Over the past week, we’ve been on two different camping trips to prepare the dogs for life on the trail. Most of the team are veterans, so the second straw is laid down, they immediately curl up and catch some shut eye. The two-year-olds, however, aren’t quite as disciplined. They like to play with their neighbor, dig in the snow, or bark at mysterious noises. After a short while, they eventually learn that straw means nap time, and they settle in for a short nap. During both of the campouts, we trained with the dog truck. This means hooking 26 dogs up to the front of the Ford, and cruising down unmaintained back roads. On the one hand, I feel really detached from the team as I roll the window down to yell “Ready, let’s go!” over the roar of the diesel engine. But on the other hand, sitting in a heated cab, listening to music, and making hot, fresh tea with a Jet Boil stove is pretty plush! While I wouldn’t want to train solely with a truck, it sure was comfortable at times :)
Our first camp was with fellow mushers from Squid Acres Kennels and Trail Breaker Kennels. We drove Standard Creek Road just south of Fairbanks. After running for a few hours, we bedded down the dogs for a four hour rest while we chatted with friends, made s’mores, and laughed around a campfire.
A few days later, we went looking for snow and gorgeous scenery on the Denali Highway. The Denali Highway is one of my favorite locations. Take a look at some of these photos, and you’ll see why! We’d stayed the night at Alpine Creek Lodge, and then continued down the Highway the following day, traversing from Cantwell to Paxson. I was very pleased by several young leaders stepping up and charging ahead, even with the chaos of 26 dogs running in a mob. Elmer, Cooke, Wingman, Boone, Jana, Lefty, and Goblin all took turns leading the hoard. Probably my favorite part about truck training is the fact that the whole squad is running together. I can watch all the dogs at one time, and they run shoulder to shoulder, reinforcing the team unity. I feel like a coach, watching their team work side by side, smiling, joking with one another, charging forward driven by a common goal.