Grace were in swing and Denali and Nels were in wheel. That lasted less than half-way through the run.
Capella did her level best to keep things moving, and Midnight did well in the narrow, winding, exciting parts of the 2 Rivers Road parallel trail, but once up on the Wood Cutting Road Midnight apparently became a bit bored. He tried running up on the berm until I asked him to move over to the hardpacked surface. Then he decided he needed to sniff at stuff from to time, though he kept moving. Finally he decided he just had to stop and lift a leg against a tree, and I'd about had my fill of his crap.
I swapped out Midnight for Beau. Beau is a pretty good trail leader, but really hasn't been trained for "gee / haw" work. As soon as I cued up the team Grace cut loose on Midnight. Midnight retaliated and we had a full blow, screaming squabble on our hands. I went up and gave the dogs a piece of my mind, pulled Capella and Beau away from the miscreants to 'line out', and we finally got moving.
The rest of the run was reasonably uneventful, but it was clear that Capella didn't have her brain in the game. I'll give her another opportunity when I return home from work in a couple of weeks.
Yep, it's time for me to return to work. I'll be leaving early tomorrow morning.