Sitting in my luxurious suite at the Intercontinental Hotel on the ‘Miracle Mile’ in Chicago awaiting room service.
I left Anchorage at 11:15 pm last night, all the flights in and out of Alaska are between 11 pm and 1 am. Hell on the sleep wake cycle. Arrived around 9 am. (6 am back at the Gulch) and spent the day shopping on Michigan Ave. I’m not much of a shopper but it was so totally opposite of my new life at the Gulch that I enjoyed every minute. More than the shopping I was overwhelmed by all the people and all the life. I got such a kick out of the diversity that I just experienced.
Still I miss my moose neighbors, the crashing surf below the round house and my 68 canines…soon to be 69. A new pup is going to be joining the dog yard soon……mine! No not my sweet Cada who will remain back in New England but a bonafide sled dog yet to be selected, named, trained and at this point in it’s young life, clueless as to what awaits. I think a pup in training will be the perfect partner as we can learn ‘Gee and Haw’ together. Wonder who will catch on first?
So for the next two weeks I will be speaking and traveling from Chicago to Boston to Denver and then back to my new wondrous life in the wilds of Alaska where everyday poises some kind of unbelievable adventure.
As for the new pup?? I have my eye on two three month old beauties over at Paul Gebhardt’s dog yard both with impressive bloodlines. I just can’t decide…….
So what do you think? Shall I take on a robust male with brains, strength and determination or the small runt of the litter but with a whole lot of heart?
Or are you really shaking your head wondering how many times I have hit mine and lost all my senses up there in Alaska?
Stay tuned – life at the Gulch is anything but mundane.
But Fancy’s place as retired dog of the manor is secure. I hope she is sleeping in Anna’s bed for the next two weeks.
Come climb, explore and mush with me!
Sorry my posts have been few and far between. By the time I am back in my little ’round house’ it is well past 10pm and I am toast. Normally my evening would just be getting started at 10 but that was before I had all these wet noses to attend to. Mine included!
My 62 buddies are really 68 since I accidentally forgot the 6 puppies in the puppy yard! They are about 8 weeks old and already act and think they are sled dogs raring to go. They scream bloody murder and only when one escapes do the other 62 alumni react. This morning three dug their way out of the pen and made a mad dash. I had to laugh at the three who decided to stay in the pen. I told Anna those three escapees reminded me of myself in high school -I would be the one escaping. But there would always be those three that play by the rules. Remember? The kiss ups? The teacher’s pet? The narcs? The stool pigeon? They exist in the dog world too.
So I now have learned the names and identity of about 12 dogs. I mean I really know them; their personalities are starting to come through and traits that make them distinctive. There’s ‘Zeus’ a big happy male who has a neurosis….he gnaws on his tail and instead of big and fluffy his looks like a lion’s tail with a small plume hanging from the tip. ‘Nike’ reminds me of my Cada back at home, she has a squarer nuzzle. ‘Aardvark’ is a tall skinny girl who knows exactly where she lives and can be let off the line and will head home, well with some coaching anyway. ‘Rainy’ is the tiniest of the gang and looks like a fox but when she runs I say she looks just like a raccoon. To a dog this is the worst thing I could say. Rainy hates me.
So, I’m getting somewhere right? Sounds like progress except when they are hooked up to the line and are running…they all look the same to me. I am in big trouble as identification is crucial from this vantage point too. Anna tells me I will get to know them by their gate and stride.
Except for lion tail and the running raccoon; I’ve got them down pat!
Come climb, explore and mush with me!
Must be quiet, clean, non-smoker, doesn’t eat raw fish parts and housebroken.
I was told that Alaska has more men than women. I won’t go into details but this statistic is true.
I have been here ten days and the news of an east coast woman at the dog kennel has made its way around the area. This Saturday night there is a get together.
Ms. Wendy L. Booker regrets that she will be unable to accept the kind invitation
to watch the fights this Saturday evening the Fifteenth of October.
I will be heading back home via Chicago where I am speaking. But, I promise to make it to the next one!
As for a roommate? I have one. She is curled up next to me.
Come climb, explore and mush with me.
No one is more surprised than me by how incredibly fast I have adopted and embraced this new life……I’m absolutely loving it!
It’s too late for me to write a longer blog, the morning comes all too soon. As soon as I open my eyes, I pull on clothing that I would have burned back east by now and hurriedly scramble over to the dog yard. My canine companions are already barking and howling. The sun is just a sliver on the horizon or the rain is pelting making the dog yard a muddy swimming hole. After getting the team harnessed and attached to the tow line we’re off.
For the next hour I am mesmerized. Some mornings we run on the beach along the most pristine stretch of sand with crashing surf, seals and a pair of enormous bald eagles standing along the surf. Across the Cook Inlet, are the snow covered mountains and four volcanoes. The most prominent, Mt. Redoubt, erupted back in 2009. Should we head inland we cross meadows and spruce forests forging deep puddles spraying us with mud. The evening runs are just as spectacular with the most magnificent sunsets.
I am trying to concentrate on the dog team, their gate, temperaments and personalities but I am so distracted by all that surrounds me. My days are full from sunrise to sunset doing things so totally new and unexpected. I am totally immersed in this, my new life.
Come mush, explore, climb with me! The journey will be joyful and nothing like you ever expected.
Good thing I learned how to fire a gun this spring back in MA. Cause just as I thought, here in Alaska they just hand you one and say, “Here, just don’t break anything.”
