Mushing, Norway

Beautiful Powder

Something has been missing this past November. As the evenings turned dark the mountains were black. There was no white. No snow, no powder and no ice. It was freakishly warm for most of the month, with temperatures reaching up to ten degrees even at 700m of altitude.

Sometimes the degrees took a dip to the blue side. The swings made it really hard to train. The roads were icy and sharp on many evenings. We had to park the cart and put the dogs in front of the car instead. Many a cabin owner looked a little surprised when we passed by their door on a Saturday morning. After a really wet October the dogs really looked demotivated by the icy rains that kept coming in November, too. I couldn’t blame them. Towards the end of November the ice on the road was so sharp that it was impossible to train. Our hands would get cuts just from a single sliding gesture, testing to see if we could run. The answer was a definite no.

So we spent a lot of time out in the dog yard with the pack. Bre and Bagheera have been going on some really small, 1 to 2 km runs to get used to being on the lines, to the pulling and the harnesses. They are doing incredibly well. Bagheera is very relaxed about everything, he doesn’t even make a mess at the start. He just sits down and waits for it all to begin. Bre is a little scared still at first when attached front and back but forgets about it quickly when he gets to run. They both follow along beautifully, with a tight line and a good pace. I have high expectations of them, I think in time they will make great sled dogs and awesome additions to the team.

The smaller puppies, Bubbles and Biscuit, have been developing really well too. They are shier than the boys were at their age and more careful, but especially these last two weeks they’ve really come a long way. They are very interactive with the other dogs now and really social with us. We just started to teach them to walk on a leash, we think it’s good for them to know from early on what it feels like to be stuck on something. And slowly they too are getting big. Bubbles got really long legs all of the sudden while Biscuit is muscular, very much like her dad, Rock. I’m curious to see how they will continue to develop, but here too I think we have some promising youngsters in the making. The four of them can really make this into a solid and strong team.

While it rained on our roof it did snow in the higher mountains and on the polar plateau Hardangervidda. The storms blew most of it away, but alas, just enough was left to take out the sleds and have a first weekend in the snow! A friend had a canoe stuck by one of the lakes and invited me over to go and recover it before the snow really buried it down. I don’t have much experience with driving in the mountains so early and I was a little nervous – I nearly lost the sled jumping over a rock at the start and I had a lot of airtime, especially early on. But what a day! The sun lit up the endless white plains while the mountains played a game of hide-and-seek with the fog that kept coming and going. And at once, solemnly for those 45km on the sled, all of those dready hours standing on the cart in the rain were worth it.

Gently the forecast at home turned and finally last week we woke up to a thin blanket of fluffy white snow. It’s been snowing most of last week and will snow for most of the week to come, so now it’s time to really dust off the sleds, head out and break trails. This is another first, I’ve never made my own trails, so it’s really exciting to see how this will go. We found lots of nice ways to drive during the lockdown, I’m excited whether or not we will be able to put down a trail those same ways now.

As the snow piled up and covered the fields, the cabins and the trees my heart took a little jump. It’s so immensely beautiful at home in the beginning of winter, when everything is covered in a fluffy blanket of white. The low sun casts a yellow glow on the mountains surrounding our small valley and the tall pines stand proud and golden underneath the rocks. How did we get so lucky to get to live here?

Soon it’s time for a holiday and three weeks with driving dogs, celebrating Christmas and participating in our first race. December is a dark month, but a beautiful one for it.

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