Nanuq and I headed out to Dogsled Stacie's place this afternoon for some skijoring fun! Jon from Icy Waters was also there, each of us using two dogs to skijor.
The last time I skijored with two dogs when when I used Stacie's dog, Jack, to help teach Nanuq what he was supposed to do. This time, it was Nanuq, me and Stacie's dog, Ripper.
After some minor struggles attaching the dogs to my harness, we were ready to go. Well, almost. I watched in amazement as Nanuq started howling along with the other dogs. I used to think that the dogs were just being noisy. Now I'm pretty sure that it means, "C'mon! What are we waiting for?!" Nanuq was excited that we were going skijoring!
Stacie's team was out of the gate first and Nanuq and Ripper and I were hot on their heels. So hot, that we began to overtake them. Nanuq and Ripper were so eager to run! There was no hesitation on Nanuq's part this time, he knew exactly what he was supposed to do: run faster than the guys in front! I tried to stop them, and the most effective way of doing that was to fall flat on my butt. Which I did.
Up again and careening down the driveway, I saw Stacie hang a right on a trail that ran parallel to the road. Ripper got it right, but Nanuq and I missed the turn and ended up on the road, where we were joined by Ripper. Another right-hand turn was ahead and I wanted to slow the two excited powerhouses down a little. So I landed on my butt.
Over the shoulder along the roadside and not feeling very stable, I landed on my butt.
Down the trail along the highway and over a couple of access roads and I was down on my butt, this time scraping along the gravel. You see, the dogs didn't agree with my stopping (sometimes intentional and sometimes unintentional), and they just kept pulling.
Finally, we turned on the trail that led out into Shallow Bay. My hands were numb cold in my knitted mitts (not Granny-knitted mitts, which I wouldn't want to subject to getting dragged across gravel), which is not a good thing when you're just getting started. I had some warmer mitts in my backpack, but with the two beasts so focussed on high-speed pulling, I didn't dare attempt to put them on. Mostly my hands were cold because, other than falling on my butt, I hadn't done a lick of work. I started pushing with my poles, if only to get my circulation going again.
Out onto Shallow Bay and around Policeman's Point we flew. Occasionally, Stacie or Jon might stop to let everyone else by (by landing on their butts, I might add). Jon was practising passing with his team and they were doing quite a good job of it. Nanuq and Ripper didn't like getting passed and it was hard to hold them back - they were right on the tails of Jon's skis!
A pass here and a pass there, we took few breaks and Nanuq and Ripper didn't seem to want them. They would each take a mouthful of snow and start trying to pull again. In the wind, I could feel ice balls forming on my beard and I could see a light frost forming down one side of Ripper's neck. And still we flew, the dogs' tongues hanging out as they happily pulled.
After one brief stop, I got tangled up when Nanuq walked around me and started pulling when Stacie flew by. Wrapped in the rope, I fell flat on my butt and the dogs dragged me over a wooden trail marker, which I broke. After a minor struggle to get untangled, I dragged the dogs back to the marker and to where the marker belonged and re-planted it. That was the last time I fell on my butt.
The scenery around us was amazing and I tried to take it all in. It was a 360-panoramic view of the mountains and it was beautiful. I didn't have my camera, but that didn't matter. I really didn't get a chance to savour it, either. I was too busy trying to stay upright as we flew over hard-packed drifts. I smiled a great, big smile. I kept thinking over and over, This is awesome.
We approached a cutbank and I tried to adjust one of my skis. The ski popped off and I walked with one foot and skied with the other up the bank. This required no effort on my part; the dogs pulled me all the way up. What did require effort was holding them back while I tried to put my ski back on. We were about 5/8th of the way through the trip and they were still eager to pull.
When I finally did get my ski back on, were were a fair distance behind Stacie and Jon. I said, "Good boys!" and they started pulling harder. I said, "Let's go get 'em!" and they started pulling harder still.
Down the road and along another trail, the dogs slowed a little, which I was grateful for, since there was some sand and gravel on the road and it was starting to get dark. At one point, as I tried to cross to a less-rocky side of the road, I saw sparks fly from the metal strips that run along the sides of my skis. A few more turns and we were through the gate and into the yard.
And I just kept thinking, over and over, This is awesome!