Sandy carefully wraps the quick release around the handle bars while still standing on the snow hook.
At Points Unknown, we structure our programs in steps with each step designed to provide the necessary information to achieve a successful end result. Our participants began last season when they attended a step by step "beginner" dog mushing adventure with us. This year's adventure was to be a continuation of their training with each new step designed to challenge them. Since each person is different, each challenge is different to some extent. Our final "destination" for the weekend were the solo runs. Each women would be teamed up with the appropriate dogs and would use their newly gained knowledge in a 6 mile dog sled run in the wilderness alone.
The dogs know this trail. The participants now know this trail after using it for the past two adventures. They know how to safely run a dog sled and what to do in the event of a dog tangle or other altercation. Because our dogs are so dear to us and because we want our participants to succeed, we will not put a guest musher in a position we don't feel they are ready to tackle. These women were ready. We know exactly how long it takes to make this journey on dog sled and would be ready and waiting with the snowmobile should that time lapse without the appearance of a musher and team.
They needed to be totally self sufficient from beginning to end. Up until this time, they had worked in teams. We would only assist them by standing on the snow hook as they hooked up their team. This assistance would not have been "allowed", however the day previous, we had a quick release fail and thankfully the musher was standing on the hook at the time. We didn't want to risk another quick release failure and have the team lost right out of the chute.
Our mushers were greeted with a bit of new fallen snow so the trail would be fresh for the first musher out. Jen went first and methodically harnessed her dogs and began to set up the sled. Zala and Lilly were her leaders. Both have come a long way with their leading abilities this season and seemed to work very well together. Zala has gotten over many of the training issues we had during our fall training and now keeps the line tight at hook up and avoids dashing off the trail after critters. After Klaus' trail incident in a previous post, I hesitate to say "never". Sweet Pea and Frankie were her wheel dogs. We watched as Jen carefully pulled her quick release and removed the snow hook from the packed snow. Off they went!
Just like clockwork, they returned having had no incidents to speak of while out on the trail. Sandy was up next. Tuloon and Phoenix would be her leaders with Zodiak in wheel alone. This group would provide enough power for her solo adventure. The dogs were very well behaved for their guest mushers. Zodiak, who becomes very impatient at hook up and sometimes tries to bite the line, was a complete gentleman with Sandy. She carefully hooked up the dogs after having harnessed them and secured the sled. Step by step, she released the sled from its security; pull quick release and wrap around handle bars then pull hook. They're off!
Sandy, too, returned without a report of an issue. Her goal for the weekend was to not lose the team. Mission accomplished!
Cheryl was last up. Klaus, Oken and Journey would lead her on her solo trek into the wilderness. Her hook up was text book. Great job! The majority of things that can go wrong are at hook up when the dogs are so excited and the adrenaline is pumping. Everyone remained calm and collected which also transfers to the dogs. Down the trail they headed!
I kept a close eye on the clock. Hmmm. Cheryl's team seemed to be past due by about 10 minutes. I would give them a few more minutes before heading out on the snowmobile. I headed into the cabin to quickly change into some warmer clothes and then as I started the machine, Cheryl and team came down the trail towards the cabin. Cheryl was missing her hat and was a bit snowy but seemed fine as did all of the dogs. I was anxious to hear the story behind it.
Do you recall the mention of that challenging ninety degree turn on trail mentioned in a previous post? This would be the point on the return trip that Cheryl had a bit more challenge added to her solo adventure. The tree at the corner appeared to have knocked her off the runners and she lost the team! But only momentarily were they detached as she ran after them shouting "Whoa!" and they did! Good dogs! The hat flew off her head when she landed softly into the snow bank. This added adventure created more challenges for her and the team but they worked their way through it and it ended on a very good note. This is just considered to be one of those things that can happen when dog mushing. How you handle it is where the success lies. All in all, Cheryl had a very successful run.
I'm sure each participant learned quite a lot about themselves while out on the trail alone with the dogs or in their reflections after the trip. This is what it's all about.