I had eight dogs for my first run - a good number to start with. All the dogs on my sled were amazing and probably some of the best in the kennel. The leaders were multi-Iditarod finishers and nothing short of amazing. They knew the trail system remarkably well and probably could have run this 28-mile trail without any commands from me.
Alaskan huskies aren’t a breed of dog that commands respect, but it's impossible not to give it to them. The way they memorize hundreds of miles of trails, dart around trees and shrubs, and work as a team is quite remarkable. It’s like watching a well-oiled engine run right before your eyes. Forty-eight pistons of muscle move rapidly, pumping copious amounts of blood through their veins while they change gears between trots, paces, and gallops, depending on the terrain ahead.
The trailhead was about 45 minutes from Kasilof--quite an astonishing place to start my first dog run on my first trip to Alaska. It was a great day for running the dogs - bright, clear skies, no wind, and a 7° temperature. It was a nice day by Alaskan standards. To the north were two snow-camouflaged volcanoes. Yes, there are volcanoes in Alaska. To the south is where the trail leads us, down through valleys, over plateaus, and past breathtaking views every few minutes.
Today was one of those rare days that couldn't have ended sooner. The 53-mile trail took longer than usual, and the weather was even worse than usual. There was only a light rain that started later in the day but lasted all day. It fluctuated between a thick mist and light drizzle. At first thought, this would be nothing to worry about; however, when this dampness continues for 3-plus hours, it becomes annoying. The mist and rain pile up on your clothes until before you know it, you're soaked all the way through. As if this wasn't unpleasant enough, it begins to snow hard, and darkness is starting its daily house call. It was miserable.
Weather is a funny thing in Alaska, and you just have to learn to deal with it. If you waited for good weather in Alaska before you went out, you wouldn't get out much.