Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Cherished Moment in Time...

" A fella can learn alot from talking with a Dawg." - Rocky Balboa

Was quite the week to remember. Felt as if I was in a time machine. Growing up in Evanston,Il. I had my own pack to hang with. Our buddy Steve's marriage was an amazing reunion of souls. We were all boy scouts in troop 31 at St. A's. Scouts is what shaped many of our interests, primarily when they involved playing in the woods. It was pure joy to see Mike, Tim, Tarj and Stever after over a decade`s time. A person actually asked me when I was moving back home. (And then there were the Palin questions.) The wedding was outside of Milwaukee, Wis.. Amazing how much cheeseheads remind me of alaskans- one tough crowd.
Wisconsin is the boyhood home of one of my greatest heroes- John Muir. A man known for his incredible love of nature as well as possesing a relentless energy to enjoy life to the fullest. He probably would have been an amazing musher if he had ever travelled further north in Alaska. Spoke at some schools in the chicagoland area as well. Sharing our adventurous lifestyle with others is a true blessing. I'm a firm believer that dogs bring out the best in all of us- if we're willing to watch, learn and listen to them instead of just ordering them around. Most humans have lil' idea how naturally brilliant these beasts of the north are.
Always an interesting time in the city, I'm amazed how civilized society actually is considering these tumultuous times. The final spot I went to see is where my father is now buried. For those of you who were unaware he passed away last feb. a week before the Quest began. Now Phil rests with Jenny,my mom. Hopefully their spirits will be keeping an eye out for us this winter. My welcome home back to the north was otherwordly. The night flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse was breathtaking as we were literally flying next to the northern lights as their greenish hues flowed to and fro. As the plane descended into town white flurries enveloped our path. Life is wonderful when we decide to open our eyes and appreciate it every once in a while.
Been back a few days now, still not enough snow for a sled but the trails are in alot better shape now that we have a decent amount of the white stuff to run on. Having a handler this year has been great. Our friend from Finland, Juho, is an experienced outdoorsman who loves adventure. Sounds like a true 'son of the north' to me. Having a working 4-wheeler, Schnuelle mobile and Skandic snowmachine has ensured we have enough decent dog training devices to play in the woods with. I`m still a bit low on sleep, will send another story soon, next time it will be all about them Dawgs. For without their spirits we'd all be lost! Peace, HHN

Monday, October 20, 2008

A Bridge to the Future...

Hey everyone,

Hope all is well in your worlds. Lake froze up last week though not much snow as of yet. I'll be heading to chicago tomorrow for my buddy steve's wedding this weekend. Will be going to a few school's as well. This year's theme is "A Bridge to the Future." One of the funnest parts of being a musher is seeing the dogs form into a 'team' each season. Presently we're running 3 12-dogteams each day, I have a feeling my body will enjoy a week's restbit, though the pooches will only have a few days off. By the time racing begins they'll have thousands of training miles under their belts.

Our handler Juho and myself have been running on two trails- the obstacle course, a twisty thirty mile run over to the local golf course and back or the wheaton river road. The wheaton runs alongside the river with the aptly named "Majestic mountains" towering above. Both areas are generally shaded from the sun which is nice if the weather gets a lil' warm. We recently acquired a 4-wheeler to play with the pooches in the woods. People would be amazed to know that it's the 1st one I've ever owned whose engine actually worked. The dawgs have always had enough power for me. Having an engine does have its advantages however.

Our featured pooches this week are lil' Miss Colby and Delilah. Colby's amazing: 5 years old with 4 thousand milers already-guess what? She only weighs 35 pds. Colbster is all about attitude. Today after we finished our 1st run, we began to hook up the 2nd team. Having run in the 1st team Colby was out in the yard playing with the pups. As we began to put the 2nd squad in harness she immediately ran up to the front of the squad- ready to go again! We had just arrived barely a half hour earlier. Colby was named after Jeff King's Iditarider from 1996-C.J.Colby, a very special boy. I truly believe that part of his spirit is now within this amazing lil' leader's persona.

