Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fading Daylight Hours

Well we were supposed to have a race today but it was cancelled for the third year in a row for lack of snow. So instead of a 10 mile race I went on a 20 mile run with the dogs, which of course was a lot of fun. We are slowly opening up more and more trails  which is always fun and exciting.

Sun rise and set are only about 5 hours apart this time of year so we don't have a whole lot of daylight hours which makes taking pictures a bit more difficult, so consequently I only have one picture to go with this post, I will work on getting some more soon.

Having a quick break at mile 10 of 20 today.

Weather lately has been chilly staying close to -20f, however we did have a few days of about -5f which were really enjoyable. The weather forecast is calling for warmer temperatures and more snow this coming week which is really good news, we could really use some more snow to make running larger teams possible. With the current condition of parts of the trail running more than 6 or 7 dogs at a time really isn't a good idea. The tussocks are still sticking through in places making it rough going.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Cold Snap

  The last couple of days have been very cold with temperatures as low as -40f at night and -30f during the warmest part of the day. During cold weather like this we feed the dogs a little more food than normal and also add a bunch of fat to their diet. Adding fat to their diet is a really good way of making sure they have the calories they need to stay warm.
  We add fat to the dogs food several different ways, one being melting 2-3 cups of poultry fat into the water bucket for each group of 10 dogs. Or we will give them chunks of pork or lamb fat, we also melt beef or poultry fat and then poor it into ice cube trays and then freeze it which makes the perfect size fat  balls to pass out to the dogs. We will also buy 40# blocks of frozen poultry skins and feed it to the dogs in small chunks about 2"x2" There isn't much the dogs like more than a big piece of frozen poultry fat.
  Sled dogs need a lot of calories, their body can process huge amounts of fat and protein every day with out upsetting their digestive tract.  These amazing animals can process up to 10,000 calories a day when working hard, and 60% of those calories need to come from fat.
   I once had a dog get loose when I wasn't home and he got the top off the bucket of chopped up poultry skins and ate about two gallons, he looked pregnant he ate so many. While this would have been enough to make most dogs sick for a week it didn't even seem to faze him, also he didn't get  runny stool either, I was and still am very impressed, Summit definitely has an iron stomach.
  So in addition to extra fat in their food we also make sure the dogs have extra straw in their houses to help keep them warm. They handle the cold extremely well and hardly seem fazed by it at all. -10f is the ideal temperature for sled dogs, but they also thrive in weather much colder than that.
  Over the last few days as a treat I have been letting some of the dogs into the cabin for a few hours to help take the edge off and also spend some quality time with me. The  dogs all enjoy coming into the cabin and hanging out on the couch and bringing them inside for some bonding and relaxation time does not hurt their desire to be sled dogs at all.

Here Chupa relaxes on the couch with her toy. 

  Today finally brought a little break to the cold, it got as warm as  -20f today so I celebrated by taking some of the dogs out on a run to open up a new section of trail we haven't used yet this year.  We ended up doing about a twelve mile run with only about 5 miles being difficult and previously untraveled. Much to my delight a snow machine also known as a snow go had already gone over a section of the trail several miles from home so we did not have to break trail the whole way.
We had a relatively uneventful run, we did see two moose on a large pond at the turn around point. While moose can some times be a threat to dog teams running into the team and trampling dogs and even the musher, these two were not a problem and left the immediate area after spotting us, which thankfully is the usual reaction we get.
  I like to put coats on the dogs at -15f to -20f and colder, especially on the thinner furred ones. The coats are mostly to protect against the wind chill while running and help prevent the dogs from getting frost bitten on some of their more sensitive less furred areas.
Sierra and summit show off their coats during a break near
the half way point.

At -20f I frosted up rather quickly but was cozy
inside of my winter gear.

It was -20f when we left the house and -26f when we got
home, I expect to see -30f to -35f or so tonight.
A nice section of trail that a snow machine had
previously been over.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Snowy Bliss

The past few days have brought warmer temperatures, and more snow. We now have about 6 or so inches of snow on the ground not a lot, but it is still snowing we are hoping for much much more. The dogs and I are loving the fresh snow.

 I am excited our first race of the season in two weeks. It is only a 10 mile fun race, but it's still exciting. Several times through out the year the mushers around Fairbanks come together north east of Fairbanks in a place called Two Rivers for "fun" races, these races aren't very long only 10-30 or so miles, the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association hosts these and some longer 100 and 200 mile races. The idea as with most races is to get together, race dogs and have lots of fun...wining is nice to. These shorter fun races have a really fun atmosphere and serve as great training runs for young race dogs, it lets them experience the chaos of a race with out the serious competitive pressure one finds in a longer race. It is also good experience for dogs and musher alike passing other teams.
To learn more about the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association and their races and events please go to 


Monday, November 7, 2011


We have been getting more snow over the last few days and finally have enough to run small teams on sleds. Both the dogs and I are ecstatic, we are looking forward to more snow and bigger teams. The first team I ran was 4 dogs, and it went really well, there isn't a lot of breaking power yet, due to a lack of snow to sink our breaks into. The second team was a three dog team, and we also had a nice run with no problems. I ran both teams about 4 miles, not a long run, but just long enough to get out and enjoy this new snow. Soon we will be doing runs of 50 plus miles.
Team number one consisted of BP and Rapid in lead and
 Chaos and Summit in wheel.

The dogs were so excited to be out and running in this fresh snow they ran really fast  with great enthusiasm the whole way, it was all I could do to hang on for some of the bumpier places and sharp corners. Since it can be difficult to hang on and take pictures, I only have pictures of the easy sections of trail. 

Team number one after arriving home.
Team number two consisted of Adidas in lead, and
Pip, and Molly in wheel. 
Pip voices his excitement about the pending run. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Changing Seasons

   As the golden leaves of fall are slowly getting covered by a white blanket of bliss the dogs are getting antsy, they know their season is here. There is excitement in the air as the snow accumulates, we have about 3 or so inches on the ground right now and more for casted to fall through out the next few days.
Despite the lack of snow it is cold, we have been seeing temperatures of about -10F to -20F at night and about 0F during the daylight hours, perfect weather for sled dogs.

  While we do not have enough snow to run to dogs with the sleds yet we are running them about 4-5 times a week using a 4-wheeler, known to some as a quad. The 4-wheeler is not nearly as fun as a sled but it does provide some bonuses such as a longer training season, better stopping power, a speedometer and odometer to better track the speed and miles we are traveling. The 4-wheeler is more limited to where it can go compared to a sled especially with a string of dogs attached to it, so our trails are limited until we get some more snow and then they become endless.

Half way through an 11.4 mile run we stopped to take a quick break, and 
I took a walk up the team to check the dogs and give each one 
quick pat and tell them how good they are doing. They would much 
rather keep running then stop. Shortly after snapping this picture
the dogs decided it was time to go, and all ten dogs pulling
 at the same time creates a lot of power, even with the parking break on
 I had to quickly jump on the 4-wheeler to stop the team from leaving me behind.

The team travels seemingly effortlessly at about 12 mph.
The ability to smoothly cross obstacles in the trail such as
this wooden bridge is important for the safety of
the dogs. We work with all of the dogs to socialize
and expose them to new people, places, and experiences
from a young age. 
Chupa and Rapid display the fact that even at 0F it is still cold enough to have frosty faces.