On Halloween, I tested the waters as a dog “driving instructor,” giving a one-on-one seminar on how to camp with a dog team. The class went so well that I’m considering opening it up to anyone interested in becoming more efficient or just gaining confidence in taking a trail break, whether inside or outside of checkpoints.
I sat down with the musher for two hours on the night of the 30th, going over what she knew and what she needed to learn. And the next day, she was on her own to pack her supplies (cooker, straw, booties, etc.), and head out on a training run to a spot where I could meet her. She set about doing all the routine dog duties while I watched and we talked about her routine. After a two-hour pitstop, she turned her team around and drove them back to her dog truck.
I chose camping for a class because it was one of the things that I didn’t figure out too well until my second Iditarod. For a lot of mushers, camping is a no brainer. They practically live on the trail. Others don’t, and it helps to have someone show them the ropes. The best (Buser and King come to mind) get the job done (without appearing to ever be in a hurry) in about 40 minutes and are asleep while mushers who parked earlier are still rifling through their bags.
Some of the things we can go over include: dealing with high winds, diarrhea, foot care and what to wear.
If you are interested in learning more and heading out on a camping run with me later this winter, get in touch with me and we can try to schedule a day or two. Cost is $200 a day.
Here’s some comments from my first student, a 62-year-old musher who wants to race in the Taiga 300 someday: “I would say that the class was really worth it to me because I could have somewhere to go and be around someone who knew what was supposed to be happening… Your information was solid and easy to understand … It gave me a good opportunity to “test” what I knew and find out what I didn’t know. I’m not anxious to go to a race and stress their volunteers by being a rank beginner and kind of fumbling around. … I would recommend this to anyone. I think anyone could benefit from having their checkpoint routine looked at by an outside person.”