This weekend the Kobuk 440 sled dog race is taking place in arctic Alaska. The start and finish is in Kotzebue and the trail takes the teams 440 miles through the Kobuk Valley. It is April, which means the days are blindingly long, over 14 hours of daylight now, and though the temperatures are considerably more mild there are still all the dangers of winter travel in the arctic--the challenges of river ice, the isolation of the wilderness that deftly punishes the incapable and the unprepared. Before I left Kotzebue a few weeks ago I had the distinct good fortune to spend some time with Jim Bourquin and Maret Heatta, professional mushers who live on the edge of the village with their 33 Alaskan Huskies. I went for a fast, cold training run with Jim and 14 of their dogs one afternoon when the temperature never managed to climb above -24 F. The wind was slight, but it pushed the mercury to - 40 F. I sat in the bucket of the sled and Jim rode the runners behind me. The power of the dog team was nothing less than astonishing. There is much that could be written about the welfare of northern dogs in general, but those stories have little or no bearing on dogs such as these who are elite athletes in their own right and like true athletes love their sport. I shot as much as I could, but the speed of the team and the wind coming off the Chukchi Sea shocked my camera batteries senseless--I did my best to keep rewarming and recycling them, but there are limits in this universe and air below -25 will quickly introduce you to such limits--though the cold did not seem to limit the dogs who ran with pure zeal down the coast toward Cape Blossom and back home again. Jim is out on the trail this weekend, competing in the Kobuk 440. You can track his progress here on the official site of the Kobuk 440. I have never been so cold in my life as I was that day out on the sea ice--cold--and happy--and full of awe for that ancient reciprocal relationship between dogs and people.