Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Amazing Journeys

After a few years of my schedule not working out I FINALLY found myself back in Denali traveling way back to the Kantishna Road House and picking up the pups from 'summer camp'. All other trips in and out are offered up to our best volunteers as thanks for the hard work they do for the dogs here at the kennel and within the Sled Dog Sanctuary.

Only six dogs go in (four of ours this time and two from Second Chance League) and when the four of ours left it always leaves a great hole in the yard but a great homecoming when they return. For those at the lodge it is always hard to see them come back home to us. Many of the dogs connected with the employees in ways only they can which makes the parting all that much harder when the lodge closes up for the season.

Emmitt Peters runs the dog operation there at the lodge and we have worked with him for many years. It is wonderful to send back dogs to him for the summer that he has grown to love and we are thrilled to have someone on the other end who we can trust so much to take good care of our best friends.

We have plans to meet up with him again once the snow flys so the 'summer dogs' can see him again this winter and he can get a chance to take them on the trail on a sled rather than a four wheeler.

I look forward to hearing more about his history in the sport, his travels with dogs, his well known father and maybe even get a chance to learn more about his grandfather who was also an amazing dog driver in his day.

Mushing history is what I thrive on and it is so very thrilling to see my life being led towards so many interesting facts, meeting interesting people and learning so much along the way. Of course the dogs teach me so much about their history just being themselves but I find that I still crave the language that exists within my own species and the tales of the past that still exist there.

On the way out of the park we made a quick stop into the Denali Kennels and I had the chance to meet up with Jen, the kennel manager, who I had only previously spoken to on the phone. It was wonderful to talk dogs and trails with her and the park staff. Looking at the map of Denali and the parks trails it was clear to me that this was a place that would lead to even more adventure! I was a firm believer for so long that I could only access the park in the summer but surprisingly the regulations are not as high as I expected and a musher with team is most welcome anywhere in the park!

We also talked to the rangers about commercial opportunities so things may open up where we could set up our ride packages to go directly into the park completely sustained by dog team travel... just when I thought I had wrapped my mind around the many adventures for the future I find that there are even more I hadn't even dreamed of!! How amazing!!

And of course, the dogs will be thrilled to go along with us on this experience. It is my utmost pleasure to have my best friends for company along with the many adventures that await. I'm sure there will also be some foster dogs who will cut their teeth on these trails as well. In my mind I am always setting up challenges and runs that will help us better understand what our rescues are capable of and what they can excel to. It helps us fill out their resumes to better match them into future homes.

But the highlight of visiting the park was not only establishing and sustaining our good relationships there but knowing that since the Sled Dog Sanctuary is now a 501c3 non profit that we are eligible for many items the park has need to dispose of such as old sleds, old camping gear, harnesses, you name it...

Since the Sanctuary will be open for all the world to see, and have so much land to use, it will be perfect to expand our teaching to the general public and have plenty of room for the display of old gear. Since we lean toward education of the public through our sport we are the perfect organization to receive these donations from the park service!!

While much of the gear may not be safe to use on the trail it will be PERFECT for teaching in so many ways. My love of the mushing history and the freighting dogs will come full circle as I can continue to teach others about the history of our sport not only with words but with authentic gear as well!!

Jen was so kind to load us up already on a surplus of gear by donating harnesses and booties that we stuffed in the truck for the ride home. We will have to sort through the gear to determine sizes and what exactly is there and once we figure out what we have it will be very easy to part with them over time as our foster dogs get adopted. What a better way than for one of our foster dogs to go into a home already wearing a harness that they are familiar with!

Overall the trip into the park was amazing, as always, but the wildlife sightings were dwarfed by the intensity of connections that were made over a very short, very fun filled two days in Denali. The big mountain was out as well but my mind has a hard time thinking on that when it seems so full with so many other details and future opportunities for the dogs!

Off we go, continuing on to the more exciting trails to come!!