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Sunday, February 14, 2010

PUWAWA 2010 Part VI; Lunch on the Trail

Temporary picket line.

Frankie, Tuloon and Phoenix

Lunch on the trail

Fryin' up the cornbread

Relaxing run back

Concentrating Musher

Lunch on the trail with the dogs teams was on the schedule for our guests' third day of adventure. Due to the ice and wind storm earlier in the season, our trail system was not as long as we had hoped so everyone got some free time in the morning prior to preparations for our dog sled run.

We helped load the snowmobile tow-behind with all necessary items for Scott's surprise meal on the trail. (Or so we thought) He would travel on ahead of us, set up and be waiting with a warm and wonderful meal upon our arrival.

There was something brewing in the dog yard on the Inuit Dog side of the picket line. Icoa and Ilu, mother and son, had been doing more bickering than usual. Someone was in a bad mood. I was to run the lead team as one of our advanced mushers wanted to take some photos. Due to the looming Inuit Dog issue, this was a good plan. At hook up, those two did their usual bickering - "get on your side", "stay off my side", "I'm tired of your attitude", etc. But this time it went a little further and they broke into a fight. The best thing to do in this situation, unless someone seems to be injured, is to just get the team moving. The momentum will force them on their own sides of the line and redirect their attention to something more constructive. These two never have serious fights where wounds are created. They just put on a good show. And they continued their "show" for almost the entire first half of the run.

This type of mood affects the musher and the other dogs. And this could be why, completely out of the blue, Klaus, my never wavering, arrow straight leader, did something he has never done. (Never say never.) Without hesitation, both Klaus and Oken prick their ears up, look to the left and head directly into the woods. They were on edge and heard something and began to take us in to see what it was. They received an instantaneous verbal correction and it then dawned on them that they were in pretty big trouble. Oken, never wanting to be accused of doing something wrong was horrified by my reaction to his decision to take us into the woods and quickly sprung back in place. Klaus, we'll never know why, began to come back to me through the woods and met with our poorly behaved Inuit Dog pair who then attempted to show him why he had just made such a poor decision. We had a total mess. This is all part of the adventure folks! When working with dogs, just about anything can happen, even with those dogs that are well trained and generally predictable.

After asking my passenger to come back and stand on my snow hook (when the snow hook is sunk and someone stands in front of the prongs sunk into the snow, it is virtually impossible, if conditions are favorable, for the team to move ahead), with Chris' help, from two sleds back, I was able to wade through the mess and untangle all of the dogs. Thankfully, even though it looked as though Klaus may have gotten himself into a terrible mess with the Inuit Dogs, their appeared to be no injuries. I discussed with every offender why their choices were not acceptable. As I waited for the dogs to be quiet and still so we could continue on the trek to our beautiful lunch spot in the woods, I took a deep breathe.

We arrived at our destination and it was breathtakingly beautiful! We could see the cook stoves that had been set up off the trail and wondered what was in store for us. But first, we had to secure our teams and make sure the dogs had their snack before we could go any further. We tied our teams down using quick releases attached to trees. Our teams were then secure enough to leave them and set up our temporary picket lines. The snowshoes we brought along made this job much easier. With harnesses left on, each dog was placed on the picket line and when we ran out of room, those remaining dogs got a tree tie out of their very own. We then began unwrapping and chopping the frozen "dog meat"; 1/3 beef heart, 1/3 beef liver, 1/3 pork trimmings. Each dog got a half a pound, give or take and then nestled down for a nap while we began nosing around the cook stoves. Scott would return shortly, something about no eating utensils and cups? No problem, we had an interesting journey as well and could wait a little longer to eat our lunch.

Bison and White Bean Ragu and cornbread were on the menu and hot chocolate, limeade and water. Of course no trail lunch could be complete without dessert. Left over pound cake fried in butter fit the bill.

With warm food in our stomachs we slowly prepared the sleds for the journey back to the cabin. The dogs seemed to enjoy the layover and were ready to head back on the trail, as well. The return trip was uneventful and we just enjoyed the quiet beauty of the woods and the pale blue sky. The swishing sound of the sled runners was accompanied by the dogs' footsteps in a perfect relaxing rhythm. How nice.

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