“There’s no need, Kate,” called a cheerful voice as Dolores hurriedly approached the desk. Reaching her friend, the two hugged one another. “Welcome to Orchard Spring! Long time no see.”
“It sure is!” replied Millie with a laugh as she hugged her friend again.
“Well, ladies,” Kate observed, “I see you two have lots of catching up to do so I won’t hold you up. Millie, would you sign the register and I’ll take you to your room. It’s a corner room at the end of the 2nd floor in the main building here so you’ll have two sets of windows; one facing south towards the orchard; the second looking west so you’ll see the sunset.”
“It sounds perfect,” replied Millie. “Oh, by the way, something I wanted to enquire about…I noticed in the pamphlet a photo of a dog sled team. Can I sign up for rides?”
“Yes you can,” Kate replied. “There are three sets of dog teams and checking my schedule, there’s one available tomorrow morning at 9:00. Ned MacIntyre is the head musher. Since he takes his dogs out first, you’ll be travelling with him.
Dolores looked surprised. “I didn’t know you liked dog sledding?”
“I never got a chance when we lived up north. Now’s my opportunity!” replied Millie, her eyes dancing in anticipation. “Where do I meet Ned, Kate?”
“At the front entrance. From there you’ll walk to the dog yard with Ned to watch him harness the team. “Now, I’ll take you to your room.” And turning to Dolores she asked, “Would you like to come too?”
Dolores declined. “Thanks, Kate but I’ll wait here. I know for sure you won’t be long, Millie and we can enjoy a coffee at the café.“
As Millie and Kate headed towards the elevator, Millie queried her more about dog sledding as well as the head musher. Apparently, Ned had seven dogs – quite a down-sizing from when he ran in Alaska’s famous Iditarod race in the late 1970’s. At that time, all contestants had to have no less than sixteen dogs. Ned also ran his team in the first Yukon Quest race established in 1984. Now he’s retired and lives on a small acreage about two miles from here. He also has a winterized cottage on these premises where he stays during the dog sledding winter season.
“Did he ever live in Yukon?” asked Millie.
Kate smiled. “I don’t know Millie. Perhaps it will come up when you’re conversing with him tomorrow.”
Well, here’s your room,” and Kate opened the door. “If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let me know.”
“Thanks, Kate, I’m sure everything will be fine.”
After Millie shut the door, the first thing she did was sit on the double bed. Wow! this feels so comfortable! She moved her suitcase to the rack beside the dresser; then, after freshening up, she headed back to the foyer to meet Dolores and enjoy a cup of coffee, perhaps a muffin or, better yet, a pastry and get caught up on some news.
She was sure looking forward to her first dog sled ride tomorrow!
The next morning dawned bright and clear and an excited Millie headed to the dining room for a hearty breakfast. Afterwards, she returned to her room, donned her outdoor gear and hurried to the front entrance to meet Ned MacIntyre. She and Dolores would meet that afternoon for a swim in the heated salt water pool. Then it was off to the atrium for afternoon tea.
As Millie stepped outside the main entrance, she noticed a tall, rugged man standing by one of the pillars. She walked over to him and asked, “Are you Ned MacIntyre?”