On my way out of Eureka yesterday, driving slowly to scan for dog teams and potholes, I came up on someone driving an ATV. It was Rick Swenson, the five time Iditarod winner. I stopped and rolled my window down as he turned off his machine, and I said, "Hey man, how was your summer?!" Rick said, "Hot and wet. How was the glacier, Tim?" At first I was just a little bit surprised, I thought it was so neat that Rick Swenson remembered who I was, and that somewhere in the file cabinet of Rick's mind, I existed. It's never a good idea to soak up too much of someone's time, especially out here where the free time enjoyed by folks living in 'civil'ization is consumed by survival chores, so I drove off. The gravel road that leads out of Eureka is sidelined with a number of trails that branch off, each one of them a different wooded hallway that meanders its way uniquely towards wilderness and adventure and unavoidably treachery and ultimately memories of life's epic moments that people don't get to see. On my way out, I saw each trail as a scrapbook of different events. All of the sunsets and rises, wipeouts and near misses, wildlife sightings and water crossings that we've had the last few years, together as a dog team but completely removed from the eyes of anyone else on the planet. This is where the real relationship exists. Somewhere in the file cabinet of Eureka's mind, lives the memories and experiences that this place has seen, and I exist there too.
It is really just an incredible place that many of you reading this will possibly already know about, but that I will certainly highlight and display this winter through this channel. The first week back after having been on the glacier all summer has been a welcome adjustment! We are becoming reacquainted with the intricacies and responsibilities of the homestead, meeting a whole new class of puppies, and most enjoyably getting to run and hang out with all of our old buddies again! We are excited beyond words to be teaming up with Brent Sass and the dogs of Wild and Free Mushing to put together a HOT Iditarod team this year! This group has barrels of potential and athleticism, and they're just plain fun to run. It's going to be life changing to watch what these dogs are capable of, and to see what I am personally capable of.
We have been getting up to run during the cooler morning hours, but it still isn't cold enough to go very far. For the time being, and while each dog run isn’t taking up too much of the day, we’re in prep mode and burnin daylight! Hanging 1300 fish for winter dog food, fire wood loads, moose hunting, cleaning and prepping all of the winter gear and workspaces. Once all of these systems get dialed in and ready to flipping ROCK, we can step into them as needed and not have to tinker around, too much…This way all of our time and energy is going into the dogs. What is, in my opinion, one of our greatest keys to successful dog training and ultimately a successful race, is our focus on the goal. We sit farrrr removed from power grids, cell towers, home depot, or the pub. Training long distance sled dogs in the bush gives the advantage of no distractions. It’s just dogs, doGS, DOGS!!! Just the way we like it.
What we want is two successful races this season, success being all aboard happy n healthy GOAL. How we make that a reality is through hard work and dedication in the months and even years leading up to the race. You gotta practice like you’re gunna play, or practice harder! And we’ve heard that practice makes perfect, but id say perfect practice makes perfect. This is a squad that really enjoys what it does. They like to hook up and go for a run, lean into the harness, and bark anytime we stop for any reason. And they’ve enjoyed it their entire lives together. Siblings, parents, cousins, uncles. This pack of sled dogs is worth falling in love with, and is going to be epic to travel with them this winter.