We Have Nowhere to Go but Up

The clouds clear up after snowfall

For a significant stretch of my life, I aimed to become a film director. I was deeply captivated by the ability to craft stories that, even if only momentarily, felt real. And the drama. I was convinced it gave life a true flavor. However, that's not entirely the case anymore; I haven't become a director, at least not in a professional sense, perhaps just for the story of my life. But I can still experience drama—this time, it's about another dog sledding adventure, always loaded with unexpected twists and emotional peaks.

The snow conditions are quite favorable. We set out rather peacefully, brakes not being sufficient, and I attempt to smoothly maneuver the sled around turns that aren't too extreme. I'm using the brake that I don't entirely trust—it does the job but not as effectively. Despite my efforts, the dogs seem lazy and sluggish. I'm experiencing it too—the fresh snow isn't gliding at all, requiring me to push the sled forward. However, the dogs persist in moving lazily, even without any added load. Unable to figure out why, we continue moving forward. I contemplate taking a shorter route than the initially planned 25 km, but ultimately decide to press on because there's no convenient place to turn around, and the dogs resist going in the opposite direction. They're solely focused on moving forward, and by Anna's hotel, there's a roundabout where we can subtly adjust our direction. We calmly and stress-free share space with a few oncoming cars. I conclude that the dogs (especially Skudra) are anxious not about the moving object itself but the sound it produces. Now, the cars move through the snow much more quietly. So, we continue, and I'm now skiing behind the sled all the time, except for brief descents. The fresh snow provides resistance against the sled runners, and I still feel that my skis aren't gliding at all. Tomi surprises me; he's usually a hard worker and displays consistent behavior, although he's been a bit naughty lately. It crosses my mind that since the arrival of the new puppies, he's been acting more assertive. Last week's visit to Estonia, when both were added to the eight-dog team in the rear, was challenging for him to keep up with the speed, and the previous training, where I tried to put the dogs in single file, ended in disaster.

We arrive at Anna's Hotel. Near the mentioned roundabout, it's impossible to turn in the desired direction because the dogs want to continue straight. I step off the skis and guide them along the planned route, repositioning myself at the back. It's not an easy maneuver as the dogs detect the change and resist. At some point, I realize that I've lost a glove, and... it means I have to turn back. I've lost gloves both in childhood and quite recently, always searched, and always found them. I quickly decide to be the lead dog again, reposition the sled where the skis are already etched, and lead the dogs in an easy run back to Anna's Hotel. Glove, another roundabout, and we are once again on our way back home. The dogs don't exhibit much enthusiasm, but it seems like Tomi is returning to his usual self, focused on pulling rather than strolling. After the Pērkoņi, the snow thickens, it's still snowing, and the road is buried deeper. The dogs maintain a steady pace; it's not fast but with a moderate and purposeful effort as we plow through the trails we've made.

The magic unfolds just a few kilometers from home, where the snow becomes even deeper, yet it doesn't impede us. While I've seen Malamutes plow through half-meter deep snow trails, I've never experienced it with my dogs. As we enter the forest, the energy remains high. I'm in awe of how the dogs push the trail with their bodies. Moreover, we even ascend uphill, without needing my assistance. In those final meters, I realize that if I were to build a larger team in the future, we'd need to move further north. Because we need snow. Initially, I considered it only to extend the season, but now it's apparent that we need depth too..

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