An Open Letter to Crazy Mushers Everywhere

Dear Crazy Mushers,

Thank you.

A long, long time ago, in a previous life, I had a bulletin board where I’d post pictures, quotes, clippings, and things that meant a lot to me. Those included what some people might call bucket list items. A long time ago, after living on the road for seven years or so, Rene and I unpacked some of our stuff for that cabin we bought in the rocky mountains. And on the board I noticed a couple things I clipped out in that previous life. One was a picture of the northern lights.

Yeah, We’ve had that discussion here. The other was of someone on a dog sled tour. Someday, I said, I’m gonna do that. However, not like in the photo with the woman sitting in the sled. I wanted to be that musher guy.


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Crazy Musher Jim

Thanks to you, I understand why you don’t want that dog sled ride. Dogs are gonna dog. They go when they gotta go, even on the run. Sitting down at that level puts you in the path of way too much flying poop. Besides, what fun is that. I now know the thrill of driving a sled dog team. One of you even called me legit.

I can now say I’ve driven a sled dog team on trapper trails dating back a hundred years or more. I’ve done it with dogs who have run the Iditarod. And, I didn’t even get pantsed! Perhaps you noticed my trepidation about taking the handlebar and trusting your team to take me on the trip of a lifetime. I’ve heard your tales about being dragged, and yes, losing your pants. So thank you for taking me along on a tag sled first.

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Rene in Lead Position (Note the rope to tag sled.)

For those who aren’t crazy mushers, the tag along is a second sled that gets attached behind the lead sled. My first adventure mushing was on a tag sled. And that would have been a highlight from our crazy winter in Alaska. But then I saw you let Rene lead. Then, I got to do the same! Thanks again. It don’t get no better than this I thought. But wait, it gets better.

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Along for the Ride

My First Crazy Musher Experience

Thanks to you, you’ve helped make my dream come true. If it wasn’t for you crazy mushers, we may have never made this happen. Thanks to you, we’ve experienced the real Alaska. At least this little bit of it. And, I understand now, that you’re really not that crazy after all. As I told one of you after that first time on the lead sled: I get it now. I may never comprehend how you could spend weeks on the sled mushing 1,000 miles. But, I do get it. I understand the allure. It’s magical.

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In the lead, pulling the crazy mushers tag sled.

It’s not just the breathtaking beauty of the landscape. It’s not just the connection with your amazing animals. I know they are not your furbabies. I totally get that too. It’s not only the fact that you could die out there, but you didn’t. There’s really no way to explain it. One must experience that mushing magic.

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And…We’re Off!

Crazy Mushers Understand the Excitement

The mayhem mounts once the dogs know they’re heading out. It gets loud. It’s exciting. The tension mounts as the harnesses go on and everyone wants to run. It gets really loud. Then, when it’s time to go, whoosh…silence. The dogs fall in line and do their dog thing. They run. There’s nothing but the sound of sled skids sliding on snow and ice. Dogs panting and the patter of feet. Soon, you can hear yourself breathe. And you are left alone with your thoughts. Taking in the sights, doing your best not to fall off the rails. It’s a long walk home. Will you run into any moose? You hope not!

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Out There

I was lucky. Fortunately, I know some crazy mushers. I was not alone. I had a well seasoned mushing master with his own team leading the way. So my dogs knew where to go. But it was still fun pretending that they paid attention to my haw and gee. Out on the flats, across the frozen swamps of Alaska, you feel…privileged. At least I did. Very few people get to experience this. Not the way I did. And for that I thank you.

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Crazy Mushers Leading The Way

I still get giddy with awe as I think about that day. That’s pretty apparent in the video below. I know some crazy mushers who may laugh at how awestruck – no, gobsmacked – I am by my first mushing experience. At how I’m still at a lack for words about the whole thing. My question for them is, do you remember your first time? Or is every time just as amazing? Perhaps that’s why you still do it. I get it now.

Pictures Don’t Do Mushing Justice

That whole time on the trails, I was just absorbing everything. Constantly on the lookout for sun dogs, or a glimpse of Denali, I was burning everything into my retinas and doing my best to recall it all forever. I wanted to remember every single retarded tree. (Yeah, I can say that.) My mind was recording every moment. And so was my Go Pro.

But no pictures can ever do this justice. So, I made a movie. But how do you condense a couple of the most exciting hours in your life down to the average Youtube attention span. You don’t. But I tried. I don’t know any mushers crazy enough to spend as much time as I did trying to make my first mushing experience movie. The first attempt at editing resulted in a twelve minute video. I don’t expect anyone to watch. That’s okay. I will, again and again if I ever start to forget my first time mushing.

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The smile says it all.

“Where do I pay?” That’s what I said when I got back from our Real Alaska mushing adventure. Knowing well that no typical sled dog tour could ever be as exhilarating as mine. So how do you capture the moment? That’s hard, when you’re holding on for your life. So you hope others share their pictures of you. Or, as I told my crazy musher friend, “I’m just trying to burn it all in.”

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Smiles All Around

Honestly, if you don’t get it, you’ll possibly find the video boring. There is a lot of silence. Utter silence. If you do get it, you’ve likely been there before. On the sled, immersed in the magic, that is. One crazy musher friend once told me how he fell asleep on his sled. I thought, “no way…” but I now see how that could happen. Maybe if you’re days in and hundreds of miles on the way toward a finish line 1,000 miles away. But I digress.

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Rest Stop for the Team

Anyway, that Director’s Cut is available on the Live Work Dream Youtube channel for anyone to get a short peek into this crazy mushing world. I’ve done my best to capture some of the highlights from my first time mushing. The excitement at take-off, my first downhill rush, that run up the last hill, and the bald eagle who flew overhead just before we went under the railroad bridge. I got it down to just under six minutes.

Sorry, you’re not gonna see any highlights in a reel. After all, I had to include our pit stop for the Odaroloc tradition. Rene and another crazy musher friend anointed my team with the ashes of our beloved Jerry and Wyatt. While they may rest in peace, I know they were along for the ride.

Crazy Mushers Video: My First Time Mushing

My First Mushing Experience: Simply Awesome

As you can see, if there is one word to sum up my first mushing experience, apparently that is: Awesome.

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It’s good to have crazy mushers as friends.

Finally, to all you crazy mushers everywhere. Don’t get me wrong. I know you’re not crazy now. But I also know it takes a certain amount of crazy to keep doing what you do. Thank you for allowing me to tag along for the ride!

6 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Crazy Mushers Everywhere”

  1. I’ve watched this about a dozen times. Makes me so happy that you both got to experience the magic that I simply cannot get enough of. And yes, 22 years of following dog butts across snowy places and it still gets me teary eyed to marvel at sharing adventures with sled dogs and how time changes on the runners bringing the natural world in sharper focus for a few precious hours.


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