“Winter is not a season, it’s a celebration.” -Anamika Mishra
Last summer, as Bonnie started teaching us about the sport of mushing, she casually mentioned that she would like to go see a good friend of hers race in January. At the time, her friend was watching borders to see if he could enter the US, so he had not yet decided which race he would be running. After he committed to entering the Pedigree Stage Stop Race in Wyoming, Bonnie made her travel plans and sent me her airline reservations. “You should go!” She encouraged. “It would be such a great opportunity for Ian to learn!”
Brinn and I discussed the possibility, and chalked it up to being too expensive, too far, too hard to plan, too long to take off of work, and on and on. But then I started looking up prices. Flights were only $500, and we had a companion fare we could use for Ian. And rooms in Jackson Hole were not nearly as expensive in the winter as the summer. So we talked again, and decided that maybe just maybe we could pull this off. My long-suffering, super star mother immediately agreed to take care of our menagerie of animals, and my work family enthusiastically supported the time off. It all hinged on Ian’s school, at this point, and his principal gave her approval and support for such an educational opportunity. It looked like we were actually going to be able to travel out west to watch our first sled race!
We booked our flights and started making reservations. Then Bonnie emailed me that the race committee also had a junior musher program! We looked it up right away, but found that the description limited this program to local children:
Select students, aged 9 to 13, from the Pedigree® Stage Stop race communities of Jackson, Lander, Alpine, Pinedale, Big Piney, Marbleton, Kemmerer, Driggs Idaho, And surrounding States are invited to participate in a sled dog race of their own at January 28th 2022 4:00 pm in the Jackson Town Square.
Bonnie decided to investigate exactly what constituted a “surrounding state” and went straight to the race committee. She called me right after to tell us to get Ian’s application in ASAP as they would be thrilled to have a child from TN to participate in the race.
Brinn and I elected to not share with Ian Bonnie’s feat of having him accepted into the junior musher program, so we agreed to keep that a secret until closer to our trip. We didn’t want to risk a huge disappointment if something fell through, but Ian had to write a personal essay and complete 10 hours of community service to qualify for the program. The essay was a little tricky to get him to write while keeping the secret, but fortunately the service hours were easy to get in as Ian already takes part in quite a few activities around home. Habitat for Humanity happily signed off on the volunteer paperwork from Ian’s participation at Cooking on the Square, and Sheryl and Missy signed for his days working the cart at IWPA weight pulls. After we received all the signatures, we turned Ian’s forms in and waited. Then in December we received the email. Ian was accepted into the program and assigned to a musher!
Christmas came and went, and then all of a sudden it was time to leave for our trip. Our bags were packed, reservations all booked, and deposits paid. Brinn loaded bags in the truck the night before we left, and came back later to find that he had a stowaway hiding behind our bags. The next morning we broke it to Jenna that she couldn’t come on this trip, but promised her that she would have big fun with Nana. Then we were off!
Our first leg of the journey took us from Nashville to Seattle. After landing in Seattle that evening, we turned our phones on to receive notifications that our next flight had been cancelled. Instead of leaving Seattle at 11:40 the next morning, we now had to board at 7:00 am and fly to San Francisco! After a 2 hour layover in California, we then finally managed to fly on to Jackson Hole.
We packed a lot of fun and adventure into just one week.
Day 1: Arrival, check in, eat, grocery shop, crash
Day 2: Explore Grand Teton National Park and Hike in Idaho
Day 3: Mushing/Skiing
Day 4: Skiing
Day 5: Ceremonial Start of the Pedigree Stage Stop
Day 6: Stage 1, Teton County
Day 7: Packing up, checking out, last day in the GTNP
I’ll be back later with a full description of each day!