This season has been exceptionally low on snow, with October going down as the driest October in the history of Fairbanks! One might think I was sorely disappointed by the weather (since mushing is preferable on a sled); however, I have to admit, the crystal clear blue sky days followed by extravagant aurora displays were fine by me. After a wet summer, I'm soaking up all the Vitamin D I can. Also, who wouldn't want to look at the northern lights? The lights have been so active, that occasionally I'd see them on my drive to work at 7:00 AM in the morning!
As the miles are starting to get longer, we're spending lots of time puttering along on an ATV. In September and the beginning of October, we stick to dirt roads, but as the swamps freeze up, the Two Rivers trail system triples in size. Two Rivers is known for having some of the best training conditions in all of Alaska: hills, flats, rivers, passing dog teams, loose dogs, cars, cabins- we have it all. And because of that, there are literally thousands of little offshoots. Sometimes they work as dog trails, and other times we find ourselves at the end of wood cutter's area and have to turn a 16 dog team 180 degrees in the other direction. Or we crash through weak overflow ice. Or we high center the ATV on tussoks the size of a beach ball. Whatever the obstacle, I love it- it keeps it interesting!
*You might notice I've been saying "we," which is in reference to the dogs, myself, and Gunhild! Gunhild is joining Ryno Kennel this season from Norway. I will be doing a proper introduction in near future!
Just yesterday, we received our first substantial amount of snow. About three to four inches fell over the course of yesterday and last night. The dogs are in heaven!! Every time we stopped, they'd bite the snow, roll around, and cover themselves in a blanket of snow crystals. Watching their bubbling excitement reminded me of a class of elementary school kids out in their first snowy recess, squealing, rolling around, chasing each other and just genuinely happy.
As many of the longtime Kennel followers know, Fire and Ham are some of the main leaders who blaze through any obstacle. Their knowledge of Gee and Haw is flawless, and a trail is not necessary, they'll make their own. Recently, I've been working on training other young dogs to be just as bold, and they've been doing great! The video below is of Katy (who is already an all-star leader) and Belle in lead with Lefty and Boone in swing navigating a massive patch of overflow on the banks of the Chena River. I called them off the safety of the shore and out onto the ice. While they didn't respond immediately to the commands, they still did exceptionally well and are showing lots of progress! Running across thin ice is a terrifying thought for lots of these guys (except Drake who wishes he lived in water), so the trust and determination shown is impressive! The video ends when I realized I could go no farther in the ATV because we'd busted through the overflow and the ice in front was too thick to bulldoze. This ended up being one of those times were we practiced a full team turn around :)