Delilah is another tough lady. It shows in her two lil' boys-Sparta and Sampson. Never seen two pups that are so playful with each other, makes me wonder if they ever find time to sleep. Their mom is the only girl in her litter with five brothers. They are all future stars, not because of their talent but how they perform together as a team. What joy we have each day to watch these blessed creatures perform at such an exceptional level- it's like watching a flower grow, then lick your face! Enjoy the view, Hugh

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Gone With The Wind...

Hey everyone,

Been interesting around here lately. A few days back a massive windstorm arose- it has yet to mellow out. At its worst on friday afternoon, trees were being uprooted from the ground. One of the larger spruce snapped in half, some fifty feet above the earth. People fret over 'global warming' yet I've always been in fear of the wind. Sure, it's energy can be harnessed but what happens when there's too much power to handle? Adjacent to Annie lake is our sauna; above it held securely by cable lines is our wind generator. The winds flying down the lake from the west were stong enough to put it out of commission. Out here in the wilderness Mother Nature has an incredible way of reminding humans that it really does'nt matter what 'political philosophy' one might adhere to- other natural forces shall always determine how we approach our daily living.

The other night was quite surreal as we watched a few shows on the telly. David Letterman's guest was the movie actor Bill Murray. As a golf caddy back in Chicago I was fortunate enough to caddy for him a few times. He also went to my high school in Wilmette, Loyola Academy. After Letterman we watched my buddy Lance Mackey on the Conan O`brien show. During the interview Conan showed Lance some video of him mushing while on a trip to Finland. It was classic- our handler this year, Juho, is from Finland and new which kennel the dogs in the video were from. A friend of ours, Jillian, also spent some time mushing there. This modern day world sure is interconnected- even if you are living out in the middle of the northern wilderness!

It`s been an enjoyable week out on the trail though the temps. have been a bit warm lately. Most days are spent playing on the Ã’bstacle Course`- a short sixteen mile loop. To cover the course takes nearly two hours. Within it one passes thru three streams, a bit of muskeg and a small bog. It actually reminds me of the section of trail just before the Iditarod checkpoint when teams travel on the southern route. Numerous mushers spend lots of time creating ideal training trails for the dogs to travel on. In hindsight this might be a detriment to their teams. If the dawgs have never been through rougher sections of terrain before they might not realize that they really are`nt as bad as they may imagine. I call trails such as these- good`Charlie Boulding Training`. It`s amazing to watch the increased level of energy the pooches have now. In our earlier training this season we were running much longer on old mining roads. The trail we are using now is underneath a thick canopy of trees. There are only a few spots which are not in the shade: this affords us the opportunity to run at any time of day. The ground is covered with a thick moss that is much like carpeting for the pooches feet. Numerous squirrels and other varmits endlessly scurrying around tends to keep the team excited as well.

Travelling thru the wilderness on a daily basis one can`t help but have an incredible respect for the beauty of life. Out here it`s not just the latest fashion trend or `hip look` that matters but the beauty of everyday life. The dogs eagerly lapping up water from a stream during a brief rest. The moon rising over the mountain`s peak, drops of rain glistening upon fallen leaves on the ground- it`s a list that could go on perpetually. A list that puts a smile on one`s face with a renewed daily vigor in their hearts. Sure, the weather can be a bit intimidating at times but do you really think the Great Almighty created so much beauty in order for us to only watch it on the tv- there`s nothing like living life to it`s fullest. If you`re bored- it`s probably a good signal that it`s time to take the dog for a walk. I guarantee the trip will be worth it!

Looking forward to meeting numerous new friends during our autumn school tour which begins on October 21st in Chicago. Still a few available times if your school would like to enjoy our unique presentation on Dogmushing, Dreams and Wilderness living in the North.

Enjoy the view, Hugh

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bound By "Wild" Desires...

