C'mon, guys, you know it isn't what it sounds like. There ain't nothing triple-X about it. My friend Trish Cordon has been riding with me and then running on a whip sled most of the season. Today was her first time driving a team of dogs on her own, and she did GREAT, especially considering the challenges she faced.
The trails behind my house aren't ideal for taking out a 'newbie', but those south of the highway are degenerating quickly so the choice was to run on decent snow or run on slud, a combination of slush and mud.
Yesterday I took a team of six over the route I intended to take Trish, just to scout things out a bit. I found that during the morning they were icy and fast, so revised the plan a little bit. I had originally intended to run ahead with a team of 6 dogs while Trish followed with a team of 4. During my scouting run I decided that 4 dogs might be a be much, as Trish is a small lady, and I also decided that should I need to stop and go back to help the new musher I would want a smaller team (easier to hook down) so decided I'd just run a team of 5. I think those were wise decisions.
For today's game of "chase me", I gave Trish Cassiopeia in single lead and Seamus and Beau in wheel. Cassie has been a really good leader this season, and though she hasn't run in single lead, I figured that when chasing another team she would be just fine. Seamus and Beau are both pretty laid-back dogs during harnessing and hook, but great workers once on the trail.
For my own team, I wanted dogs that would be pretty easy to handle if I did have to hook down and go behind my own sled (a major "no-no" when dog mushing). I chose Capella and Rose for my leaders, let Selene run in single swing, and put Denali and Midnight's Son in wheel.
Trish's only real issue came as we launched the teams. I suspect Trish might have underestimated the power of a tiny team of 3 big old-school dogs led by a manic 3 year old, and perhaps she wasn't quite as hard on the drag brake as she should have been. In any event, her gang line went slack, the sled glided up onto the snow berm beside the trail, and over she went. She forgot to plant a snow hook before trying to tip the sled back up, so the result was the team jerked the sled from her hand and took off. It took some work to stop my own team, plant both knees on the bar brake (I didn't have time to grab a snow hook), catch Cassie as she was trying to pass, and then hold both teams while Trish caught up to us.
We had no sooner gotten that muss sorted out when a cow and calf moose ran across the trail. Of course the dogs, being carnivores, would have preferred to give chase, but we were able to hold both teams back in good fashion until the two moose (meeces? mooses?) past, and then continued on our way. What the heck, it all worked out just fine and with no major issues. That was really the only sled handling issue Trish had throughout the run. She handled even the challenging parts of the trail very nicely.
I gave Trish my ContourGPS camera to record her adventure, and I think the resulting video tells the story pretty nicely. So, here is the video version of "Trish's First Time".