Sunday, January 04, 2009

Respecting One's Roots

"The measure of a man is seen thru his family, friends and loved ones..."
Happy Frigid New Year,
Had a wonderful surprise on the 1st, "Hey Hugh, it's Chuckie- we're in town with 30 dogs and need to do a quick run." An hour later Lester Erhart, John and a few other friends from Tanana pulled in the driveway. What a wonderful way to start the new year. While John and Chuck ran their racing dogs around the lake. Lester chatted it up with Tamra and myself as the Sirius satellite radio played some country tunes in the background. "Man, I'm having a good time." was Lester's emphatic declaration of his brief visit. Along with being an incredible dogman , Lester is an accomplished musician as well as most of his children. They are a native version of the Von Trop family from the "Sound of Music". My Athabascan gunnas were heading south to participate in a race in Ft. Nelson. They were probably hoping to find warmer weather but this time of year it's cold everywhere this far north.
Most mornings I wake up in the wee morning hours not only to stoke the stove but turn on the generator in order to thaw out our water pipes. Along with preparing a warm breakfast for the pooches each sunrise requires hours of preparation in order to ensure a successful day. We sure do enjoy our extended freedoms up here but nothing in this world comes without a price. All of those miles of training and racing across the Yukon and Alaska demand daily preparation. Whether it be slicing meat on our band saw or preparing booties and jackets for the dogs. Each day's run begins hours before we even set out on the trail. The -40 temps. also ensure that nearly 20 pooches share the hacienda with us on a nightly basis- talk about a snore-a-thon!

13 years ago when I decided to chase this dream I realized that I would only see my family members and friends down in the lower 48 a very brief time for the rest of my life. Lil' did I realize then that I would become a part of a new 'family' when I moved to the Greatland. Lester and his extended members from Tanana and villages beyond not only taught me about dogs but about surviving daily life in the North. It's been over 2 years now since I've visited Tanana and this has been continually nagging at me. Fortunately Tanana came to visit us- a reminder what this life is all about: sharing stories and smiles with one another.
Will be heading to Bethel with Tamra next weekend for the Kusko 300. After last year's swim we're looking for better trail this time around. Besides doing food drops for Quest and Iditarod this week I'm also running about 20 pooches during the warmer afternoon (-30) hours trying to put together the best squad possible. Not really interested in the 'big win' just hoping to finish with as large a squad as possible. The more pooches pulling the sled= the bigger the party!
Peace to you, Hugh


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