(This is Athena.)
So the runs we’ve been doing with the dogs have been getting longer. Mostly, this is because we’re on sleds now as opposed to ATVs and snow machines and there’s less resistance on the dogs blah blah blah. Bottom line: now, instead of being out with the dogs for an hour to two hours-ish, we’re out with teams for three and a half to four hours-ish. The other day, while explaining this on the phone, a dear friend seemed appalled, and asked what the hell I did for all of this time. I think I mumbled a subpar reply. And then today, when I was out on a sled for both sunrise and sunset, I thought about it more thoroughly.
Here are some things I do when out on the sled for extended periods of time:
- Lose my hat. (Hopefully this was just today. And thankfully it was not the hat on my head, but instead the one I had thoughtlessly shoved in between my jackets earlier and forgotten to remove, but it was a good hat, my favorite hat. Sigh.)
- Steer around trees and other obstacles.
- Make sure the dogs go where they/we are supposed to. (Mostly, the dogs do know where they’re going, which is pretty impressive, but sometimes, they know so well that they try to take detours, or to defy my commands of “gee” (right) or “haw” (left), which just end with me standing on the brake as I bellow nonsense words at Star Wars characters.)
- Try to keep all the dogs trotting. (Trotting is the most efficient way for the dogs to run. When they want to sprint, they start loping. Which is bad, because they’re more likely to injure themselves. (I just looked up trotting vs. loping and came up with a billion responses about horses, so perhaps you already know all about this, because you know so much about horses.) Anyway, some dogs are like little speedometers, they go between trotting and loping with the slightest speed adjustment, but I never know how fast we’re going, which makes them less like speedometers.)
- Try to discern if any of the dogs’ paws are bleeding. Mostly this requires me staring at the snow as it goes by, checking for blood. If there’s blood, I have to stop and find out which of the 40 or so paws is bleeding, and put booties on the dogs who need them. (Or sometimes all the dogs get booties before we leave, depending on conditions.)
- Think about which part of my body is the coldest. Frequently, it’s my face. Or my fingers. Although today for a while it was my toes, but then I put bread bags over my feet and, voila, they were warm(er). Basically, I love hand warmers, toe warmers, and bread bags. If you have any just sitting around, send them my way.
- Try to predict which will be the next hill I’ll have to run up. (With teams of 8-ish dogs, sometimes the hills are too steep, given the weight we’ve loaded in the sled and me on the sled. At these times, I have the joyous task of jumping off the sled and running alongside it, while holding on with one hand, of course. Sprinting up hills, wearing millions of layers of clothing, in giant boots, through snow, is obviously my favorite kind of running. If I had more time off I’d do it more often.)
- Sing to the dogs. The hardest part of this is how few songs I seem to actually know right from the beginning. The only song I can reliably think of, and sing the whole way through, is “Build me up Buttercup,” by the Foundations. There are so many songs that I know perfectly well while they’re playing on my ipod, but without it I’m apparently hopeless, which brings me to the next thing I do while running dogs.
- Wish my ipod still worked. My ipod broke. Which is fine, as it was ancient, but this makes it more difficult not only for me to think of songs I know well enough to sing, but also it’s just more difficult to sing, because I really can’t sing, and without the ipod, it’s very apparent and unpleasant for me (and probably the dogs) to listen to my attempts.
- Dance or attempt calisthenics while standing on the back of the sled. Probably amusing to watch. Definitely warmer than standing still. Hopefully this will never result in me falling off the sled.
- Think of brilliant things to write on my blog.
- Promptly forget said brilliant things.
- Wish that I had my camera with me. This place is so damn beautiful sometimes.
- Realize that I do have my cell phone with me, which does have a camera, and take pictures that so do not do the beauty of this place justice. A lot of the runs I’ve been doing with dogs use Fish Lake as a turnaround point. Coming out of the woods and down onto the lake on a clear day and making tracks on an otherwise untouched snow covered lake is literally breathtaking. Maybe it’s the really steep hill that leads down to the lake too, but, I think it’s largely just how open everything is all of the sudden, and how calm and cold and white and removed it is, and I don’t think even my real camera could capture that, much less my celly. But I keep trying.
- Let my mind wander. Today I found myself wondering, “Hmm, how many years ago was it that my grandparents moved to Denver?” It’s still sort of jarring sometimes, finding myself in the middle of thoughts that I don’t remember starting.
- Think of all the people I’ve been meaning to call or email.
- Crossword puzzles.
(Sorry about all the parentheses tonight.)
OMG so cold.
(Just kidding, that’s Celsius)
Today was my first sub-zero day in Alaska.
When I fed dogs this morning, the thermometer outside my cabin read -6° F. This afternoon, while I scooped poop, it had warmed up to 0° F. Today’s high? 7° F. Kathleen told me that now when it’s 10 above, I’ll think of it as warm.
I don’t think so.
Palatable? Maybe. Livable? Tolerable? In time. Sufferable? Sure. But warm? Please.
Today was also my first day on a sled, as we finally have enough snow. Today I drove a team of fourteen dogs and one snow machine on a thirty mile run. And when I say “I drove,” I mean Kathleen drove the fourteen dogs on the snow machine and I was pulled along on a sled that was tied to the back of the snow machine. Much less impressive, I know, but hey, I’m learning.
Anyway, my goal today was to get my first fall on a sled out of the way. Check.
Maneuvering the sled seems a little bit like skiing, if, while skiing, you could occasionally take your feet out of your skis and drag them in the snow, or put them on a brake pad between your skis to slow down, or if your skis were being pulled by fourteen dogs.
Finally, I was devastated to learn that my bosses’ son is somehow not a Harry Potter fan, so I have no excuse to go see HP when it opens tonight at midnight. Not that I need an excuse, but since he has no interest, I also have no wheels. Sadly, the nearest showing is 111 miles away.