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April 13, 2014

A Fitting Last Run

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everything looked good.  The 17 mile skijor run I took on Thursday was warm and the snow was soft, but that was midday on a warm day.  The run itself had been spectacular, particularly when I started.  It got a little hazy during the day, but there really wasn’t any overcast.  I enjoyed the views along the trail throughout the run. 

During that run, snow coverage had been close to perfect.  The trailhead was about ten miles from the two I normally use, but it was at the same altitude.  I checked the snow on Saturday at the two trailheads I use most often.  It looked icy but still pretty thick. 

I planned Sunday’s night run around three things.  First, the moon was only one day short of full.  Second, clear skies were forecast ---it would cool off quickly and, if terrain permitted, I could run by moonlight.  Finally, I hoped there’d be good snow.  Maybe I’d come across a couple of blank spots I could ski around, but that would be it. 

After hooking the dogs up, moving over to my skis, then mounting them, I yelled, “Hike!” Shone and Prudhoe took off.  The first mile and a half lived up to my expectations---a little icy but still quite runnable and the moon was rising over a clear horizon.  Unfortunately, only the first mile and a half lived up to my hopes.  The first downhill included several sections where I skied on a crowned swath of snow a foot or so wide.  During the next two miles, a foot wide swath would constitute a good section.  I’d end up taking off my skis or walking on dirt with them still on and the dogs still pulling--- they did pretty good with an “easy” command----for a couple of miles. 

By the time I turned up Archibald Loop, I realized that my hope of knocking off a 35 mile run, at least doing it without pulling out some stops, wasn’t happening.  For sure, a moonlight run with all the aesthetics wasn’t.  I decided to push on as much as I needed to complete one other goal:  200 miles of skijoring during the season.

The run ended up being 17 miles of skijoring, including any mileage while I had my skis on but not the mile and a half during which I carried them.  With this, I just topped 200 miles. 

By itself, the 200 miles of skijoring was symbolic of the season.  Off by a factor of six from what I had hoped to do, it still topped my previous number of miles skijored in a season by a lot.  With 20 skijoring hook-ups, that gave me an average of 10 miles each.  Prior to last year when I did a 16 then 23 mile skijor run to see how easy or hard that would be, my longest skijor run was 8 miles---my average run this past season exceeded anything I had done prior to my starting to consider skijoring the Iditarod Trail. 

While there are “successes” in these numbers, failures clearly dominate.  If they were my only criteria for judging the past season, it would have really sucked.  The numbers, however, don’t list the new things I tried and learned from or succeeded at.

Perhaps what best symbolizes all this was the night my dogs and I spent in Skwentna.   Comfortable at -15 F, we had covered 30 miles on our first day and 29 on our second.  These included 20 and 28 miles, respectively, of skijoring and took 5.75 and 6.25 hours including rests, also respectively.   At Skwentna, I had hoped to be able to get water from town, but ended up melting snow instead.  It took more time than I had planned, but as faux pas’ go, I wasn’t concerned---it was easy to laugh when I learned that had I checked the other side of the river, I would have found the Skwentna Roadhouse and water.  The next morning, it took forever for sun to hit the campsite.  I had chosen a spot adjacent to where dogs had been and would be parked during the Iditarod itself, and that spot was arguably the worst campsite in that area.  Still, I made it warm and comfy for my dogs and me.

This past season, the season of bare ground unlimited, ended up being very short of what I had hoped for.  Still, I skijored, sledded, and walked 160 miles of the Iditarod Trail unsupported by any race or other organization.  I enjoyed sub-zero nights in camp with only the dogs, the one on the Skwentna River as well as one about 15 miles before Finger Lake.  I remembered stories of mountaineering bivouacs as I did mine in the middle of the Dalzell Gorge with my dogs, my bivouac being exhausted but comfortable.  And, while I flew out after only 160 miles, I know that next time, I will get to Nome. 

 

 

   
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