The Ghost Train:
There are a million stories of the trail with dogs, this is one of them. This is a story about one of my night runs with the huskies. You see in the urban lands trails and roads are full of speeding cars and unloose dogs that want to eat yours. There are many dangers besides frozen trails of Alaska, and no medical help within hundreds of miles.
To live with the sled dogs is to do just that…you live and maybe die with them, as it should be and was written long ago. Your job as the Musher is to guide them safely into the night, so that you live to run another day. Danger abounds on the urban highway; each mile is subject to the unknown as you run down the asphalt highways of modern man.
The dogs understand that, and they will tell you when you don’t get it. They are born with a sixth sense of danger. They have the nose and DNA to know the perils of life on the trail. It was handed down generation after generation. The price of these lessons was paid for in the blood of their ancestors.
One fine night after a nice cold Coors Light I decided to forgo the normal problems of urban incursion and try a night run. It seemed the best way to exclude the multitudes of unleashed dogs and neighbors that have no clues about how dogs will behave when unleashed.
I suited up with helmet, coat, gloves, and made sure the tail light and headlight were charged. I also wore my tactile helmet lamp. A rechargeable 3 lamp set up that would bubble the paint on a car when the beam hits it.
I was fixed for battle in the urban environment. The dogs were ready, they fed off my energy and confidence. When harness was secure I hooked them up to my trike. 40 pounds of steel with disc brakes and ready to run.
They pawed the pavement, wanting to go forth into the night. I wasn’t so sure in spite of a beer, but someone needs to lead this pack. You see the leader has to lead, and it’s the job of those under them to tell them when the are wrong. In this case the dogs were good with me and we released the brakes. We fled into the great unknown like their ancestors had done for years.
The night was overcast, a heavy rain had prevailed all day. Now that evening had set the fog rolled off the asphalt. Moisture condensed off the warm tarmac making fog…thick fog that made me want a fog horn on my bike.
Dogs being what they are used their noses and ears, and night vision to lead me at breakneck speeds. I trusted them more that I trusted myself. This is when you trust what you have taught them since birth, this is when the moments of truth become real. This is when you realize that your well-being has been turned over to the dogs.
My dogs did not fail me, they ran through that fog like it was a sunny day. I was just a passenger on this husky train. I didn’t have to tell them the way because they knew it from miles of training. It was time for me to trust them.
This whole run was more or less just me enjoying the fruits of my labor. Raising the pups and letting them do what they do. I did the work and they learned what I wanted.
I let them be what they were meant to be…Sled Dogs, or in this case Urban mushing Huskies!
The best part of this adventure I will never forget is this. We were coming down a hill, pitch black and totally silent. My head lights lit they way but the dogs didn’t need it. The fog was in rolls, rolling in and out on our trail.
In only seconds, we came out of the fog at about 18 Mph. Silent as the special forces we ate up ground at an alarming rate. I happened to look to the left at a man in the ditch with his yapper dog. He cowered in fear as the Flying Dutchman Husky Train came out of the fog like a demon from hell!
Silent dogs, headlights blazing we disappeared into the next fog bank like ghost. I’ll always remember him cowering in the ditch, clutching his yapper that had for the first time in its life lost its voice!
The husky train, led me home in the dark, and I laughed all the way.