There are times when you are out sledding and everything is perfect. It was like that the last weekend in February. During the night the dogs had howled several times, a sure sign that a snow storm was on its way..
While sipping coffee, I watched the dogs playing in the fresh powder, a multitude of prints as they chased and sniffed throughout the yard. It was a good time to see if anyone was sore, stiff or limping, all is well.
With the dogs and sled loaded into the truck, we headed for one of the most picturesque places to sled, the Zyomitz river. It is a wide trail which runs alongside the river then winds among large trees and back out onto the trail. I often think of a ping pong game when going through the trees.
The dogs were all eager to go, with a tug on the line, we were released from the truck and flying down the trail. You could feel the magic in the air, snowflakes were coming down like fluffy feathers. The dogs ran like they knew the end of the season was coming. All you could hear was the swooshing of the dogs feet and runners in the snow. The clips and bells made soft ringing sounds in the forest.
As we came up to the first set of trees I felt a bit of fear. It always makes me nervous to go through tight twists and curves, especially with nine fresh dogs. With a death grip on the handlebar we forged ahead. We made it! Whew, now I could relax and enjoy the ride. There were no animal tracks to be seen, it was almost as if we were the only ones out there that day.
The dogs seemed tireless heading up the mountain. If the trails were good we would continue on up to Sleeping Beauty, if not, then they would get a treat and a short rest before heading back down. Nearing the steeper trail we ran into another musher preparing to leave. The snow was getting deeper and I decided to turn my team around. The other team kept going as they were fresher while mine needed a break. I had to wait until the other team was out of sight before I could trust the snowhook to hold them. Finally, they calmed down enough that I could drop the snowhook into the snow and open the sled bag. This made them forget the other team long enough for me to pull out the treats. They enjoyed their treats of frozen meat as well as a long drink of water. They only rested for about 10 minutes, that's when the boys started to get restless. When they start jumping up and down and screaming its time to go, I didn't linger. I packed the sled up and off we went.
Panda I let run loose down the hill, she was still hurting from an earlier injury and would be more comfortable coming down at her own speed. I was right, she kept up with the sled and didn't re-injure herself. I noticed the dog's ears were moving back and forth, a sure sign of something around.
The snow stopped falling and the sun was peaking out, this made the snow hanging on the branches of the trees, a picture perfect white against the blue patches of sky.
As we came around the corner, I spotted two dogs playing on the trail. Darn, now I have to deal with loose dogs! With a sense of relief I spot someone coming down the trail behind the dogs. Slowing the team down I realized that was not a person, but a wolf and those were not dogs. Panicking, I call softly to Panda, who was still running loose, I clipped her back into the gangline. What do I do now?