Rob's Blog Archive

October 28, 2012

A Walk in the Snow










About a week after Labor Day, I gave Joe Holod a phone call.  I wanted to do whatever I could to up my chances of being selected for the Serum Run and Joe was the point man for musher applications.  I figured that a week was enough for Joe to close shop for his summer helicopter business.  Close, but no cigar.  I was a day early.  He called back the following day.  It was during that phone call that I first learned that the Serum Run was short on applicants. 

About a month later, the day before the day the Serum Run had set to inform us who was on the team, he sent an e-mail to all of the applicants saying that the number of people was nearly a factor of two below what they needed to go ahead.  That was October 14th.  Eight days later, the word came that the 2013 Serum Run would be put off until 2014. 

Even before I learned that only a few people had signed up for the Serum Run, I had been prepping myself for the possibility that I didn’t make the team.   I really want to run the trail and visit the villages, but a number of other parts of my life would be on the back burner, particularly December through mid-March when training dogs and dealing with logistics would have become a more than full time vocation. I realized that doing the Serum Run or not would be a wash for me. 

For starters, I am not as far along with my writing career as I had hoped.  I had thought I might have an agent or at least a few positive nibbles by this time.  I’ve only written two agents, so I have been remiss.  Still, neither of them has responded, something I understand they usually do, particularly given that one had a self-addressed stamped envelope and the other was an e-mail query.  But it was summer, the publishing industry’s off season.  Only now, the end of October, am I wondering what actually happened.  With the cancellation of the Serum Run I really have time to focus on getting an agent.

Moreover, my Taekwon-Do should benefit a lot.  I’m planning on running the Yom Chi Taekwon-Do Association’s summer camp in Missoula this coming June.  I would have had time to do this after getting back from Alaska, but an easier schedule means I can do a better job of organizing it.  Beyond this, I’ll be able to really work on building up my class.

And, of course, sledding into the Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness remains on my to do list.  With the cancellation of the Serum Run, doing this this season looks particularly promising---a few people have already said they are interested.

Still, even with the mental preparation, it takes time to refocus.  Getting up bleary eyed for pre-dawn runs had been for a goal and that goal vanished.  Each dog had 27 hook-ups and 150 miles on October 19.  I was running two teams so my numbers were twice these---54 hook-ups and 300 miles.  By comparison, on the same date during the training year I ran in the Iditarod, each of my dogs had 25 hook-ups for 210 miles and I had 45 and 350 respectively.  I had committed myself to training for the Serum Run as much as when I had been training for Iditarod.

I received the final notice of the cancellation about a quarter past ten Monday evening.  Nighttime walks have been how I’ve cleared my mind since I was in college.  I decided a long nighttime walk would serve me well once again.  I fed the dogs, gave a couple their meds, then changed clothes.  It was snowing, the first real snow of the season.  About three inches of heavy unpacked snow on pavement and dirt road meant walking at a 3.5 mph clip was real work.  But that’s what I wanted---to be outside in the winter, breaking a bit of a sweat, clearing my mind. 

I started the walk at almost half past one.  I did delay starting my planned route by about ten minutes when I found strange tracks in the snow on my driveway.  My best guess was they were bear tracks.  Snow had filled them in and I couldn’t make out any details.  They were certainly big enough to be bear tracks and the pattern didn’t look like variations of single tracking like from cats or coyotes or wolves or even deer.  I followed them down to my pond, still not totally sure what they were, then decided that if I wanted to complete the walk before dawn, I had better actually start.

Fresh snow meant I could see the countless number of tracks I crossed, like on my driveway.  Almost all were deer tracks, but there were the bear tracks as well as a set of coyote tracks near my turn-around point.  It snowed lightly, very pleasant for walking, particularly with a good musher’s headlamp.  I didn’t see the tapetum lucidum of deer off the road like I normally do, but hunting season has started, so I wasn’t surprised.

I finished an hour and ten minutes later---four miles, a couple of moderate hills, and fresh snow.  Not a run, but good exercise nevertheless.  I peeled off my parka and jacket, then went upstairs and turned on the faucet to start the hot water for a bath.  While this was filling, I threw a couple more pieces of wood on the fire.

I buy my wood rather than take it from my property. This year I spent $110/cord for 4.5 cords split and stacked.  Best deal I’ve had to date and the wood has been as good as I’ve ever had.  Once again it’s lodgepole and, even more than in the past, it has lit quickly and produced good coals. During the last couple of weeks prior to the Serum Run being canceled, I felt a tinge of regret that I was most likely going to be in Alaska during the time of year when I could really take advantage of the season’s stock of wood.  My wood was telling me to stay.

There are three parts to adventure---preparation and planning, execution, and reminiscing.  As I’ve grown older and the number of adventures and misadventures has added up, the fraction of my joy that I get from reminiscing has also increased.  And there really isn’t a better place than sitting on my old beat up easy chair watching this year’s stock of wood burn and feeling the warmth it generates.  And with a little luck, I’ll get in to see the Chinese Wall, a few more memories for the cache.

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