I now am the proud owner of a Ruger SP101 357 Magnum…..whatever that is. Now this is really humorous to me and I am sure the town of Soldotna is also laughing. In Alaska anyone can carry a gun, concealed or otherwise, anywhere. I just walked into a sporting goods store to purchase a holster. I can’t believe if I want to go for a run I have to wear a gun! I left the thing locked in the trunk of the car. They asked me to bring it into the shop. I argued. They laughed. I carried it in wrapped in a yellow plastic bag. They told me they had never seen anyone carry a gun in a yellow plastic bag. They are still laughing. And $62.00 later, I have a belt and a holster…locked in my trunk in a yellow plastic bag.
Won’t be jogging any time soon.
Come mush with me!!!
In less than 48 hours I feel I have already experienced an abundance of Alaska. Yet despite all that is unfamiliar I write this blog post from a Starbucks 20 miles north of my cabin on Cohoe Rd. This grande non-fat latte is the best one I have ever had.
So I actually thought that climbing Aconcagua was the filthiest, dirtiest, yuckiest I have ever been. That mountain is known for the dirt and discomfort. Wrong! A dog yard with 62 dogs (less than I originally thought, thank goodness) is far, far worse. Add to the mix persistent rain, mud and what is 62 times four? 248 legs and you can imagine. I am covered with things too nasty to mention.
I met the 248 legs yesterday evening for a 6:30 pm run through the fields. We are on an ATV the dogs attached. For them its kind of a treadmill workout. Sounds rather cushy for me, the musher. It’s the preparation for the actual ride that is the work. Each dog is assigned a team, harnessed and escorted to their place. These aren’t your docile domesticated pooch, these guys are pure adrenaline and ready to roll. And at this moment in my training they know I am not only a rookie, I believe they know I am from Boston and I’m betting they know I grew up with……..ugh Poodles!! I can feel their utter disdain every time I enter the dog yard. I really think they are setting me up. They must meet and plot and plan my inauguration while I am unaware. They relish the idea of seeing my clean pants covered in mud, my boots covered in poo and my hands smelling of fish. They calculate how to misbehave as I struggle with their harness or unclip them from the tug line. I swear the minute Anna or Dean’s backs are turned those 248 legs have their fun!
Don’t believe me? I was given a 12 year old dog to keep me company at my cabin a distance from the dog yard. She is retired, aging and enjoying her golden years. Her name is Fancy and she is a delicate, mild mannered thing… for everyone else. After spending a warm comfy night with me in my cabin this morning she bursts in the door with a hunk of raw salmon in her mouth and attempts to jump up on my bed!! Even she got the memo.
I am dirty and already tired but captivated by the new experience. I have so much to learn. One of the biggest problems, other than learning about the dogs, I can’t go for a run because of the “wildlife.” A few days ago a large Mama bear and her two cubs were roaming close to my cabin. I understand Boston joggers are one of their favorite snacks. I can go for a run but it will be necessary to wear a gun (more about that tomorrow) and I don’t even like to carry a cell phone.
Do you think the dogs and bears are in cahoots?
Come Mush with Me!……..guess you’re rethinking that just now.
This blog is a personal message to Mr. Cleere’s new class starting their school year in a few days. Are you ready to join me on this our latest adventure?
I awoke this morning to the sun rising over the mountains in Anchorage. I have been to Anchorage many times before but never in the summer. The mountains are brown and green with only small patches of snow. Denali is shrouded in clouds, always illusive, always snow covered. Gone are my summer clothes and for the next ten days it will be cloudy and rainy with high temperatures of only 60 degrees. I am told the ice and snow will be here by October.
Today I set about figuring things out. I need a few basics. A pick-up truck….imagine that! Internet and a cell phone that covers Alaska. While still in the big city of Anchorage I am hopeful to take care of these necessities. Food and water can wait. This afternoon two wonderful old friends from my first Denali climb, Antonia and Vickie, are giving me a welcome luncheon. We have stayed in touch all these years and how joyful to now be reunited once again in Alaska!
Tomorrow I make my way 150 miles south to Soldotna and on to Clam Gulch my new home on the Cook Inlet. There, waiting for me, are nearly 100 dogs anxious to begin their training regime after a summer off. How long will it take them to figure out that I am a rookie?
At the moment, I have those all too familiar butterflies in my stomach. Apprehension, the feeling of being so very far from all that is familiar, mixed in with a bit of fear. They are not new to me, I just haven’t had them since…well, since last winter on the South Pole. So as I say to myself often, “Get over it!”
Let the adventure begin!
I have been known to go around half cocked. Half with it, half in the moment, half baked, over baked! Under loved, over fed. I’ve been called all sorts of crazy names, some nice, some not so nice. Heck my own trainer Jeremy had several choice names for me just this morning – all of which I shall not repeat.
I love when I go into the Donald McKay school and visit my kids and use an expression and Mr. Cleere points out that what I just said was an idiom. Idiom yes, but until this past Tuesday I didn’t know what half cocked really meant. I was always equating it to “three sheets to the wind.” Been there done that.
I tried really hard to remain relaxed but I could feel my right shoulder scoot up to my ear. My arms were locked straight out in front, rigid. In fact my entire body was rigid as I closed one eye and tried to locate the sight and the target. Picking up a fully loaded revolver for the first time is a very surreal event. Preparing to fire it at a paper target in a very controlled environment within the confines of an indoor shooting range, a police officer guiding my every move made me feel marginally better. Then I was instructed to pull the hammer back half way…..half cocked! Every step I made before actually pulling the trigger took thought and precision. But as long as I was still only going around half cocked all was well and the gun wasn’t quite ready to fire. It’s the second half of that half cocked thing that gets me every time.
I’m thinking I like being three sheets to the wind far better than going around half cocked. I’m betting the moose in Alaska will like it better too!
Climb, explore and mush with me!