Monday, November 10, 2008

A Reason to Believe...

"Where are you going, where have you been.." - DMB
Howdy folks,
Well, quite the interesting times lately, eh? This past summer we installed satellite television so that we could enjoy the olympics as well as a chicago cubs world series victory-oh well! The past few months have been mesmerizing as we have analyzed the presedential election. It was surreal to see Obama's Grant Park victory speech. As a child I went with my older brother and lil' sister to see Pope John Paul II speak there. Just before Barack and his family went up on stage the phone rang at our house - it was my sister Monica who was at the rally with her family. The strangest part of these elections was seeing some familiar faces at various political events. Is that 4-time Iditarod champ Martin Buser sitting next to Todd Palin? Another week it would be one of my heroes, Hobo Jim, on CNN speaking with Alaskan senator Ted Stevens. What a small world after all.
Strange season so far up here in the mountains. It's often cloudy yet lil' snow has accumulated so far. Unfortunately the temps. have been warm enough that conditions are unsafe as of yet to run pooches on the lake. I'm not too woried about going thru the ice but the slushy conditions are not good for the pooches feet. Fortunately for us there are numerous other trails to play with the dogs on. Each day we seek a different direction whether it be Alligator lake, Coal lake rd., the Wheaton river rd. or Mary lake. School's in session and like any young child it's important for the teacher to make each day's lesson interesting and enjoyable. As a musher one is constantly experimenting with their imagination, coming up with ways for each pooch to grow. Life is about experience - whether it be 4 thousand foot ascents, bushwhacking thru two feet of unbroken trail or learning how to run thru open water; a team is molded together by overcoming shared obstacles as well performing daily rituals.

Training with a 4-wheeler and snowmachine has been great. Sure, it might be a bit louder and more expensive to train but there are numerous advantages as well. With the lack of snow it's easier to control a large team without worrying about your snowhook flying out of the ground. The noise is also loud enough to scare off any varmits in the area - this is no time to be running into a pesky porcupine or ornery bear that has yet to settle down for their winter's sleep. Some of the more seasoned pooches hang out with me in the morning as I travel on skis through adjoining trails to the end of the lake and back. For me this is the time of year when sleep is difficult - too many voices in my head reminding me of all there is to do. Fortunately our handler Juho from Finland has been a godsend helping to share in each day's chores. As I often mention in our school talks up here in the north we don't use the word 'work' instead we call it 'play'. This ensures a more enjoyable day.
Once my truck is finished being repaired we'll head a few hours south to Canol road where we can take some of the younger dogs on an extended camping trip. There's nothing that is more enjoyable than sitting around a campfire enjoying a starlit night with the auroras overhead. Surrounding you are teams of dogs resting comfortably on some straw snoring away. What better background music could there be to enjoy- true harmony with mother nature. Speaking of which one of our goals for this year is a word that is easier to say than achieve: P-P-Patience! Lord knows you can take the boy out of the city but often it`s hard to take the 'city' out of the boy. During the Iditarod not staying in Ophir last year was a prime example of my ineptitude to 'chill out' and assess the situation. Much like in the past I decided to 'go for it' and ended up hauling Walter, a 70 pd. male leader nearly the whole way to Cripple. Walter was fine, just tired, the 30 plus temps. were tough on our heavier furred pooches. He did finish the Quest, but he's probably a bit large to compete in both events. Sure, it might have been raining at the time but the weather cleared up within minutes of my decision to continue on. That simple choice allowed numerous teams to leave us in the dust-Patience.
Obviously with a tough season such as last year, life continually tests one's belief in their abilities. Fortunately for me there's still much to improve upon. We haven't even touched the surface when it comes to achieving our personal strengths. And when I say strength I mean more so mentally than physically. It may be wonderful to follow your heart's desires but one must seek to harness the energy within their head as well. That's why mushers enjoy this time of year as we use our given talents each day to mold a beautiful work of art - our very own DOGTEAM. To see these furballs become one solid unit is a joy to behold. An ever-evolving, undulating orb of beastial energy. The 'Magic Carpet Ride' is what we all seek; few things in life compare with this unending rollercoaster ride thru the wilderness of the north.

Amigo with his brother Jericho

This week's featured pooches are Amigo and Shaman. Amigo's mom is Annie and papa is Brady, a Lance Mackey dog. At this point in my career it's nice to be running dogs that we have raised ourselves. Up until a few years ago I was racing sprintier hound dogs that I acquired from various native friends. People would often remark that they looked more like an Open North American Sprint Team than Long-Distance pooches. Amigo is a yearling that will probably compete in a few 300 milers but is still a year away from participating in any of the big dances. Along with his brother Geronimo and sister Juanita this charismatic fella has bucketloads of talent. Shaman is a pooch that we acquired from my buddy Ray Redington this spring. He's out of Ray's dog Jet and a Robert Sorlie pooch, Barley. Last year in White Mountain near the end of the Iditarod I had the opportunity to see Ray, Gerry Willomitzer and Aaron Burmeister depart ahead of us. It was amazing to see how beautiful each of their teams were. It made me realize that racing isn't just about training but breeding as well. Along with his sister Sicily, Shaman is easily one of the most talented dogs we have. He's all legs and resembles a wolf as much as a dog. He's quite friendly and eager to please. I can only imagine what the rest of Mr. Redington's yard is like. For me it's just a privelege to learn from folks such as these on the trail. Life is more than just a competition with others: it's a competition with yourself-Patience!

Shamen (also known as Silas and Rhyme)

Wishing you all well on your own personal trails. Feel free to send us a line some time and if you're ever in the area stop by for some coffee and a story or two... Enjoy the view, Hugh


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