You, your dogs, a cold night, and a dusting of fresh snow. There is nothing in the world quite like it.
We’ve been training since the first of August. The dogs and I have eaten our share of dust while training on the dirt roads, getting ready to hit the snow. Normally the dogs have somewhere around 600 miles on them before they even see a snow packed trail!
Today is the day. The truck nears the trailhead and the dogs are smelling the snow long before they see it. They are already barking and carrying on. They know what is going to happen,….It is a snow run day.
I park the truck in a position to head straight out onto the trail. I drop the dogs(put a shortchain from the dog’s collar to an eyebolt on the runnerboards of the pickup) and get the sled, lines, brakes, tie off line, safety line, snow hook, sled bag, first aid kit, booties, extra light, spare pair of gloves, meat snacks for the dogs, my food, the check list goes on and on as I prepare the gear before hitting the trail. The dogs are getting more and more impatient. Finally a dog catches a glimps of a harness and the signal bark is let out. The team lets out in a frenzy of barking and jumping. By the time I get the last dog in position in the lines, my adrenaline is flowing. I unhook the saftey line. This is it. I pull the quick release and we are off. The dog’s are churning up snow and it’s hitting me in the face. I am alive with the power in front of me and the elements of nature that surround. The dogs settle down into a smooth trot. The excitement of the start is soon replased by the serenity of the trail.
The sun sets and dark soon follows. The headlight beam creates a narrow visual, of the world around you. The only sounds are those of the dogs breathing , dog paws hitting the trail, and the light jingles of the brass collar snaps taping the collar rings. All that work earlier in the year, has paid off. There is no slack in the dog’s tug lines and they all are happy and healthy. Later the moon makes it’s way up over the distant ridge and I turn the headlamp off. It seems as though you can see forever. The moonlight on the of snow covered mountains is breathtaking. The temperatures drop and the team speeds up. I have my sled legs back under me and I am relaxed on the runners. Next you hear that first note of music. A few more degrees drop in the temperature and I have the runners singing their songs. You see, with a new set of runner covers the cold snow on the runners produce high pitched notes. The dogs ears turn around with the different pitches.
The motion of the team rolling over the humps in the trail, resembles an oriental paper dragon with people running underneath it!
I enjoy singing some nice Irish tunes to the dogs as we pass alongside Little Glass Mountain( a mountain of obsidian boulders!) The dogs are in awe of all the light reflecting off the boulders peaking through the snowcover. The 50 miles end way too soon and I say a prayer of thanks and another little prayer that when I become an old man, I can remember this special night.