Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blessed by the Kindness of Strangers

"Glory behold all my eyes have seen" - Ben Harper
View over the Mackinaw Bridge in the U.P.

Today, I went into town to my local meat market to pick up some beef scraps to start supplementing for the dogs. After I bought several pounds of meat, I was about to pull out of the driveway when the butcher's assistant comes out, knocking on my passengers' side window.

"Wait - he's got something for you," she says through the window. Karma, our psychotic, needy cattle dog starts growling from the seat next to me. Stranger danger.

Karma, the neurotic Cattle Dog

Out followed the butcher. "My son has had this venison since last season. We want to give it to you, we need to rotate stock," he says, handing me about 18 pounds of frozen venison!

"What do you want for it?" I ask.

"You don't have to give me anything. I just want to see pictures of those dogs," he says, smiling and walking away before I can give him any cash.

Not only am I able to live my dreams right now, working as a freelancer and training in the beautiful Upper Peninsula, now random acts of kindness from strangers abound. I returned today to find an offer to run dogs in Alaska from my friend, Jason Cameron, of Kachemak Kennels once I have a successful Midnight Run under my belt.

On top of ALL that, it's SNOWING!!!

Life is beautiful, my friends. And I am so, so thankful for all that I have.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Handlers Needed!

After a week or so with Jim's dogs, I received the green light to sign up for the 91 mile Midnight Run Sled Dog Race from Jim. I will be using his dogs, which are Iditarod-caliber Alaskan Huskies, most of whom are pictured in the posts previous to this one.

The Midnight Run is the end goal, with two other distance races beforehand. I will be running with my friend, Joann Fortier, a veteran of the race, whose blog is linked to mine.

For information about the race, please click on the following link:

Handlers Needed!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Images in Black & White

Team Resting in the Sunlight

What we do during a simulated checkpoint: Jim, resting on a straw bale

Jughead and Sparrow

Ernie and Dave

Danger and Arrow

Three Pups

And now for some color...

Rachel stopped at camp

Team running along the road

Pretty lake where we got water during camp out

Whew! Back at home now and attempting to fill in the blanks of all the things that happened that I didn't write about.

Notes to Self from Sled Dog Camp

#1. Make sure when taking off on an unfamiliar quad, you know all the weird ways "reverse" engages on the particular machine. I got stuck in a large sand hill with a tree smack in front of the quad (don't ask) and had to literally pick up and drag the thing in knee-deep sand for over an hour to get it out because I couldn't get it into reverse!

#2. Don't assume the little blinking arrow on a GPS is pointing the way you're going.

#3. Don't assume learning how to use a GPS is self-explainatory!

#4. Always be prepared. For anything: rain, cold, being lost, being hungry...

Friday, October 24, 2008

Photo Journal from the Trail

Cheerios, who I've nicknamed 'Mouse'

Dave the dog, Ernie and Libby resting

Team stopped at camp

My favorite yearling, Coco, stopped along the trail yesterday

Leader Eric

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Talkin' Dog

Woke early this morning to a brisk, beautiful 19 degrees and a white layer of frost over everything - even the dogs! Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera to take pictures (how unlike me!). So you'll have to rely on my word.

I hooked up a seven dog team, a blend of my yearling Yeti and my Jack, two pups and three adults from Jim's group. We went on a breath taking nine mile run, then after unhooking and watering, Jim, Jennifer, Tom and myself went up to a restaurant in McMillian for a lunch with some mushers. Iditarod veteran Ed Stielstra, Iditarod '09rookies Tim Riley and Kim Darst, Deb and Bill Glenn and some others were there, and I had my favorite breakfast: eggs over easy with toast. Yum!

I have been talking dog -- or talking topics related to running dogs -- for a week now. It seems the dog talk is endless in these circles.

Tomorrow, we are going on our first camp out with all 40 dogs in the yard. A camp out doesn't necessarily involve camping out all night. It's a simulated check point to prepare the dogs for races, so they know how to get much-needed rest while they can. We will go out 15 miles, then water and feed the dogs, give them straw and "bed down" for two or three hours. We'll be taking a lot of Jim's yearlings, so it should be interesting! The aim is to get the dogs to settle down, then hook 'em back up and head the 15 miles back to the cabin for a 30 mile run total. This will be my first camp out. I'm excited! The weather is supposed to be clear and cold like today was. I will definitely have my camera this time!

