Back on the Trail

I planned to mush as much as possible this week—every day, if I could swing it. The warm spell we were under finally broke and, starting tomorrow night, we'll be cramming into a tiny Venice bungalow for a couple days. This means the dogs will be spending most of their days confined to crates while I attend a work retreat. Luckily, the office is only three miles away, so I’ll be able to check on them. I also spent over $100 on new chews and toys to keep them busy. (And people say sled dogs have it rough.)

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I wanted to run 30+ miles this week, both to exhaust the team before their week of confinement, and to hit the 400 mile mark for this season. Our last two runs at home weren’t great. Last Saturday, I went out well after sunset, and still ran into people and their loose dog. Thankfully it was another husky and my dogs always seem to get along with northern breeds. (Racists? Breedists?)

We ran again on Monday and managed to flip the cart over while maneuvering a rocky downhill section. It was my fault—I was fumbling with my mitten and didn't drop the claw brake. Hubble started pulling (he’s still learning what “whoa” means), which got the rest of the team moving. The cart awkwardly spilled on its side, which is rare, given the shape of this thing. I was still clutching my mitten when I turned it upright, lost my footing, and this time got dragged on my knees (but I didn’t lose the team!). My arms are strained and my legs are now a lovely shade of black and blue—watch out Venice Beach!

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On top of numerous bad experiences on these trails, Blitz and Knox have been pretty spooked about running from our yard. I’m not entirely sure what caused it, but I’m guessing it’s the way the cart bangs out the gate and down our gravel driveway. When we run at other locations they’re both screaming to go, as usual, so I know they’re not calling it quits. 

Though it pains me to see cold days slip away “unmushed” (and to have Denali follow me around the house whining about it), I may give up on these trails for the remainder of my time here. The universe is telling me that they’re unsafe, whether it’s loose dogs, old people, bad terrain, or mountain lions (oh yeah, there was a mountain lion a few blocks away). Something is going to happen and I especially don’t want to risk it while I’m alone up here. 

We'll take advantage of the trails at Holcomb Valley while we still can. It's a lot smoother and I've had very few dog encounters. The only people I tend to see are camped or off roading. It still requires loading everything into the van and driving about 20-30 minutes, but we'll manage with what we've got before warm weather sets in for good.

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This morning we squeezed in eight miles before the temperatures got too warm. I wanted to wake up earlier and hit the road by 5:30 AM, but a local bear was sorting through our neighbor's trash, so I decided to avoid that confrontation and sleep until 6. 

The dogs were exploding with energy after several days off, but I have to keep a close eye on them as we attempt slightly longer runs—especially when temperatures are above freezing. The girls and Blitz know how to pace themselves, so I don't worry about them too much. Hubble is still young and runs at full throttle, which needs constant monitoring. Knox also knows how to trot when he's tired, but there's not much he can do about his woolly coat. Plenty of water breaks and shady trails helped, and the team is now snoozing happily around me.

Tomorrow we'll run again before driving down to the coast. I'm still eager to attempt 6 miles/rest/another 6 miles, but the forecast looks too warm for it. Either way, I'm proud of these dogs and looking forward to what next season will bring.

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