Team Walkabout is a recreational dog sledding team based in the Colorado Front Range. We run for the enjoyment of working as a team, the sense of adventure and exploring new trail systems but most importantly of all, for the dog's own enjoyment. To allow them to ...
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I’m sat at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, waiting for a red eye back to Colorado. This trip to 49th state has been everything and more that I expected and needed. A chance to talk and listen to friends, meet new people and to be involved, as a handler, with “The Last Great Race”, the Iditarod. It was an incredible experience to witness and listen to these professional mushers work and interact with their dog teams. I’m very thankful for such amazing friends who were able to put that together for me.
Despite the unseasonably warm weather and low snow pack, I was able to get out for a few runs and oh boy, was that an eye opener! Not only was running more seasoned and trained teams an insight to how dogs work, but the mushing style and trail conditions were completely foreign to me, for starters, we weren’t constantly going either up or down a mountain!
Alaska is a place of contrasts and compliments. The contrast of stark beauty and treacherous conditions and colorful, hardened souls that compliment the landscape. The Iditarod this year is a testament to the toughness of it’s mushers. In the few, short years I’ve followed the race, I’ve haven’t seen so many busted up sleds and people. My thoughts are with those who’ve had their dreams and hard work end (for now) in some bad trail conditions, the outcome of the decision to keep the route through barren, snow-free portions of trail will be something I watch closely.
I feel I leave Alaska a little wiser and humbler than when I arrived, seeing so many experts handle their teams with professionalism makes you realize how little you know and that there’s not a chance I would run a race like the Iditarod. However, I’ve also seen unfortunate conditions of neglect caused through circumstance that makes me realize how much I love and miss my dogs. It was an eye opener to the inevitable fate we will all face.
Till next time Alaska, I’m sure it won’t be long.
Originally this post began it’s existence as a welcoming of the cooler weather and the seasonal shift into the Fall. Work, family, dogs and life in general delayed the creative process, and so this commentary on the coming North Wind became more a celebration and reflection of what was.
A number things start to happen in the Rockies around September of each year – aside from the annual pilgrimage of people traveling to the high country to witness the changing of the Aspen’s. The winter gear is pulled from storage and the truck is packed with the typical cargo of tire chains, water containers, spare cold weather clothing, harnesses and gang-lines. Deer meat, to help the dogs through the coming months, that is generously donated by friends, is processed, bagged and stashed into the freezers. And finally, the dog houses are filled with warm straw and the electric freeze proof water bucket are plugged in.
We can proudly say the one thing we don’t have to prepare this Fall is our firewood, early season cutting and stacking has the house ready for the coming months. My own indicator the seasons have truly changed is marked by the lighting of the first fire, which this year came in mid September.
Solitary Runs on the Pass
The most obvious change around the property is the uncontained excitement and energy of the dogs and this year our training started in earnest on September 1st. With more consistently paced, slightly slower but longer runs than in years before, the dogs quickly found their groove and settled into their stride for the longer runs. Although the sled runners didn’t hit the ground until mid-November, snow at higher elevations made the longer runs on the ATV easier on the dogs feet.
Rollin Pass, while being conveniently close to the kennel and an easy grade for the dogs run up, has had a double dose of fortune this year. Road graders went up in the summer, wiping out the “Rock Garden”; dodging neck breaking, head-ache inducing ”boulders” on the ATV was a dreaded inevitability in the past, so THANK YOU Gilpen County. Also for the first time in my experiences with the pass, the snow has been runnable on sled earlier in the season. The fortunate combination of heavy snow showers, cold weather and forgiving winds have kept the snow base.
Work continues converting the old Lama stable into an oversized, luxury dog house. After digging out half a foot of 7 year old Lama poop that had began to represent a concrete foundation, the wall along one side of the structure was removed, opening up the view to forest and meadow below. The floor has been leveled, tiled and sides water sealed (dog pee proof!), and with the help of friend, on a cold wintery day, the old workbench was converted into the framework for the new dog houses. When the ground thaws in the spring, the heavy lifting work of filling, leveling, tiling and finally fencing the barn’s surrounding day run area begins.
I post this reflection about a season, a hope, a shifting of gears at the start of a new season, one where miles start to pass by under the runners of a sled. We here at Team Walkabout wish everyone the best of travels and happiness for the season. May the trails be smooth, the wind at your backs and your fridge stocked with the warmest wintery ales.