Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Living The Life...

"I don't care if it's three in the morning or the middle of the afternoon- I'll run dogs anytime."
-- L. Mackey

If Hans only knew what I put his sleds through. One of the greatest dogmen in the world is named Hans Gatt, a neighbor friend from the Whitehorse area. He has also been making some of the finest sleds around for years. In a typical YukonQuest race 2/3's of the teams are pulling one of his contraptions. I'll get a newer model every few years as their design is constantly evolving. "Ya know Tamra, Hugh is really hard on sleds."- H.G. Yeah, my man, it isn't every musher who is out there in late April, getting up early every morning to haul firewood through slush, dirt and rocks- with a lil' bit of snow here and there. The rewards of this labor is not judged with trophies or $ but in enjoying life itself. Being grimy and sweaty puts a smile on one's face as well as a pounding in their heart. For soon Thunder will be Rolling through the Mountains...

On this morning's run Walter and Watson were on the hunt as the spring season up here unleashes endless varmits to chase after. What was that boys? "Sick 'em!" One must be cautious as the waterways slowly open up, with a fully loaded sled of wood you best be sure that ice bridge is still safe. There are pockets of slushy water to run through here and there, bare ground as well. (Rather deal with that than actual bears) This is wonderful K440 and K300 training. In bush races one feature is usually a constant- on the trail you're likely to see almost anything. Why not teach the pooches about more dangerous conditions at a younger age. If there's one thing I've learned along the trail- Experience helps to dictate success in the long run.

It's interesting what one daydreams about from the back of the sled while whizzing thru the trees. Today I was pondering how many other mushers were out running dogs this morning. The temps. might be warm for the north but would actually be normal for our friends who run dog teams down in the lower 48. For some reason I was thinking about my early years in dog mushing when I once worked for some of the top sprint mushers in the world. Believe me, nothing means speed more than getting on an empty basket sled with 2o Erhart or Taylor dogs flying in front of you. These folks are some of the greatest dog racers I know but how many of their dogs could compete in the Iditarod- Not because of talent but training. There probably are not too many sprint mushers nowadays doing chores with their teams like in George Attla`s `Spirit of the Wind`movie. In Kotzebue a 25 mile race was cancelled due to overflow water on the trail- many of the sprinters were nearly in tears over the decision. It made me want to puke.

That`s the beauty of long-distance racing, as proven by my buddy Lance Mackey- it`s all about the bond between the master and his or her beloved beasts. Whereas in sprint mushing , genetics and breeding play a dominant role in which teams win races- there are numerous other `pieces to the pie` with regards to our extended adventures. Watching my team plow through 2 feet of water this morning reminded me of something Mitch Seavey once told me. It was during the Tustemena 200 race which is an Iditarod tune up event. At one of the checkpoints I asked him if he had big dogs or small dogs. His reply- Ì have real dogs!` Mitch would go on that year to win the Iditarod while yours truly received the `Rookie of the Year`award.
Here`s to REAL Dawgs.

Enjoy the view, Hugh www.laughingeyeskennel.com


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