On Moving from the Truck to the ATV

There is something about the sun rising when you are on the trail. The shift from the deep darkness of solitude, of the unknown, of quiet wildness, to the brightness of day, shared among so many other awake people.

It had only been my second run on the ATV. The first one was so wild. I felt so exposed, rocking on every bump on the trail, the air across my open skull, unprotected. The physical memory of the helmet I wear in the winter felt so recent, and so absent. A fritzing energy sat in my chest as we approached each turn, and the energy dispersed when we navigated it just fine. There is a release of so much control, and also a deep commitment to trust, when you are sitting on a small machine attached to 100 feet of powerful dogs.

Today, on this second run, early in the frozen morning, I rushed as I started the process of setting up the team. I struggled against inefficiency, as I walked around and around and around and around the truck and trailer, pulling out dogs in no clear order and having to feed and collect bowls before harnessing. I then, confused, began harnessing the dogs while the bowls were still on the ground, and then stopped harnessing halfway through to get the ATV out of the trailer. More time lost happened then, when I rebuilt the main lines, adding in new sections I had put in the trailer the night before to the gritty semi-frozen rest of the line. It was dark, it was cold, and I still hadn’t had a cup of coffee yet.

Every movement without purpose was a loss of time. I was so out of rhythm, aware of the pressures of scheduled meetings and phone calls and work when I got back home.

The hookup was crazed. Noisy. Engaged. Loud. They had a screaming need that was different than the runs we did on the truck. A 16 dog team takes a while to hook in, running up and down a string of dogs that is roughly 120 feet long. Yet, just as I’ve noticed when loading dogs, I seem to come to the last few dogs rapidly: Chase and House, the brothers, and Taz, who is always last because he is an impossibly unbreakable line chewer.

And then, we’re off.

I had been noticing so much more on the ATV. Closer to the team, I can see Paolo’s funny gait, the pink of Inferno’s ears, and just how much taller than everyone else Hawkeye is. I see how uniform they are all becoming.

I had never done so many truck miles before. They were comfortable and easy miles, I was warm and able to drink my coffee easily, but ultimately not the kind of miles I want to be doing.

The sunrise today, viewed from the trail, I had the same feeling I ran through the night and felt the welcome and disappointment of the dawn.

The sunrise.

It was all around me. The lightening blue sky, the pinks on the high elevation ridges. I saw the frost that had been there all along, I saw the landscape and the river. Suddenly, there were other things competing for my attention than the dogs. 

I was singing and happy when we got back to the truck, the sun starting it’s golden rise above the ridgeline of the Carter-Moriahs. Golden yellow light.

It was beautiful. 

Times like that, I know I have encountered something else. The overwhelming presence of otherness. The life that is so important to me.

Training the dogs disrupts so many of my natural rhythms, as I run through sleepless nights, wake up early in the morning, or run through the evening into the night. I have seen so many sunrises, moonrises, and sunsets from the trail.

It is a life lived in openness, where any moment could be spent on the trail. So much possibility.

Welcome to November. Counting down the miles until snow. 

Sally Manikian