“Yes, ma’am,” he replied “and you must be Millie Heatherton.”
As the two shook hands, Ned commented, “Kate mentioned she’d heard you spent several years in Yukon. You know you’re the first person I’ve met who’s been to Yukon. It’s a real pleasure to greet another ‘Sourdough’.”
Millie laughed. “Thank you Ned.” I’m certainly looking forward to meeting your dogs and having my first ride in a sled.”
“Well, let’s get started. Today I’ve got my team hooked up and they’re waiting impatiently ‘round the back of the building. I thought having them ready to go would give you more time to enjoy the ride, so let’s go meet them.”
As they walked, Ned told her he’d lived in Carcross for a number of years. He had worked as a surveyor with one of the mining companies but then decided he wanted to raise dogs and become a musher.
Just before they rounded the corner of the building, they heard the excited barking of dogs.
Ned chuckled. “Those dogs know we’re coming and they’re ready to run.”
Approaching the dogs, Ned introduced her to each one. My single lead dog is Diamond. She’s an Alaskan Malamute and the oldest in the team. When she’s ready to retire, I’ll keep her as a pet. The other dogs are a mix of Malamute and Husky. I have one dog called Honey and she’s a Chinook, a breed that was developed in the New England States. “Now if you’d like to step into the sled, or basket as it’s called and place that fur blanket on your lap, we’ll get started. Our ride will cover three miles out and three miles back in a circular route. I’m glad to see you brought your camera. I’m sure you’ll want to take some photos – especially if we get lucky and spot some wildlife. Just raise your hand if you wish to stop and get some pictures. Now, when we first start moving, I’ll have one foot on a sled runner and one pumping the ground to get momentum. Any questions?”
“I think I’ll save them for after the ride,” Millie replied. “Those dogs are anxious to go.”
Ned laughed. “Those dogs couldn’t agree with you more. “Okay, we’re off!” and Ned gave the signal, “Hike.”
As the dogs approached the first right corner on the trail, Ned gave the command, “Gee!”.
Millie now sensed Ned was now standing behind her on the sled runners.
As the dogs headed down a long straight stretch of open country, she relaxed and gazed about her at the pristine fields sparkling in the sun, while farther ahead woods beckoned. Off in the distance, were the snow-covered hills with small patches of lavender and grey cloud shadows. Millie breathed in the fresh clean air and for the first time in quite awhile she felt fully alive.
Entering the woods, Ned suddenly gave the command, “Whoa!” and the dogs slowed to a stop as Ned announced, “There’s something in here you might like to photograph.”
He assisted Millie out of the sled then said, “follow me”, as he pointed to what appeared a well-used deer track.
They hadn’t gone far when Ned stopped and raised his hand. “Listen, can you hear it?”
Millie held her breath and suddenly she heard a burbling sound. Just ahead was a sunny glade and there, in front of them was a small, gurgling spring. “Ned, this is beautiful,” exclaimed Millie as she took out her camera.
“Yes, it’s a busy place, too as you can see from all the animal tracks, and if you look at the base of that spruce tree to your left, you’ll see the distinct paw prints of a Fisher.”