Monday, November 17, 2008

Our 1st Camping Trip...

" So do you believe in Heaven now Juho?"
Howdy everyone,
With the lack of snow so far this year around the Annie Lake area we decided to load up the dogs and drive a few hours south to Canol Rd., an old mining road that is wonderful for decent snow conditions on a yearly basis. Temps. tend to be a bit warmer at this higher elevation. The endless views are breathtaking as well. Fortunately for us, this night their would be a full moon to guide our way-beautiful. Before setting off there was much preparation needed in order to be fully outfitted to feed and care for thirty pooches for a two night stay. Our handler Juho and myself would not only be carrying a bag of Redpaw kibble each but a bag of fish as well as beef. Combined together each sled load would weigh around 200 pounds. As I've said before we humans tend to live on mac and cheese or soup and hotdogs where as the pooches are fed like kings. After all without them you won't be going anywhere.
Arriving at the hwy. we visited with Hans Gatt, his partner Susie and a Jamaican dogmusher who will be participating in the Quest this year. Hans is one of the true geniuses of the sport. Not only is he a multiple race champ but expert sled builder as well. Lord knows we have all learned alot from watching this Austrian musher's success over the years. An hour after his teams departed Juho and myself set out on our initial sled journey this year. It was wonderful to not have the engine noise from the snowmachine or 4-wheeler. Of the thirty pooches a half dozen were yearlings who were participating in their 1st major camping trip. We were hoping to establish good habits for them- no hurries, no worries. I wanted them to think of our 1st journey as an extended buffet line. Every few hours we would stop to snack them- my goal was to feed all of the food, except for a snack at the finish.
Just over five hours we camped out beside Quiet Lake which is still wide open with lil' ice on its edge. The dogs having been fed and straw on the ground for them to sleep upon we settled down for a few hours of shuteye. The temps. were rather warm, around freezing, which was quite comfortable for us humans. At 4:20 in the morning the pooches awoke and began growling immediately. Was their a varmit around? No, it was just my buddy Sebastian Schnuelle (who finished 10th in last year's Iditarod) and a few of his friends out running teams as well. "Ya know Hugh not everybody is as crazy as we are." I've probably known Sebastian longer than any other musher I've competed with. There are only a few other people on this earth that travel by sled each year as much as we do. Why? Well, I guess it's like a fella told me a few weeks ago that we ran into up by Alligator lake. He was on a snowmachine and I stopped the team for a quick chat to see how trail conditions were up ahead. I introduced myself and this man's reply was one of the kindest gestures I've ever received. "Yes, I know who you are Hugh- you're the guy who really loves what he does." Talk about a humbling experience- made me realize how lucky a man I truly am.
Much like everywhere else nowadays the mushing world has been hit hard by these difficult economic times. Entry fees for races continue to go up as prize $ diminishes. Yet the main throng of dogmushers are unwavered in their determination to excel in this sport/lifestyle. This alone is proof that the majority of people mush out of love for their dogs and this amazing northern landscape that we wander thru and play upon. For me personally it's all about the energy; the enjoyment of each and everyday despite the hardships encountered along the way. After a decade of racing its obvious by now that there are alot more talented people on the trail than myself yet we're all winners if we choose to be.
We might be 'winners' yet compared to the dawgs we're all weak- what these beasts can do from a physical standpoint leaves one continually in awe. 50 mile run, break, 40 mile run, break- then another 50 mile run straight into a snowstorm. (and this was their 1st extended run of the season) The team performed wonderfully and many of the dogs gained weight during our training run. Most of the younger dogs learned to mellow out and sleep properly which can be difficult to learn at such a young age. Many of these yearlings won't even race this year yet this is a great time to teach them about trail life- from the sound of their yipping and yapping; Geronimo, Amigo, Nemo, Griffin, Juanita and Gypsy can't wait to fly thru the mtns. once again.
This time of year we're also beginning to prepare the plethora of meat, fish, fat and kibble that will be used for future dog runs as well as races. Each chunk of food must be cut into small snicker sized pieces so that it's easier for the pooches to chew. Along with organizing booties, medicines, jackets and assorted human needs we are always preparing for future endeavors. At Laughing Eyes Kennel life is about learning how to continually explore- not only the surrounding landscape but the beauty of one's very own soul. Hopefully all of you kids out there are reminded of what a treasure this planet is and how we must all respect the very beauty of this sacred world. Now some may define success thru victory and accumulation of wealth yet hopefully most of us define accomplishment thru the smiles of others who come in contact with our very own eyes. Peace, HHN


At 9:36 PM , Blogger Zarebski said...

Your first camping trip is your most memorable trip of yours.


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