Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trails heavily travelled

When running just one team at a time, one gets lucky to obtain a photo like this :)

While I took this blended team of mainstring racers and rookies/yearlings, out for one of the last March runs, I did some thinking on the trail.

I thought of all the dogs that entered and passed through my life. I thought of the difference between generations of our dogs and while watching the yearlings Runner and Rizey work smoothly and elegantly, I thought of all the puppies we harness broke and watched developing into strong and mature, dependable athletes. I´ve watched or assisted so many of the dogs on the team, to enter the world, took them for puppy walks, harness broke them, incorporated them into the main team and experienced some tough trainings, mountain trips and race challenges.

Many many dogs, many many hours, spent on those trails.

As I thought and smiled for myself with pleasant thoughts of the special moments, I also watched the numerous tracks that cross or follow the trails. They all tell their stories.

There was a 1 mile long fresh track of two moose. Judging from the sizes, it was most likely mother and a grown up youngster. They were feeding on the willows nearby the trail, but preffered to use the trail for travelling, instead of walking through the deep and heavy snow.

There are signs of ptarmigans, who inhibit the trail sides. Rabit tracks hopping from the woods, over the trail and into the forest on the other side. Martens and other small creatures seem to be busy all the winter as well.

Fox tracks have always something "silent" about them and they usually follow right along the trail, in a "respectful" distance.

Reindeers are the trail "hooligans". They always pee and poo on the trail. Not necessairly use it as a travel path, but rather zigzag back and forth. Thankfully, they are rather light and travel in herds, so their hoof marks are evenly spread over the trail, not creating too deep holes, which can be dangerous for the dogs, if they step in them, especially in higher speed.

Ocassionaly the iron dogs use the trails too, following Jachym´s trailbreaking tracks and thus also helping a bit to groom it.

The most recent traveller on the trails is the magical noble creature - the wolf. His or her tracks are the most valuable find for us, and there is no way of telling anyone where they were spoted! The local hunters are nuts about killing wolves and adding them into their trophy list, never mind the endangered species listing.

Together with lynx, the wolf tracks are among the most treasured sightings for us. It is really awsome to see them while travelling with the dog team - the silent, natural way.

So these are some of the thoughts that run through musher´s mind, while running dogs.

This time of the year, the amounts of sledding trips are counted extra carefully. You never know when the run you just made, will be the last sled run of the season, before the spring is definitely here. And in such state of mind, one thanks for another wonderful sled mushing season, for the adventures that the wilderness provides, and feels the apreciation for the trails, shared with and borrowed from the wild neighbours. They are, indeed, trails heavily travelled.

Fox tracks off the trail

trails used by multiple puppy feet

the silently travelled trails by Jachym´s team

Wolf tracks

Comming back from the run, with happy yearlings


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