Anthony has been running with me for over a week now. We’ve logged almost 10 runs. He’s a natural. Because I’m so far removed from my first run, and Anthony is a thoughtful guy, I asked him to pen his impressions of his first run. Was very pleased to read it and am happy Anthony decided to share it with all of us.
My first mushing Experience
On the night of January 5th, 2011, I was on my way to Kyle’s place, maybe a half mile down the icy road pondering how the evening might play out. Being raised on a farm in Kansas, where 6 inches of snow was a good winter, I had zero idea of what dog sledding was all about. I had not yet learned that there is something magnetically fascinating about this endeavor.
As I pulled into Kyle’s driveway, I became apprehensive and excited about the notion that I was going to try something entirely new challenging, and was entirely humbled by the fact that I was being afforded this opportunity.
After greeting Kyle and taking a few initial pointers on the procedures and attitude, lines and sleds were readied and positioned for the hook-up. The first practical lesson of the night came when Kyle gathered and explained how to properly don a harness and attach a dog to the lines. At first this seemed to be a very complicated process and I became nervous when it was my turn to try, but I steadfastly gathered the dog chosen t run on that team, followed the instructions of my teacher, and slipped him into a harness without much effort. The dog, no stranger to the harness, was cooperative during my first tries and generally stood erect allowing me to manipulate its limbs one direction then the next until I had everything figured out. By the time I hooked up the fourth and final dog, the process made perfect sense and the gentle dogs seemed to slip effortlessly into harness.
While I watched Kyle assemble his team, I realized that there was great skill and technique to be learned about just hooking up the dogs. Had I gotten in over my head on this one? It was dark. I did not have a super idea of the trail layout or snow conditions, but I knew to trust the animals, hang on, and follow Kyle. Before I knew it, and while I pondered what might happen in my very near future, Kyle was hooked up and ready to go. I received a few final pointers regarding the trail conditions and special areas the went to stand on my sled. As I stood, dogs totally erect in anticipation of the run, I donned my gloves, looked over each dogs’ harness and line, went through the various details of my education so far and gave Kyle the signal that I was ready. I felt as though I was a cowboy setting atop a giant bull nervously signaling the chute operator to open the gate and let loose the incredible power of nature that I had decided to tinker with.
As I watched Kyle’s team dart off as fast as rabbits and snap around the corner and onto the trail, I knew that it was now time for the anticipation to end. I pulled the quick release snap that was tied to my anchor line, preventing the dogs from running. In a nanosecond my sled was on the move and I was zipping right along with it. The shear speed and force by which the sled moved was immediately addictive. It was a rush that I would liken to an astronaut setting at the tip of a rocket when the words…3…2…1…launch…are heard.
I knew about a sharp incline int he trial that followed the turn I had jus seen kyle pass. As I approached th hill, moving faster than I expected, I gently stepped on the tread and coasted effortlessly behind the dogs who by this time were in full swing and clearly in their element. Following our arrival at the bottom of the incline, I hollered Gee Gee Gee, which I was told is the command for turn right. Immediately the lead dogs darted exactly where they needed to and continued to pull with incredible drive.
The initial shock of what had happened only wore off about 5 minutes after we had left eh starting position. It was then that I broke my intense concentration of holding onto the sled for dear life and watching ever move of every dog. It was not a particularly bright night, but there was light enough to see basic shapes like trees and dogs. The night sky was partially clouded but stars still shone and the air was crisp and fresh. It was under this backdrop that I began to listen. What I heard was almost indescribably peaceful, almost spiritual. It was the sound of an amazing new natural engine that I had never hear before running full out on all cylinders. However, unlike the brute force and toxic smells that my snow machine belches out power under, this engine made no noise, no smell, the air flowed naturally over you. It didn’t jerk and clink with strain as metal ground here and there on other pieces of metal. Literally the only sound, sight, or other sense to be detected was the swoosh of my sled and the little pitter patter of the teams feet as they darted forward behind Kyle at an astonishing pace. This tranquility remained with me for the rest of the experience.
By the time we had returned home I was in such a relaxed and peaceful stet that I hardly remember returning the dogs to their homes with warm hay and food, content that they had run, played and lived.
Perhaps the most surprising issue of the night is the lasting impression it made on me. I have found myself attempting to clear out the clutter in my mind only to have it come back to the experiences of that night. The hardships, training, and other variables which inevitably present obstacles to mushing must be worth it. Right? I now understand why one would want to take on such a pursuit. Like surfing, hang gliding, etc. it is truly and indescribably experience. The connection between rider, the serenity of nature and the traditional instincts that are harder to describe are undoubtedly a reality that some may not escape, myself included.
Sure you’ll be hearing form Anthony again. He’s hooked.