Smoke hangs in the boggy recesses from distant wood stoves. The dogs alert me to things in the woods before I even notice them other wise. My leaders' ears perk up, alert, searching the thicket. Two green dots glow in the woods, something watching me, us. I look over, and the pale beam of my headlamp parts the darkness and finds a lone doe standing, staring at what must seem like a startling spectacle on the trail. A girl and 9 dogs in the night.
I'm tired. After teaching all morning, working for my other job at the medical school, zooming home to be there for Elise when she gets off the bus, and dealing with dinner, it's sometimes difficult to find the motivation to head out into the night and hook up nine screaming huskies hell bent on miles to a line and go.
But once I'm out there, under the stars breathing that cool, crisp air, I'm wide awake.
The dogs chug along, puffs of steam rising from their mouths like tiny train engines. I look up at the stars; it seems like there's a billion visible out here in the night. I think about the upcoming winter.
Mushing is not for those who need instant gratification. It takes perseverance and dedication in training to build up to a place where dogs can go miles and miles once the snow flies. Hours are logged behind dog butts to get to that point, build endurance and good habits and muscle. Keeping perspective is essential. I must remember always what the end goal is. My friend Joann Fortier has a saying for those nights when we don't feel like hooking up the dogs: you just got passed. Consistent hook ups are crucial. Even on nights when we might not want to.
I think of Kerouac and one of my favorite lines: "there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rollin' under the stars."
And we keep rollin, rollin, rollin...