Once I had the machine running properly, the next order of business was to give it a test drive and since I needed to break out or feeder trail it seemed logical to do that at the same time. I took several runs back and forth over the feeder and power-line right of way and then decided to scout the rest of the trails close to the house to make sure they were open and safe to run. I was pleased to find only a few blown-down trees, but there were also a lot of snow-bent alders and willows that needed to be cleared away. That set the stage for Friday's adventures.
On Friday, Trish and I put saws and ax onto a metal "fold a sled" designed for towing being snowmachines, and headed out to do trail work. Part of our training trail includes a neighbor's long driveway, which connects to a short section of survey line, then snakes through a stand of mixed birch and spruce trees to hook up to their well-used feeder trail.
Other than a lot of small, blown down branches that litter that part of the trail it was in surprisingly good shape after the big wind storm, with only a few smaller trees that needed to be addressed, including the top of this one that Trish moved after I cut it free with my chainsaw.
|Trish moving fallen tree off the trail|
|Swanny cutting "face slappers"|
Saturday Trish and I weighed our options, and finally decided to be responsible adults and run some necessary errands in town. That gave us all day yesterday as a play day, as Trish had the whole day off. Having been delayed time and time again, we decided that come hell or high water, we were going to run the dogs.
Of course, nothing is ever quite that easy. After kennel chores and breakfast I grabbed up a chain saw and headed down to our feeder trail to clear some fallen trees along the side of the trail. They weren't completely blocking the trail, but they did narrow it in a spot where the dogs are just starting their run, and sometimes a bit unruly. I had visions of fresh, enthusiastic dogs entangled in branches dancing in my head, and that is a sure recipe for disaster.
So, planning to just buck up a single tree and toss it to the side, I was rather surprised to find that the blowdown included at least three, one of them a nice sized white spruce. Rather than bucking them up, I decided to just limb them, as the trunks are well enough out of the way and actually help define the border of the trail.
I trudged back up to the yard, and continued the little tasks necessary to run the dogs. I had to reconfigure our hook-up line, install a picket line so Trish could use it to harness and hook up her team, bring the sleds down from our enclosed deck and set them up with appropriate rigs for our plans, knock the ice out of all the snap swivels so they would work properly, and so forth. With all the fussing about it was noon before we were actually ready to start hooking up dogs for a short little first training run on sleds rather than the four-wheeler.
I prefer running small teams of dogs during the first few runs of the seasons. Both dogs and mushers need a few runs to relearn skills that have been dormant for so many months, and of course a smaller team is more controllable, and easier to anchor with snowhooks to correct tangles or deal with other issues.
On my team of 6 dogs, I ran Orion and Cassiopeia in lead, Capella and Animosh in swing and Aumaruq and Midnight's Son in wheel. Trish ran four dogs, with Just and Rose in lead and Seamus and Denali in wheel.
Getting the excited dogs harnessed and hooked up presented some challenges. Surprisingly, Denali proved to be SO anxious to go that Trish had quite a bit of difficulty getting him dressed in his harness. My "wild child" was Orion, who is always a wild child at the start.
We finally got everyone harnessed up, hooked up and ready to go. From that point on it was just a lovely run over fast, hard packed and icy trails. I recorded video of the entire run, and posted it on YouTube to share with you. It's about 30 minutes long.
Of course a lot of the dogs didn't get to run yesterday, but I'm planning to remedy that for at least some of them this afternoon. We are back up on sleds, and can now declare the 2013-14 mushing season officially "open".