There is a 60% chance of snow up here on Sunday according to the latest reports. I am slated to leave on Saturday. The dogs are howling out in the yard as I type. As always, I don't want to leave.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hookin' Up

Too Busy To Write

You know it's a busy time when I'm too busy to write! Hopefully these pictures will speak volumes... It's a beautiful thing when you lose track of days, when you wake up, have coffee, and head out to the dog yard within 1/2 hour of waking, when you're only chores involve being with four-legged creatures who are always happy to see you.

Early morning on the trail, 35 degrees this a.m.

Happy dogs on the trail

Some of the dogs who do it

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Images from Sled Dog Training Camp

Friday, October 17, 2008

Trails End Kennel - Mackinaw City, Mich

Spent last night and today with Karla and Dan Dann at Trails End Kennel in Mackinaw City, Mich. at the gateway to the Upper Peninsula. They have a beautiful boarding kennel and run a sled dog touring company. Karla has raced sprint and mid-distance classes for fourteen years. She and her husband, Dan, are involved in Mackinaw Mush

Yeti, my escape artist, broke out of several places at the kennel. We need to Yeti-proof!

Thank you, Karla and Dan!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Notes from the road: via Bay City, MI

It is the beginning of the great migration - of birds and people. While birds travel south for the winter, the dogs and I defy nature and head north. It is the day after my birthday. And I'm off to run dogs.

Monday, October 13, 2008

How They Travel: Dog Box is Finally Finished!

Finally finished! Kid Tested...soon to find out if it's dog approved.

"Let It Snow" with our site on the bottom in my lovely freehand (not!)

Sophie in the box. If she can fit, I'm sure the dogs will be plenty comfy

Celebrating a month's worth of work

Giddy and no make up, Sophie and I celebrated the occasion with a burger! A rareity for me! My birthday is Wednesday, so we're celebrating that too...and then I leave for the U.P. for fall training! YAY!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

I Wish I Was the Moon Tonight...

Dog box, the early stages

Trying it out

Hired Hands

Almost finished...

a wonderful break after a hard day's work!

Watch the sun go down...

...and down...

Kayaking by moonlight

I am on the lake; it is an hour after sunset on an almost full moon. The moon is so bright, I can almost write by its light. The lake looks like a shiny, black sheet. A bard owl calls in the distance. Fish jump. The moon dances with its own reflection in the water. As Neko Case says, I wish I was the moon tonight. I am best in solitude.

Friday, October 10, 2008

A shy grebe

A really bad photo of Podilymbus podiceps or Pied-billed grebe. It's difficult to get a good photo of these extremely shy birds.

Fall colors on the lake by my home

Sunset on the lake by my home

Needing grounding, I retreated for what will surely be one of the last wonderful evenings on the kayak tonight. It's ironic I ground myself in water. The buoyancy lightens me, and I feel safer out on the water than most anywhere on earth. I watch the flow of the current in the distance. I breathe.

I always feel this pressure to be somewhere else, connected. Especially now that I'm working for myself.

But tonight I see what I at first think is a loon, and I'm immediately back in the moment. All things fade. I hear a dog bark in the distance, hear the crickets chorus & fish jump.

I paddle quietly toward the grebe, but it is tremendously shy and, rarely flying, the grebe dives for cover when confronted with danger. And it does: ducking silently under the dark water, only to pop up moments later far in the distance - far away from me. It evades me. I get too close, and finally it juts under the surface and stays under a long, long time. It's gone.

The moon is out. The air is cool, and steam rises from the dark water. It's 6:57 and already the sun is set.

I have learned more about wildlife by being on the water than anywhere else. The dorsal fin of some big fish swirls out of the water. It is shallow, and the fin spins slow circles before submerging back down to its private world below me.

I sip coffee and take my time paddling. The moon hangs in the sky.

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Bugs fly around me; I swat them away. A fish jumps; a small ripple ensues. The boat creaks as I paddle. I lean into my turns, and head for home.