Ever feel that weird sense of anti-climax where you missed some kind of big event but it’s actually kind of better anyway? Okay maybe I make no sense. It’s really strange to have a mushing year where I’m not pushing for a big end-season race. And now the mushing season is more or less over and I’m like… Wait what? Where was all the exhaustion, the struggle? Where was the hard but rewarding adventure?
Don’t get me wrong! There was adventure, and some difficulty. But not the same way there is training for and accomplishing a race. BUT! Long game! And keeping all that “fun” stuff in mind. So now, it’s spring, the season is over, we’re in the denouement, and… It’s gorgeous! If the sun isn’t out, it’s snowing. We have great trails still. The weather is warm (kind of too warm for the dogs’ liking, but pretty nice for humans). My team looks like a bunch of rockstars. And so– We go out and have some fun mushing!
Yesterday, we went on a lunchtime mush. We haven’t started the “Baby” puppies running in harness yet (I need a better group name for them, calling them the Fury Road + Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid group is waaaaaaay too cumbersome), but maybe this weekend. For now, it’s still the Core Four + the Star Wars pups. They are kicking butt. They look fabulous and are having a great time. Yesterday, Annie and Ophelia were up front. Ophelia is really getting the hang of running in lead: I think she’s gonna be a natural like her mom and dad. She is so smart it’s ridiculous. Then again, I may be biased about her.
We did the 5 mile loop we’ve been doing– the max I’ll travel with my Star Wars crew, because they are very young– which is one of my favorite little mushing trails anyway. I threw in a couple surprise turns, which Annie and Ophelia took on a dime, including one that required going across empty snow to a different trail. That can be more difficult for them to do, since they like having a trail to directly follow. I can’t wait to unlock their potential… One day we’ll be writing ATAO’s name in the snow with our leader skills! That’s my dream anyway. Ha!
The run was cloudy but the trees looked beautiful after a slight dusting of snow. The dogs were fired up and pulled the hook on me a few times. About halfway through our run, we noticed we had some company. A friendly co-traveler was hopping from tree to tree, or swooping down in front of the leaders to tease them. Ravens love to travel with dog teams. They are pretty smart, and know a traveling team sometimes gets snacks. This raven-friend clicked and cawed at us for almost the whole trip through the slough trail. He even stopped and waited with us while we took breaks. I tried to get a picture of him but he was a bit too wiley for us. I was happy to share our run, though. Ravens can be a big pest– there’s a reason Raven is often the trickster god of various mythologies– but they are also special creatures, and I always value their company on the trail. In one of my Jr. Iditarods, long ago, a raven stayed with my team for miles and miles– flying up ahead and landing on the snow, and then taking off again when the dogs got close. That trailside companion got my team revved up every time they thought they might get close enough to catch him! But of course they never did.
I feel so lucky to be living this life I’ve dreamed of for so long. I feel surrounded by good friends, the ones in the woods and the yard, and the ones who helped me get here. I’m looking out the window of my cabin at snow and trees and peace. ATAO is where it’s meant to be. And, we’re making our plans and dreams for next year.