Snow Daze

A week ago, we were buried under two feet of snow after winter storm Jonas tore through the northeast. I've been waiting for snow all winter (and fall, and summer...), and mother nature really delivered. This was Willy's first real snowstorm, and she loved it just as much as the other dogs.

I knew that once the storm was over and the roads were plowed, my local trails wouldn't be runnable for awhile. I took advantage of the empty streets and ran in the middle of the storm. We went out in the morning and again before dark, straight through the main roads of my town to side streets we've never mushed on before. We got a lot of waves, laughs, and strange looks from people shoveling. The streets were snowy enough for a smooth ride, while the woods and parks we usually run through were much too deep for the dogs. We didn't go very far or very fast, but it was enough to keep the dogs happy.

We had to cut our last run short because the visibility was making it hard to see headlights. Even though the roads were virtually empty, I didn't want to risk not seeing an oncoming car, so we packed it in.

Over the last few days, a lot of the snow has melted, but there's still a lot left. The roads around my neighborhood aren't runnable with the sled anymore, but the woods and parks are too snowy for the dryland rig. I also can't scale the giant snow mountains that are blocking our usual route. As luck should have it, my new Arctis dryland rig arrives on Tuesday, though I'm not sure when we'll get a chance to use it.

On Thursday, I drove out to Six Mile Run before work to see how the trails were holding up after a few days of thawing and refreezing. A lot of the blue trail was "punchy", hard on top with soft snow underneath. Snowshoers had packed it down a bit, so it wasn't too difficult to navigate. It's always rougher for Dexter, since he weighs more and tends to sink. There were also random patches of no snow, as well as extremely deep drifts, making it an unpredictable run.

Dexter decided to add to the fun by backing out of his collar and his harness. Luckily, his recall is dependable, so I let him run around like a jackass for a bit. He ended up trotting right back to his spot, after successfully annoying the very serious Denali while she was trying to work.

Our first real sled run of the season was not without some minor bloodshed. While sliding around a corner, I managed to whip myself into a thorn bush. I came out the other side with my hat and scarf nearly twisted off, plus a few scratches on my cheek and chin. Most notable being the rather deep cut in my lower eyelid, which will remind me to wear my damn goggles even when it's not snowing.

This morning, I went back out to Six Mile to see how the red trail system was holding up. The trailhead didn't look too promising -- the path was a well-packed sheet of ice. I gave Dexter the day off since his feet were a little chafed from Thursday. Without Dex to slow us down, I knew I was in for a lightening fast start with just the huskies.

I attempted to booty the dogs, but they all ended up flying off within the first hundred feet (ordered better sizes as soon as I got home). A "spectator" noticed and collected them for me while we were on the trail (thank you, whoever you are). As I expected, we flew down the first half mile or so and I'm very surprised I stayed upright.

After turning onto some lesser used trails, the dogs slowed to a reasonable trot. Eventually, they were breaking trail and running kind of "off". I don't think they were used to going as fast as they want, and without Dexter, they seemed a bit unbalanced. Knox was back in wheel, and Denali wasn't as focused in single lead (even though she used to always run alone). Knox is a bit taller than Dexter, which made him a bad running mate for Willy, who had trouble keeping herself untangled.

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About a mile in, I stopped to check everyone, and I could see each had at least one irritated paw pad. They had a lot more steam left, but I decided to head back to the truck rather than risk further injury. Dogs are only as good as their feet, and I wasn't about to let them get hurt.

I'm not quite sure what my plan is for tomorrow. I wanted to head up to High Point State Park, but the trail conditions seem equally icy. Next week will be very warm (in the 60s!), so I expect the dogs will have quite a bit of downtime until winter returns, but it might be the safest thing for now.

Jessica Kizmann

Dog musher, New Jersey.