Hold On!!

Now it was our turn to be the musher after we sat for a while in the sled on wide open trails. Sitting and watching the dogs work was awesome! I bought a patch in Alaska that holds true and makes me laugh every time I read it. It says, “Unless you’re the lead dog, the scenery does not change.” This implies you are always looking at the dog’s butt in front of you instead of the wide white yonder of Alaska. Here are some pictures to show how humans are not the lead dog! Mushing in the open space was a bit easier than when we changed to tighter trails. However, if the snow was loose then everything was challenging. My cousin’s husband, Aroush, was in the lead. Joanna, in the middle. I was the last leg, the caboose so to speak. We learned a lot on that day and had the pleasure of being outside for several hours longer than scheduled. It was glorious!

An example of the learning process was that if the rails of the sled go off the set trail even a little bit…the sled falls to the side, therefore dumping the passenger riding in the sled. The rails can also ice over and the musher can slide off then fall while the dogs still run off in the course. The dogs are the saving grace of the expedition and the mushers have them very well trained. If a person were to fall off, then they could give commands to the dogs to get them to stop, which they did, instantly. I probably don’t have to tell you readers how treacherous it could be out there in the frozen wilderness. There have been many stories written from Call of the Wild by Jack London to Frozen by Disney. Wolves are just one thing to think about out there. Ice, frostbite, dog maintenance and care, then the list goes on and I was only a visitor. I am certain the races across Alaska are beyond extreme and one has to have their wits about them at all times. This is my relaxing way of staying that mushers are amazingly strong willed mentally and physically muscular.

The most sore I have ever been was after this trip. One of my lessons was a live action one. There is a foot brake in the middle of the sled rails to stop the dogs in an emergency. I somehow got my feet off the rails…maybe I was running at that point to jump on and the dogs took off quickly. Or, one foot may have been off and the other stumbled. Whatever the case, I tried to get back on the rails and they were iced over. I ran in the middle and jumped on and slid off. This repeated three times until I could not keep up with the dogs…stamina wise. So I just held on to the hand bar. Everyone says I have a really quiet voice even when I think I am yelling. I called out to my musher, JJ and he did not hear me right away. So I held on. I called out as loud as I could and then he turned to see what was happening. Poor guy was probably enjoying the scenery and relaxing. He said, “Oh my gosh,” then reached around and used his hand on the foot break to stop the dogs. After we got all situated he said, “Karen, usually people just let go,” and I replied, “I was afraid there could be wolves out here.” He told me there were (not at this time) but that he would have noticed I fell and stopped the dogs. I was forever grateful for him on that day. I also learned how strong the human spirit really is. I see it in movies and used it a few times climbing, but to hold on while being dragged by dogs was something else. The sweet dogs listened to JJ immediately because he is amazing at what he does. He also builds great relationships with them, as with people. I highly recommend Earthsong Lodge if you want to try this activity. Jon is the owner and very kind. Hands down the best time and their clients safety is top priority.

Thank you for reading and have a great start to your week. I released new ornaments yesterday. If anyone is interested, here is the link. All are inspired by our Alaska trip with a bit of artistic whimsy for this holiday season!

-Karen Hilliard

Also, if you would like to show support, I recently joined “buy me a coffee” which is a way for anyone to contribute to the creative process behind the paintings. Fuel the artist so to speak. Here is the link if you are interested and I truly appreciate the support and the fact that you are liking these blogs, as well as my art posts. I am working hard to bring you all fresh content!
Thank you again for all of your support!

-Karen Hilliard

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