My first day was spent with Dris from Belgium at the kennel learning the dogs and the routines for the day. The afternoon was over and we went into the mountains to house sit for the night. He was shacked up in a dry cabin for a friend who was away handling on the Yukon quest. A dry cabin has no water, maybe a generator, and wood stove. My favorite part of the cabin was the male aggressive mastiff that was also pregnant.
My first day of tours was a complete disaster. I had asked to go out with no guests and just the sled, to see the trail. Instead I was given three guests; I had never driven the sled before, never seen the trail, never had someone stand in my area, never driven the dogs before. I was set up for failure, big time. That’s just what I did when the sled tipped three times. The guests had so much fun that they asked to walk back and I couldn’t blame them. I kept asking myself what kind of a shit show I had gotten myself into.
It would only get worse as the days bled into each other, nights at the dry cabin, no explanation of anything. The highlight of running tours from 9am-5pm then 9pm-1am each night was having the pregnant mastiff go missing during our four hour break. We looked for three hours for her, only to find her in a dog house when we got back. Then it got better just as we went to sleep at four in the morning she started to give birth right under the bed I was in.
As my frustrations mounted I talked with Hans about the money situation. Apparently the deal was different then from October. I was only getting room and board and that meant I paid for everything and was reimbursed. Are you kidding me? I wasn’t getting paid, working 60-80 hours a week with no time off. I was eating out of my jetboil, showering once a week, and using an outhouse. I was back on the trail and this time in the winter.
My plight was only a part of the problem; this place was the land of 60%ers. Nothing was ever done to completion and everything was half assed. I was surprised that we had guests at all. Our guests were mostly from Asia and tipping was foreign to them. I was making nothing and working my ass off. The equipment wasn’t much better. Three half put together toboggans with foam for seats, each missing pieces and barely hanging on to life. They looked like a Frankenstein operation. Some had two claws on the break some had one; drag pads were either useless or somewhat functional. The lack of organization and planning was beyond my comprehension.
I was beginning to feel isolated in my day to day operations with no transportation and no way to go anywhere but the hostel and the dog lot. On one of the few nights off from tours I was surprised at the end of the day with a training run. Just as we were about to leave he told Dris that he could head home and I was going out with him and he wasn’t sure when he’d be back for the night. Just what I wanted to do, to go out after a long day and run the dogs for hours for free, all I could think about everyday was getting away.
Off we went on a 45 mile training run into the night. This was how it was, everything was last minute and random. No wonder the other guy got fed up and had a crap attitude. The extent of the chaos wasn’t limited to the gear and running of the tours. The entire operation was in chaos. Hans was away most days meeting perspective clients and trying to keep the yurts cleaned. It would only get worse when Dris and Hans went to the other location for the weekend. It all fell to me; the yurts, the tours, the running of the kennel, everything. Even though Donald had returned from the Quest he only took care of his dogs. He had a different agreement with Hans and it resulted in his dogs and housing separately from our operation.
I had had enough of the complete lack of organization. I was done, I had come to Alaska to guide and I was running his entire operation for free. Calling home everyone said the same thing, why was I still there. In truth I had nowhere to go and was stuck. I sought out other options and to no avail, nothing would work. I had to endure again and hope that the next month would come quickly.