Saturday, 17 November 2007

November 17, 2007 Camping Trips & ER Visit

I've been doing a fair number of 'mini' camping trips this fall - basically they were glorified coffee outings to my friend Lisa's place - but the dogs don't know that! J  Works out great, as the dogs were getting good runs and experience resting in harness, but it was time to really stretch them out on a real camping trip.

The original plan was to go camping last Friday, but plans got stalled Thursday when Mark walked out of the bush without his ATV and asked if I'd mind driving him to the hospital. When I asked what the problem was he held up his left hand to show 4 fingers pointing in one direction and his ring finger pointing an entirely different way.

I should have taken a picture, but honestly, I was too busy trying to keep my lunch down.

Mark was greeted warmly by the ER staff at the Athabasca Hospital - he tried to tell me that the nurse worked at Alpac in addition to putting shifts in a the hospital, but I'm thinking he is just becoming a 'regular' in the ER.

After the receptionist, nurse and just about everyone else gave 'oh gross' exclamations at Mark's hand they froze the finger and yanked it back into place. A few days with a splint and his hand is mostly back to normal.

We dragged his ATV up the hill it was stuck on with my ATV the next day. Thankfully it did not require an ER visit.

So, Mark back to full strength we decided to try again yesterday. As he was just coming off a stretch of night shifts, he slept through the day, we fed the yard at 4 pm, fed ourselves, packed up and hit the trail around 7pm. 

The run to the campground was a solid one. The dogs hadn't been on a night run in while and were having a blast. We bounced off tussocks in the muskeg reminiscent of the trail from Ophir to Iditarod on last year's race.

Three big animals bounced across the road right in front of my team. At first I thought they were deer, but their size and the way they jumped the fence in the far ditch really let me to think they were actually elk (aka Wapiti) - Mark agreed.  Not unheard of in the area, but the first time we have run into them out here with teams.

Miles later we wheeled into the campground. It was a nice treat that our handler Kathryn had decided to drive out and meet us. We got dogs fed and settled down before Mark (aided by a lot of flammable liquids) got a fire roaring for us to cook up some hot dogs over.
by Penny Blankenship

Despite having all my rookies in the campground with us, we passed a relatively quiet 3 hours before packing up, waving goodbye to Kathryn (as she scurried back to the cabin to get to bed - we had kept her up till WELL past her bedtime!) and hitting the trail for home.

The dogs took a mile or so to find their 'groove' and then settled easily into ground covering travel.

With traffic virtually non existent (it was 2am), I pulled out my iPod to help me stay away. No luck, it was totally dead. Seems I put it on the charger yesterday, but forgot to plug the darn thing in.

I resorted to munching on some trail mix and reciting 'The Cremation of Sam Magee' to the dogs to stay awake.

"There are strange things done 'neath the midnight sun by the man who moil for gold..."

We took a couple good long water and rest breaks for the critters, finally we hit the muskeg that means we are about 7 miles from the kennel. As I was bouncing along (no problem staying awake now) it occurred to me that I should have seen Mark's headlamp round the last corner in my rear view mirror by now. I called the dogs to a stop and turned around to look - still no Mark. I powered down my ATV accessories (my handwarmers, GPS and spotlight) and shut off my machine to see if I could hear Mark's making it's way down the trail. Nothing. Hmmm, then a weak light accompanied by no sound popped into view. I hit the start button on my ATV and absolutely nothing happened. What the heck?? I tried one more time before deciding to just wait for Mark - I didn't want to kill the battery. When Mark pulled up, I mentioned that I had ATV trouble. "Me too", was his reply. Seriously, neither machine would start, that was why there was no noise when he came into view around the corner.  Rather unbelievable when you consider that in all the years and all the miles we have put in with ATVs, we have never had one break down on a training run - forget 2 within 5 minutes of each other (Katerina - are you jinxing our machines??). 

Battery power held up enough that we were both able to run our spotlights for most of the way home. We each also put on a headlamp for added security. Luckily, pulling a 500 + lb ATV with a person on board is not a big challenge for the team, so we made it home only a bit later then expected.

Everyone ate well and was tucked back onto their chains. It was 6:15am when Mark and I dropped into bed. Mark lucked out with a full 10 hours sleep, but I had to be up at 9:30 to be ready to meet Dr. Veronica Devall for kennel shots, a few adjustments on dogs and a MUSH with PRIDE kennel inspection!

Despite my lack of sleep, I had a lovely visit with Veronica and we got all our projects accomplished - including our kennel inspection, which we passed with flying colors. J

(For more information on MUSH with PRIDE kennel inspection program, check out )

Well, I'm off to make dinner and then pushing everyone out the door to feed early so I can get some sleep!!!

Happy Trails!


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