The Work Day at Mammoth Dog Teams
A glow develops behind the White Mountains, to the east, promising some warmth on the day. Thirty, or so, gallons of soup have already begun to come to a boil, steaming up and then refreezing, yes refreezing - the trails will be iced over and in great condition this morning for our dog sledding adventures. The pack stirs, not quite awake, yet the excitement of running dances on the cold of the morning. Soup means hydration, yet it is much deeper, it means another day to pull sleds, and that is what they live for, echoed over thousands of years, and endless miles of snowy trails, through each breath of their ancestors.
It is all about the sled dogs. They have accepted me, as a musher, into the team, demanded every bit that resides within, and expect more every waking dawn. There is no choice, for our worlds have merged, in fact, the two are so intertwined that each night they run through the darkest and coldest parts of my mind, splashing warmth on my dreams. This is no nine to five, this is a lifestyle.
Morning chores are done effortlessly, moving quickly to avoid the deep cold, and by the time the team is loaded up, trucked to the trail, and setup, the sun is shining brightly with warmth. Shortly after, the first family arrives. Many families have never met a sled dog before, and many return year after year, asking about certain dogs by name, for each is mild mannered and possess their own lovable personality. Excitement takes over as soon as someone sits in the sled. The family gets comfortable while the harnesses are attached to the tug line. This is how it has always been done, spanning across boundaries of local Mammoth Lakes dog sledding history, to Alaskan and Yukon history. It was a way of life that sustained frontier fur trappers and supplied entire towns in cold formidable climates.
The anchor is pulled, and through a high energy cloud of barks the musher calls, “Hike!” The sled, a hand crafted original modeled after traditional Alaskan freight sleds, glides over the still icy snow packed trail across snowy meadows with rugged mountainous backdrops and through picturesque forests. Conversation slides gently across the snow from specific dogs and personalities, team positions, sleds, local and natural history, to the history of the “Great Last Race”, the Iditarod and the legend of Balto, the dog that saved the entire town of Nome, Alaska. The team, dogs and mushers, and the ride itself, ask people to look through a window, or even step through a door, into this world, this lifestyle, see the knowledge and warmth, feel it, for it is found in every breath of our day.
By: Chad Brotherton, Mammoth Dog Teams Musher
Copyright © 2012 Mammoth Dog Teams