“It’s a team effort,” Brian told me. Indeed it is. We’re a pack, and I’m top dog. At our best moments, we sail together through open tundra with glorious views of the mountains, or pitch down twisting trails that have me holding on for dear life. Dogs love variety, and whenever anything new comes up—a hairpin turn, for example—they race ahead hell bent for leather, jetting around S-curves and onto bridges so narrow that steering my sled between the rails is like threading a needle—on a roller coaster.
We’re out two nights, and spend both in classic log cabins maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. There are foam mattresses, Coleman ranges and lanterns, and wood-burning stoves. Firewood is stacked outside; before we leave, we’ll replace what we’ve used. Each cabin has a well-thumbed journal, filled in with tales of peril and victory by past mushers and snowmobilers. People leave other things, as well: magazines, Scrabble, a packet of freeze-dried macaroni and cheese. At the Colorado Creek cabin, we strike it rich: The last tenants bequeathed us a pan of Jiffy Pop.
Cooking is another surprise; it takes an avalanche of snow to produce a quart of water. I tackle this Sisyphean task while Brian makes a warm meal for the dogs. They eat noisily, and howl their approval.
The sun sets slowly, skirting the edge of the Earth. We spend the rest of the evening telling stories, catching up on our lives, and solving that classic backwoods riddle: What do you get when you cross two know-it-alls with a wood burning stove? (Answer: A cold, smoky cabin.)
Above the Arctic, the Aurora Borealis drapes a shimmering green veil across Orion’s shoulders. We climb a nearby hill to watch the show. When we return, the thermometer reads 25 below. Our Huskies, unperturbed, curl up in the snow and snooze peacefully, frost on their snouts. I watch them with admiration, awed by the eternal bond between human and canine. The truth dawns on me abruptly: I wouldn’t have been pulled here by cats.
It took some effort, but Brian has done the impossible. He’s made a dog man out of me.