I stopped looking forward to birthdays after passing all the big milestones—driving, voting, drinking, and, uh, renting a car I guess? After 30, you’re really just paying attention to the first digit. And when that number changes, it’s not really a joyous occasion. It’s more like, oh fuck, wasn’t I just 17?
Of course, at 31, I’m far from old and hopefully far from the cold, sterile lab where my remains will be donated to whatever cause finds use for them. Still, every year is a reminder that life is fleeting.
I was up several times this morning, well before dawn, hoping to see multiple inches of snow on the balcony. This is (most likely) it—the final hurrah of the 2017-2018 mushing season. It’ll be in the 70s by the weekend, with lows bottoming out at 40ºF, so we're mostly done running. I still wanted that 400 miles. On my birthday. On snow.
At around 6:30 AM, I could no longer sleep, and decided to make the most of the ~2” that had fallen. At the very least, the dogs would have some fun in the yard before the snow turned to rain. I really, really wanted to take out my brand new Prairie Bilt sled. It arrived last week and I can tell it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s more maneuverable and durable than my wooden sled, with a large bag and plenty of storage space for carrying gear and dogs. This will be our expedition sled and I can hardly wait.
But, wait I shall.
I loafed around most of the morning, ate a large breakfast, and peaked into work to see what I was missing (we're encouraged to take PTO on our birthday). At around 9 AM, I saw our old neighbor walk by with his four tiny dogs (and a broken arm) in the wintry mix. This guy is dedicated. Once he was out of the way, I figured the trail would most likely be empty. Time to gear up.
I harnessed the team and we rolled out on the dryland cart, since the snow wasn’t sticking on the trail. I thought they’d be more fired up, especially since we hadn’t run in awhile, but they seem to be in off-season mode already. Still, we managed seven slushy miles through some beautiful, snowy scenery.
The tree that had fallen on our main dirt road was cleared, so we got to go further on a slightly smoother stretch of trail. We did encounter some people and a loose dog (of course) but they were in the distance, and got him under control and out of the way well before we approached. Two coyotes also crossed our path directly in front of the team. They're a nice omen from the forest and a boost for the dogs on our return home.
And so, we got our 400 miles (401.7 to be exact). In the snow, on my 31st birthday. Alone, save for the dogs, on the side of a 7,200 foot mountain in Southern California. A strange life, but I’m so happy to be living it.