Howdy Folks, 10/5/08
13 years ago this very same day I stepped off of a plane from Chicago and onto Alaskan soil with just a few hundred dollars to my name. (It's easy to remember because O.J. was acquitted on that date) It was tough knowing that the number of days that I would ever see my family members again would be but a few. Growing up, my birthday might have been celebrated in september but for me Oct. 3, 1995 was the day my soul finally awoke- we were off to the land where legends are born. Those 1st few days in the Greatland were no picnic; living in a sleeping bag underneath some bushes in a park on the outskirts of Anchorage with a couple of dogs isn't exactly one's average lifestyle choice. Yet to me it never mattered- we had places to go, people to meet and puppies to play with.
Last year while visiting my buddy Mike Bayer back in Chi-town we decided to check out Sean Penn's movie, "Into The Wild". I could not help but think how similar a journey Alexander Supertramp's was to my very own. Fortunately for yours truly, numerous 'angels' have always been around to help guide me whenever we veered from the right trail. Whether it be the Erharts, my buddy Rich Doran, the Rotter family and others- alaskans have an amazing intertwining community. Looking out for others is a way of life- one never knows when it may be their turn to face difficult situations. Many come to the north in search of utopian dreams of 'freedom' yet life often reminds us all how fragile we are if we choose to stand alone.
13 years down the trail and we're now preparing to compete in our 14th and 15th 1,000 mile race events. Our greatest accomplishment isn't the number of races competed in but the number of Dawgs from our very 1st Quest back in 2000 who are now enjoying the fruits of their labor. A well earned retirement soaking up the sun alongside Annie Lake's beach. Some may think I'm possessed, fiercely determined to win the 'big one' but in actuality dogmushing races are just an excuse to have fun each and every day up here in the mtns. with the pooches. In this day and age our livelihood of playing in the woods; travelling with our frisky furballs on forlorn trails, is a gift from above. All mushers should feel humbled to enjoy such a prosperous way of life. The beauty of our world isn`t the amount of $ collected but the times on the trail that each one of us will cherish forever. For example let me tell you about this morning's jaunt.
Sure, it might have been windy with billowing clouds in the sky but for us it was just another `Beautiful Day.`Heading up the Wheaton river road with an eighteen Dawg team we listened to some Johnny Cash and Neil Young on the dvd. I couldn't help but smile- it was just another walk in the park with the pooches. This time of year we stop often, not only to rearrange the team, but to check out future potential leaders as well. Wild Bill, Tyler, Delilah, Nathan, Sidney and Mr. Wonka were our various leaders today. All did well though Ms. Delilah was a bit rough with the boys which is her typical disposition. It rained heavily last night thus there were numerous puddles for the pooches to quickly rehydrate. Unlike the past few runs we had no wildlife encounters. The other night we had a coyote checking us out for awhile. I`d much rather see one of those than a bear or the enormous dall ram we had fly by us last season. Those horns can look mighty large when they`re zinging by just a few feet away from your face. Luckily for us that time the dogs didn`t notice- and Tamra didn`t scream!
Having safely returned to the yard from a few hours on the trail we let the pooches enjoy some addtional fun time. The whole team, once their harnesses are removed, is let loose to run into the water for a brief recess. Like anywhere else in this world the key to harmony, peace and prosperity is that everyone gets along with one another. Any Dawgs who only care about themselves will not have a chance to play in this travelling band. The key to victory is the word 'we'.
This weeks featured dogs are two boys- Wild Bill and Mr. Mahoosic. Wild Bill is three years of age and looks just like Demon`s twin brother from `Snowdogs`. Mr. Bill is fun to watch being in charge up in lead. Last year during the Iditarod`s pre-race screenings Jan Bullock noticed that he has a larger then average heart on the monitor used to test all of the dogs. I could have told her that already- he has a `heart of gold`. Wild Bill keeps the other pooches heading in the right direction. (This time of year we have a few `grazers`- dogs who have to sniff out every little scent alongside the trail`s edge) If Wild Bill is a `pretty boy` than Mahoosic would be best described as sort of cute. `Hoosie Boy`is going on seven years old and has already competed in 7 thousand milers. He`s got a thick build with a thin grey fur coat. Like many kids he`s often hyper, constantly whining to keep the team moving. I place our younger bullies like Tyler next to Mahoosic just so they realize they`re not the toughest guys on the block. He might not be as pretty but this dog sure is pretty powerful. As the saying goes `Where is Fancy Bread- In the heart, or in the head!`Looking forward to meeting many of you during our fall school presentations which begin October 21 in Chicago. There are still a few available days if your group is interested. I`ll be doing a few Boy Scout troops this time as well. As an Eagle Scout from Troop 31 in Evanston, Il. it shall be an honor to share with others the unique beauty of our treasured northern lifestyle. Enjoy the view, Hugh or for more school info: laughingeyeskennel@