Last week I was bemoaning the lack of snow in the area and trying to
convince the dogs to do snow dances with me in the yard. Yes, conditions
were still fine for running and I was getting good miles on the dogs, but
the concrete like icy trails were tough on joints and made for some tricky
sled handling. Sharp corners would leave me hanging on for dear life with
my teeth rattling and chattering in my head as we skittered over the ice.
Sleds clattered and scraped over the rough trail, the noise seeming to put
everything a little on 'edge'.
My friend, Doug Grillot, who I ran Iditarod with last year, and I went on
a trip up the Yentna River last Thursday and we literally had to plan our
breaks around where there was enough snow to sink a snow hook. In most
spots there was just ice with a skiff of snow over it.
Then the dancing paid off - it snowed.and snowed some more. Some spots in
Anchorage got 15" of snow; out here it wasn't quite as much, but still
registered in the 8-inch range. That was Monday. Tuesday probably brought
another 4 inches or so with smattering of light snow falling again on
Wednesday and Thursday.
Although Alberta gets more then it's fair share of winter storms, we don't
seem to get the large accumulations of snow at one time that Alaska gets.
It leads to the neat phenomenon of 'digging out'. It's like the National
Geographic Special where they show the arctic hare sticking his head out of
the snow drift the morning after a snow fall - only here it is people and
the moment after sticking their heads out of the snow bank they are firing
up snow blowers and trucks with plows on them. In a flurry of activity
roads are cleared, snow knocked off roofs and pathways dug out until enough
snow has been pushed around that life can go back to normal.
Then out roar the dog mushers. The distance mushers seem to all be
scrambling to be the first to get their teams out there so they can practice breaking trail. The sprint mushers hustle out on snowmachines
hauling large drags to ready the trails for their teams.
We were able to get more then our fair share of trail breaking in. Tuesday
I did a 25 mile run, breaking trail for about 14 of those miles. My leaders, Moses and Surge did a wonderful job. Although the going was
considerably slower then what we have been doing, they keep motivated and
moving strongly forward. Good practice!
I personally LOVE running dogs after a new snow. Everything seems quieter,
stiller and more magical on the trail. Even the quality of the light seems
lighter and fluffier! The rattling noises of the sled are replaced by soft
swooshes of the runners dragging through the new snow, the previously scary
sharp corners are much easier to navigate and you feel like an old pro on
the runners as you slide confidently around them.
I am also continuously amazed by my dog's ability to find trails I can't.
Thursday I found a two mile section of trail known as Romano's Loop that
had not been run since before the week's snowfall. Olena and Odie seemed
completely sure of where we were going when we turned onto it, but I wasn't
convinced. I stopped them for a quick break and walked up front to get a
better look at where I thought the trail might be. As I was heading his
way, Odie stepped to the side to pee on a tree and promptly sunk up to his
ears. I guess we were on the trail. He quickly scrambled back to the hard
packed snow - even he can't lift his leg that high. My faith restored, I
headed back to the sled and minded my own business for the rest of that
trail. Ollie and Odie never wavered or hesitated, even though in open spots
the snow was up to their chests and, in my puny, limited human mind the
trail was invisible.
By yesterday almost all the trail was broken open, although it was still
heavy going in spots, but the running was spectacular. Bright, bright blue
skies caused the snow to sparkle and shine. The dogs were jazzed by the new
snow and most of the time, just roared through it. On breaks Kara would
work diligently on making doggy snow angels, Loki would roll onto his back
and just lay there with a soft 'pillow' under him and the sun on his belly,
and Ollie would stick her head straight into the snow bank and come up
completely white. I'm sure if I had taken longer breaks they would have
started building snowdogs. What a blast.
However, not everywhere is singing the praises of this latest dump of snow.
I heard Skwentna had several new feet of snow and hard winds. It has
virtually wiped out any trails they had. Word from Norma Delia, who lives
there, is don't even bother trying to come out this way for a run for a few
days. I'm taking heed. I will wait until next Tuesday or so before trying
to get another long river run on the dogs.
All for now!