CNYO Snowgaine Day 2
After a great pub night with the Canadian contingent plus Arthurd and Ang, I put my map, pins and string on a board and stewed for awhile. I finally made a pre-bedtime visit to Arthurd's room to get her opinion as a super-experienced New York orienteer. The problem was the private property boundaries. Based on my interpretation of the map, the straight route from 66 to 26 was illegal - about 2 km of it passing through private property - and this made it complicated to plan an efficient route around the remaining controls. Arthurd not only confirmed this but produced a map from another rogaine where those areas were shaded in another colour to make it extra clear that racers must not go there.
She said that when you see boundary lines on a NY map, you can sometimes figure out where the private property is based on where the controls are placed and where the buildings are located. There were lots of buildings in this area, which is what caught my eye. So that meant I could only approach 26 from the north or the west. This led to a weird-looking route that wasn't very efficient but c'est la vie. In addition, we still had to pick up 48, the one we accidentally omitted yesterday. But given that MBR skipped 88 and had to plan an 18 km road run to pick it up today, I really can't complain! :)
'Bent and I were glad that we skied yesterday. In fact, I think we chose the right mode of transportation for yesterday's route in yesterday's conditions, even though we can't take credit for clever strategy since we just did it because we felt like skiing. We'd also brought our snowshoes and we decided to use them today. Dee commented that we were lucky to experience two different races, and that was true. Sunday didn't seem repetitive in any way.
However, that wasn't entirely good since it took us awhile to get our act together. My snowshoe pole broke five minutes before the start so at the last minute, 'Bent lent me his poles, one of which occasionally collapsed when I put weight on it. We had to take a break after a few controls when 'Bent's bladder hose froze. Worst of all, my brain took awhile to shift to snowshoe navigation, which is different, and to get used to the map in a different way.
Yesterday's route was trail-based where possible but today was more like regular orienteering; we could travel more easily through the bush so it made sense to go in straight lines and cross more creeks. There was a feeling of freedom when we were bushwhacking or climbing hills but we felt slow when we were crossing lakes or going downhill on snowmobile trails. It was a nice contrast!
We started off with 18, 15, 22. This was only 2.5 km into the course and it took me that long to remember how to navigate on snowshoes. Then some beautiful forest trekking to 35 and 34, followed by a scenic lake crossing to 52. Filled with dangerous confidence, I messed up 83 because I wasn't paying enough attention since it seemed so easy. Famous last words. We agreed that we'd gone too far so we went back most of the way to the trail to relocate, then returned to the same point and realized that we hadn't gone quite far enough. From there, we did a major bushwhack to the snowmobile trail, then did the southeast group - 62, 67, 66. We ran into DoubleDown_on11 and Escondido, who mentioned that a black Lab had been hanging out with them. Escondido looked a little rough; I only found out later that he'd done a face plant through the ice into frigid water, and DD11 had hauled him out by the snowshoes! We also met Beez and Animal-O in here. I think they were having fun.
After 66, the private property boundary pushed us northeast so we did the 50-39-23 loop next. We ran into DD11, Escondido and their pooch at 50. We patted him and he happily joined our team. My heart sank a little, knowing that we wouldn't really be racing anymore, and we were only 4 hours into a possible 8-hour day. However, DD11 and Escondido had done their good deed, feeding him and keeping him out of trouble for a couple of hours, and now it was our turn. He really was a sweet dog - older with a grey muzzle but obviously fit enough to travel many miles through snow. Tail always wagging, big Lab smile. No tags, unfortunately, but he looked well fed and had a charming personality. He reminded me a little of ThunderDog before she became too old to do long hikes. We were in the middle of nowhere and he had been following the other team for awhile so we doubted he could find his way home. That trumped racing.
We got on a snowmobile trail on our way to 39. We could hear noisy snowmobiles coming but the pooch meandered into the middle of the trail, not hearing anything until they were almost on top of him. Apparently, the poor guy was mostly deaf. Thank God the snowmobilers swerved around him at high speed but they gave us The Look.
I was going to have to make more dog-friendly route choices from now on so we veered off the trail. In the woods, he wandered around happily, sniffing tracks and peeing on stumps. He couldn't hear us if we called him but if we happened to catch his eye and wave, he would come over. We weren't getting anywhere and we couldn't leave him there to die so I suggested that 'Bent convert our tow rope into a leash. This kept 'Bent occupied for the rest of the race since "Buddy" (as we named him) loved to pull 'Bent hard whenever he found tracks in the snow, and he wasn't concerned about whether 'Bent was getting dragged under low branches. Fortunately, BazingaDog has trained 'Bent well in that department so he wasn't too fazed. After 23, there was a tricky area of private property which we avoided at first but when we saw a building, we went over to see if any dog lover happened to be home. Nada.
Then we headed into 26 and even though I was pace counting well from a nearby attackpoint, we allowed Buddy to haul us along some snowshoe tracks and deluded ourselves for a few minutes until we finally smartened up and turned around. From there, we trekked to 36, then bushwhacked north about 1.3 km to the snowmobile trail, continually looking for places to cross the river.
By this point, I was getting nervous about the time remaining. We hadn't expected to have to worry about the deadline but we hadn't expected to add a teammate. We finally found a beaver dam with a chute of water flowing past at one end. It was tough to access with a diagonal log walk, a jump over the chute into a shrub, then a scramble to get better footing. I went first and succeeded. 'Bent let Buddy off-leash then proceeded to get a soaker when he came across. That left Buddy, who worriedly ran along the shoreline looking at different options and finding them all unacceptable. He made a couple of brave attempts but found it daunting when the snow at the river's edge gave way under his paws. At one point, he went right into the water and 'Bent tried to grab him but he scrambled back up on the side he'd started from. It took awhile to coax him using hand signals but he eventually came back on the log. I held tight to 'Bent's pack and 'Bent leaned forward to grab his collar when he went into the water. Success, finally! 'Bent got wet up to his thighs and poor Buddy was completely submerged in the chilly water.
Up to that point, we'd been able to convince him to drink when we found open water. Funny, after this, he had no interest! :) We stopped to share chips, crackers and cheese with him, and he sat down politely when he realized treats were coming - further proof that he comes from a good family.
We got 48 but kept our eyes on the time. I was stressed thinking about Dee waiting to ride home with us, especially knowing that we had to find Buddy a safe place before we could leave, which was going to take even more time. Then we got on the snowmobile trail and hurried north as fast as we could go. By this point, Buddy was taking more walk breaks and we could hardly blame him. We wouldn't take our own dogs on such a long expedition. But he was a trooper, hanging in there while we got 43 and 33, then we all ran along the road to the finish.
Yay, we cleared the course - first time I've ever done that in a rogaine! Our hope had been to place 2nd of the 7 Veteran teams behind Joe and Sony (who were 3rd overall), and that's how it turned out. Congrats to all the Canadians on their podium finishes - and also to Joe/Sony and Arthurd/Ang for their category wins.
The first hour after we finished was quite stressful as we tried to find a safe place for Buddy. We couldn't cross the border without his papers but we wanted to be certain that he was with someone who would feed him and let him stay indoors until authorities could help to sort things out and hopefully find his owners. While various people tried to come up with a plan, Buddy got a hamburger, then sprawled in front of the fireplace inside the building. Finally, the Camp Zerbe caretaker appeared, and he turned out to be a dog owner willing to take Buddy in and make the appropriate phone calls - phew. One day later, I've left a couple of messages to try to find out what happened. Sure hope our teammate is OK!
Thanks to Mark and Barb for all their hard work in putting on another stellar event. Maybe the Canadians can outnumber the Americans next year? :)