Daazhraii-joring

That’s a mouthful, eh?

fall colors junjik

I have been running on the Mountain Road most clear evenings since school started. While my feet pound and my breath rushes I can let go of the day and let my mind watch the colors change on the tundra. I get to measure daily how far the snow has crept down the flanks of the big mountain at the head of the valley. Daazhraii free runs with me and, in theory, provides some warning in the case of dangerous wildlife. Mostly he lollops along with his enormous tongue hanging out and plunges around in the kettle ponds terrorizing the ducks, though now that I mention it, I realize the ducks have gone.

Last night I put on my hip belt and the dog sat sweetly while I fumbled with his harness. I clipped a bungee line to him and then to me, and Geoff took off on his bike. “Daazhraii, come on bud,” Geoff called, and we were off for the very first time.

It’s called canicross: dog assisted cross country running. It feels like flying. Daazhraii hauls with his heavy freight dog shoulders, chasing the bike, and the bungee rope stretches and pulls on my hip belt. I glide, my arms and hands free to fly.

We ran our usual route, and I didn’t feel that tightness in my belly that means I’m really pushing myself, even though we were moving faster than I usually jog. Daazhraii was focused and bouncy, a little surprised to be allowed to pull, but delighting in the freedom to guide our speed.

I was giddy. It’s fun and freeing and glorious, and it takes teamwork and energy and focus. We practiced “whoah” and “hike”. Once he gets used to pulling (he’s been trained not to pull on leash, so it’s an adjustment for him) we’ll work on “gee” and “haw” and “on by”. I can’t wait for ski season.

He’s a little young to work. You are supposed to wait until a dog is about a year old and his bones and muscles are fully developed before putting him to work in harness. Daazhraii is only ten months, but he isn’t working too hard or too often, and I want to make sure to practice “whoah” while I can still dig in my heels and stop him. On skis, that is going to be a lot harder.

What joy, though. I couldn’t keep from grinning, and Daazhraii ran laps around the driveway when we got home to the cabin, just to let some of the happy fun fizz off the top. daazhraii august snow

Advertisements

River Trip Journal 9

7/18/17

Everyone in Beaver was very helpful. We met friendly little girls named E and R whose grandma made calls so we could get gas on a Sunday. Paul Jr. was not around, so we gave up on our plan to stay and, after we got fuel, boogied on, none the richer in junk food, alas!

DSC06472

As we were leaving, I drove over a barely-submerged log. It was completely undetectable, but rolling over it felt like hitting a whale or a manatee or a sea-monster! The deck buckled and warped, then sprang back into shape. I’d hate to do that in a fast skiff: it would rip the bottom right out.

DSC06473DSC06474DSC06477

At this point, I want to mention that we have been eating with skewers for chopsticks this whole time. We have no silverware to our names. I am looking forward very, very much to eating a salad with a fork when we get back on the road system. The plan is to leave the boat in Fort Yukon and spend a few days fishing after all.DSC06509

DSC06502

The night of the 16th we spent on an island with a clear slough and lots of bear tracks. We had a beautiful sunset. Last night, we camped on a dry slough sheltered behind a ridge of willows. It felt great to finally get out of the wind that had been taunting us all day, blowing spray over the engine onto the helmsman’s back.

DSC06507DSC06513

The river is really wide now. The Chandalar pours in just up from here. It’s shallow and seamless-looking. Very tricky.  We are running aground pretty regularly now in the flats. We step out into the ankle-deep water and Lyra floats free, for the most part. It’s hard to tell shoals in the wind, though.

DSC06498DSC06499

I was divebombed by an arctic tern this morning while availing myself of the facilities. Scary, but very cool. They are really beautiful, graceful birds. Audubon’s tern is not an exaggeration: the terns are every bit as swift and sharp and dramatic as he paints them.

I took a bath today off a steep bank. I had to hold the end of the bowline, which was staked to the shore, so that I wouldn’t slip and be swept away in the powerful eddy. When I dunked my head, I could hear the silty water whooshing by my ears.

The horseflies are as bad as ever.

Our dog food from Yukon Jeremy at the Bridge is still holding out.

DSC06526DSC06524

We are camping tonight on Inservice Island, just up from Fort Yukon. I just crept up on a couple of beavers swimming up our slough. When the first beaver finally caught sight of me, he slapped his tail and dived dramatically, then came up only a few feet farther away.

DSC06541DSC06538DSC06536DSC06535

We got to town around ten. Lance wasn’t in Fort Yukon and we passed Tony on the river. So far, we are not having much luck figuring out how to leave the boat. Better luck tomorrow.

DSC06542DSC06546

(editor’s note: we made it happen after a rough start with a flat tire and some plane troubles. The Kenai was great! We are heading back out in the next few days. Arctic Village, here we come.)

DSC06530DSC06522

Pterodactyls

In Arkansas, birds in chevrons unzip the winter sky, always on their way to some finer place. Maybe they’re going someplace with topography. From time to time, on my way home, I’ve seen whole fields carpeted with white acres of snow geese, invariably melted by morning. One day this winter there were hundreds of seagulls fishing in the lake. On Thursday, there were a handful of handsome white pelicans, drifting like dignified marshmallows in the fog over the water.
I had a praxis in Helena this morning, so I took the low road and drove slow with the radio up and the windows down. I’ve come to love country music since I came to live here: I like songs about badass ladies, loving men, bare feet, dirt roads, skinny dipping, hard work, and campfires. I also like bad puns. There are still no leaves on the trees, but today had the feel of a spring Saturday, and with Sean on a field trip, I had the world to myself. After my test, I picked up snacks in town and had a picnic at the rookery. The rookery is miles of pitted dirt from anything, and the sun was shining on Carro’s roof like the bat signal. I heeded the message and hopped up, snacking on chips, basking in the sunshine, reading, gazing up at the blue sky framed by the bare cypress and water tupelo, and tuning in to the barred owls, the absence of human noise, and the occasional cry of a prehistoric monster from the treetops.
IMG_1459

We think they’re wood storks, but we haven’t gotten close enough to be sure. They nest in the bald cypress and they are magnificent. They’ve been gone all winter, and I’ll take it as a sign of spring that they’re here again. One of my summer ambitions is to paddle out to their trees and collect a feather. I want to feel the panic and the cool shade on my shoulders as a pterodactyl shadow flows over me, muting the sun for seconds as a time.

IMG_1460

P.S. Sean found a dead possum in our garbage can yesterday, and neither of us put it there! It’s a mystery: did it crawl in there before the ice storm and then die of exposure? Did it choke on some particularly nasty bit of refuse?