It was looking so not good on the Yukon River. Warm temperatures and rain made the river a slushy mess. Deteriorating trail surfaces and overflows made the trail an exhausting pull. It looked tempting to move off the trail, but any weight punched through and put us into a soup. Poor Woofie Monster. He worked hard to get us from Grayling to Eagle Island through the night and into early morning. We had to stop in the “heat” of the day, a concept that seems foreign to those creatures who live in the daylight, but remember we’re both carrying fur as thick as Bob Marley’s knots – good for cold raw winds, but not so much in a white reflective bowl of a river basin. Once the low pressure moved through we roasted in sunshine.
Woofie Monster looked worn out. I honestly feared he'd collapse. I was sleep deprived (a horrible situation for a cat use to napping 16 hours a day) but he was running in a trance. Beyond exhaustion. I had to stand in front of him, look him in the eye. Now standing directly in front of any dog is not something any sane cat would do. The last time I went nose to nose with a dog the pup ended up with a bloody gash. Goddess’s Mom was not pleased when I swiped her sheltie con claws.
Anyway, there I stood looking the Woofie Monster right in his dark eyes. The dog could do little more than stand there with his tongue nearly dragging the frozen ground. His eyes were glazed over. He totally ignored me. All his attention was fixed on the far horizon up river.
“Woofie,” I yelled. His panting began to subside, but he kept his eyes locked in the distance. Again I yelled at him, this time I yanked his leash. He snapped out of his trance.
I asked, “What are you looking at?”
|semi-photo by Sebastian Schnuelle|
“Elephants. Gray Elephants. They’re coming this way. See them?”
I didn’t expect to see them, but I looked over my shoulder anyway. I saw nothing but long dim shadows cast on the river melting in a weak daylight. I blinked twice just to be sure there were no elephants. Remember I’m sleep and TUNA derived.
“Woofie, I think we need to stop. You’re hallucinating. You’re out of it. Lost. Can you make it to the next checkpoint? We can quit there. Fly out You’ve run into the ground.”
The dog stood still. Panting lightly. Then he sucked up his tongue for a few seconds. “I got my hedgehog. I got a dream to run the Iditarod. On to Shaktoolik.”
Shaktoolik wouldn’t be any easier. It’s mile 777. Maybe if we were playing slot machines on an Indian reservation this would be lucky. In Shaktoolik we would be off the Yukon River, but finally on the Bering Sea Coast. Nothing but raw winds that spin around low pressure systems faster than a dog circles a bed of hay before he falls asleep.
“Are you sure?” I thought I might refuse to participate. It wasn’t my dream, but it was his. Could I deny him?
“Sure as the rain on the Yukon River. Isn’t this strange?”
"As strange as your elephants, my friend."