Saturday, 6 November 2004

November 6, 2004 Togo Reflections

It seems like it was just yesterday that I was writing about arriving in Togo and tomorrow I am already leaving. It is always amazing to me how quickly time slips away.

It has been another worthwhile visit for the dogs – and an enjoyable time for me. I saw lots of old friends, made some new ones, camped out with the team a few times, sat around a lot of campfires, discovered a bunch of new leaders, and got incredibly muddy – what more could anyone ask for??
I’m even more excited about the prospects for this team then I was before this trip. In addition to Hilda, Jr and Batdog are also taking confident new steps as leaders. Snickers, Skor, and Dasher (especially Dasher) have all shown that they want to spend a lot of time in front of the team. Kara as been a real pleasant surprise – she was a great leader for me last year, but never had the confidence to push other leaders around or demand the team go her way. This trip she has begun to ‘take charge’ of the team when she is running lead. Yeah Kara.

I’ll give you all a little synopsis of the way the trip went.

The days after I arrived were supposed to be quiet while Jamie was away teaching a Pull Clinic in Oklahoma – they weren’t. Thanks to a few dinner invitations (thanks Jim and Peter!!) and a visit from Terry Miller and Diane Newman with their teams I was pleasantly occupied for all 3 days.

When Jamie arrived home – the morning after Liz Parish arrived with her team from Oregon - things kicked into high gear as we got a few runs in and planned for Button Box weekend. For those of you that haven’t followed my diaries before – Button Box is an annual, by invitation only camping weekend with dogs hosted by Jamie. The format accommodates all mushers from recreational to more serious, sprint to distance.

Jamie led 9 of us on an overnight trip that landed us in the Button Box campground on Saturday afternoon. Mushers that had chosen to drive over or run a shorter trip straight from Jamie’s to the campground had already arrived.

Jamie and I settled our teams in and then got a ride back home to do dog chores for the dogs left behind. Happiest to see us was young Lingo. Opps, seems I forgot to mention Lingo!! Jamie’s husband Ken was up in Alaska caribou hunting and bought home with him the newest addition to NorthWapiti – Lingo - a beautiful bi-eyed, silver and white, 6 month old pup from Bob Chlupach. Lingo’s name was actually Lochsa when he was with Bob and Sharon, but that just didn’t roll well off my tongue. I haven’t actually got permission from Bob to change his name yet, so he now answers to Lingo, Lochsa, or Puppy Puppy. I’ll let you know as soon as we know what his name ends up being!!
Anyway, we finished chores and visiting with Lingo and hustled back to the campground in time for deep fried turkey and a wonderful potluck dinner (if whoever made the great salad with the walnuts and apples in it reads this – I’d love the recipe. No fear Mark – I won’t serve it to you.).

Afterwards every one hooked up/woke up their teams and headed out on a run. Jamie and I ran our teams back to her place. In the morning, joined by Chris Johnson, we ran back to the campground. More food, another trip by vehicle back to Jamie’s to do chores, more runs, a great night in woods, and a few runs later found us all back at Jamie’s.

The only disappointment was that we forgot to do the group photo this year. With 40 + people and hundreds of dogs – it is the only way to remember who all attended!

We ran a couple days the next week, but also gave the dogs 2 days off to recover from their first real ‘push’ for the season. Thursday night had folks gathering for the Soumi Hills run. Unfortunately, the storm clouds were also gathering. Some changes in our format for this run meant that although we were doing a series of camping trips, we were ‘staging’ each of the runs from Jamie’s yard. The first leg was planned to be 4 – 15 mile runs with 2 – 4 hour breaks between each leg. We had a good run over to our first plan campsite, settled the dogs in and got a fire roaring for dinner. About the time we were packing away our meals thunder started to sound in the distance. Jamie will run through most anything weather wise – except lightning storms which tend to be particularly fierce in this area. We discussed our options and after a 2-hour break for the dogs – headed home in a hurry.

It was kind of neat and kind of scary to be running when the storm hit. I ended up taking Snickers out of lead as a big crack of thunder made her jump nearly out of her fur. This was a job for Chester. He led us home without hesitation through thunder and hard, hard driving rain – just like I knew he would!

The next day, due to similar forecast for Saturday we opted to stay close to home and all did a 25-mile run. Since we were all home for the evening, we headed over to the Junction Bar to celebrate Ken and Jamie’s Anniversary. We left just about the time a few local girls that were feeling no pain, launched into a memorable version of the Dixie’s Chicks “Good bye Earl”.

The next morning was “Green Leader Sunday” (see previous diary entry). We also planned on making a camping trip of the run – heading 20 miles or so to the Franklin Lake cabin, resting there for a couple hours and running home. That planned was squashed when we got to the Valley River Bridge and found it under about 3 ½ feet of water from Friday night’s storm. We gathered at the bridge, debated our options and deemed there was no safe way across. So we ran back to Jamie’s and camped for 3 hours in her yard before heading out for a 17-mile run.

The next morning we rounded the weekend off with a 15-mile group run. It was a weekend filled with running dogs, good food, and good company. Who could ask for more?

Jamie and I rounded the week off with a few more runs, including a very memorable 14 mile exploring trip done by her, myself, Liz and Rebecca Chapman. It was a rough introduction to lead for young JR, who slogged through mud, crashed through bush and waded through swamp for miles and miles. He did great though, I was so pleased. I do owe big thanks to Rebecca Chapman for coming back through a ½ mile of nasty swamp to help me extract my ATV from a nasty mud hole. Up to almost our waists in cold, disgusting swamp water, we pushed and pulled along with the dogs and managed to extract the machine. I moved my team ahead to a little higher spot and the two of us slogged back – stumbling, splashing and laughing - a few hundred yards to help Liz get her machine out of the sucking mud. Just has we freed her, Jamie appeared “What’s the problem?”, she asked, as she had scooted through the swamp luckily missing all of the major holes. I threatened to hold her underwater to help her see the problem more clearly. She wisely stayed out of my reach as we made our way back to our teams.
Liz left on Thursday and that now brings us to today – Saturday. I will be packing up this morning and hitting the road by noon. I’ll spend the night with Nancy and Roger Johnson in Devil’s Lake, ND and be home by midnight or so Sunday night. Tired, but filled with great memories and a much better team then I had 3 weeks ago.


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