What ever you do, don't let go !
The learning curve continues to be steep for me in this new endeavor ! When I wake up in the morning I seem to have a pit in the bottom of my stomach. That feeling of nerves on edge, anticipating some level of impending doom of sorts, burns in the bottom of my belly. Here is a story of why .....
The 10 dogs were having a great run, pulling hard up the hills and surging across the wide open expanses of frozen lakes. I was having a wonderful time as we skimmed along, effortlessly smooth 40 mile trip on this cold, minus 20 degrees, but sunny afternoon.
About 10 miles from home, the trail makes a hard left turn, descends a short, but steep hill and then emerges out on what is known as 7 Mile Lake. It is not that the lake is 7 miles long, it is because the lake is 7 miles from the the beginning of the trail. The team surged with speed and power as they anticipated the turn. I stomped my foot on the brake bar which did not seem to have much of an effect on the speed. Round the turn we went, fast. I held my foot on the brake as the sled cracked up against the tree, rocked back and forth on the runners, then turned over on its side. I hung on to the handle for dear life as my body bounced along down the hill, plowing snow with my face the whole way. For those who do not know, when you fall off the sled or tip over, the team does not stop. They just keep on pulling and pulling. Doing exactly what they have been bred and trained to do.
At the bottom of the hill, the team stopped, no longer able to pull the sled, they turned their heads to look back as to inquire on what the problem was. I pulled myself up to my knees, ever so grateful to have been able hang on. One, and I underscore one, of my biggest fears, as there are so many fears, is that I would lose my team out on the trial. I have heard these stories and they make me feel such doom.
As I pulled the sled upright, I was ready to hop quickly on the runners, when the team jerked in their harnesses, a jerk and surge of monumental force, ripping the handle of the sled from my hands and there I stood as I watched my team run out onto 7 Mile Lake. They were charging with the exuberant freedom with the featherweight load trailing behind. The image of the team rapidly diminishing in size made my heart sink as I walked in their direction. In the cold air, I was sweating, my hair soaked with perspiration, which froze immediately as I pulled my hat off. As I unzipped my arctic one piece suit steam rose and froze on my eyelashes making them stick together as I blinked in an attempt to focus on my now distant focal point. As I trudged along the trail, all I could hope for was that there would be another team coming down the trial and the musher would grab my team seeing the riderless sled, or that one of my snow hooks would jostle off the sled, setting itself as it is designed to do, deep and securely in the snow, stopping the team for me.
After crossing two lakes and a vast open expanse of frozen slough, my walk brought me into a piney woods and there I found my team stopped, frolicking in the deep snow with the lines snarled into total chaos. You can imagine my relief. I nearly cried tears of joy to find them there, stopped, safe and happy.
After unhooking many tug lines and reattaching neck lines, the snarl of lines came to order. The dogs, sensing things were getting organized, started yelping and leaping to get going. Me too, I said to them. Standing firmly on the runners, my left hand gripping the sled handle tight, I reached down with my right hand to grasp the handle of the snow hook. With a strong yanking pull on the handle it came free and off we went. A gratefully giddy musher and her team coursing over Alaskan hill and dale, arriving in the dog yard finally to end another epic day.