Friday, April 20, 2012

Spring is in the air

Caribou herd in Denali National Park 

After a long cold winter spring has finally sprung, or at least what we Alaskans call spring anyway. It is no longer getting below freezing at night and the after noon highs are reaching as high as +60f, most of the snow has melted, and the resulting mud is drying up. The grass on south facing slopes is threatening to turn green and the geese are back.
This time of year the dogs are all enjoying a much deserved break basking in the sun, chewing on bones, and playing in the mud. I am taking advantage of this nice weather to do a little traveling and also some cleaning around the house as more and more snow melts I keep finding more and more straw to rake and items that were lost in the snow to pick up. Last weekend Robert and I headed south to Denali National Park to drive the 30 miles of park road that is currently open to public traffic. It was a magnificently gorgeous day, we saw a ton of beautiful scenery and even some caribou.
Robert's parents are currently in town visiting us, it is great to have them here and we are really enjoying their company, this is the first time since we've been married that they have been able to come see us. Today we visited the large animal research station at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and got to see some brand new baby reindeer, one was still learning how to stand up and walk. It was so much fun to watch the little baby on its wobbly legs.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Last Long Run Of The Season

The team hanging out after a snack during a 20 minute break
a few miles past the half way point.
I really enjoy traveling through tall spruce trees.

Seven dogs and I took advantage of this beautiful day to go on a 48 mile run, sadly it will most likely be our last rally long run of the season. With spring quickly taking over and a lot of things to do over the next month before packing up the dogs and heading south, it's finally time to think about putting the sleds away until next winter.

The weather was absolutely beautiful with sunny skies, a very light breeze, and temperatures hanging out around +30F. The team handled the warm weather just fine and I really enjoyed it, the run took 5 1/2 hours and I never had to put anything more than a hoodie on to stay warm. I stopped the team a couple times for a quick snack of meat or a little kibble and we stopped several times very shortly to let the dogs bite or roll in the snow. We took a 20 minute break just over half way through the run, and the dogs seemed to appreciate the snack, but then were impatient about having to wait to keep moving down the trail.

Pip after he successfully turned the team
around by himself at the half way point.
Pip really got a chance to show me how much he has learned this winter. He is still a young dog, not quite two years old yet, but all winter he has been proving himself a valuable member of the team and a bright up and coming lead dog. I have been running pip in swing or double lead (next to another lead dog) all winter and finally today decided to see what Pip can do on his own, and wow am I impressed. I moved Pip up from swing (right behind the lead dog) to single lead just to see what would happen. Well Pip took off down the trail just like an old pro, he proceeded to lead the team for the next 37 miles all by himself. He flawlessly led us over multiple long glare ice patches, down new trails, and past snow machiners stopped on the trail taking a break and chatting. If Pip keeps up the good work he could very well be one of my main race leaders next winter.

In spite of not doing any more long runs this season, it is still far from over. The team and I and a few friends and their teams will be heading to the White Mountains this weekend for a final white mountains run this winter, probably only covering about 20 miles. The weather forecast is saying temperatures over the next few days and through the weekend are supposed to be around +40 to +50f so we should probably wave good buy to the snow. If the trails keep holding up I am going to try and get a few more short runs in with the puppies in addition to the white mountains weekend trip. Also the Kobuk 440 sled dog race will be starting on April 12th in Kotzebue Alaska. We will not be participating in this race, but for more info on it and to follow it please click here .

In early May the dogs and I will be heading to Skagway to work on the Denver glacier for the summer for  a company called Alaska Icefield Expeditions giving dog sledding tours. We will be living on the glacier for the summer with no internet access except on my days off which will hopefully be once a week. I will try to update my blog as much as possible about life on the glacier and I will also try to get a few more blog posts up before we leave. To learn more about Alaska Icefield Expeditions please click here .

Last Sunday Robert and I headed up to the whites for an eighteen mile run with our friends Martin and his daughter Hollie. Martin and I each drove a team of dogs, Robert drove the snow machine and Hollie took turns riding with each of us. We had a lot of fun and it was good experience for the puppies. I took advantage of us trucking the dogs some where for a short run to bring along a few of the pups to give them the experience. I brought Gus one of the yearlings who is behind the other yearlings in his training and Charley and Tramp two of the ten month old pups that were born at our kennel last spring. All the young dogs did terrific just like they'd seen it and done it all before. Below are some pictures from last Sunday.

Hollie demonstrating snow depth.
My team.
Martins team, and Robert on the Snow machine.
The view from the trail.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Valley Funale 2012

My team not far from the starting line with Adidas and Rapid in lead,
Pip and Chupa in swing, and Chaos and Summit in wheel.
Photo Credit: Jan DeNapoli

The dogs and I had a very fun day Saturday running our final race of the season. We headed our to Two Rivers with our friend Martin to run the Valley Funale. Every spring the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association Host the "Fun"ale, it is a community event with dog races, Easter egg hunts, a barbecue / pot luck, and a Hungry dog eating contest.
The dog races are  the main events with one and two dog races for the kids and then a 6 dog ten mile race and a ten dog twenty mile race for the adults. We competed in the 6 dog ten mile race this year, and came in third place with a total run time of 37 minutes and 51 seconds, we finished 48 seconds behind first place, and had a blast. The last 3-5 miles of the race were the most fun, that is where we caught up with the other teams and got to pass three teams and then work really really hard to stay in front of them. Abby west and I were helping the dogs as much as we could kicking and yelling encouragement for the last few miles, it sure is a lot of fun to come into the finish line with a team right on your heals, especially a talented one like Abby's.
The Funale is just a fun race, there are no prizes or anything. It is just a fun event for the community, a really positive way to end a race season.
I would like to take a quick minute to thank all the volunteers who made this race season a success in the Two Rivers community.

Here are the race results for the 6 and 10 dog races:

6 Dog Race
Bib # Place Name Time out Time in Total time 10 1 Roger Chamagne 11:46:00 12:23:03 0:37:03 1 2 Beth Manning 11:28:00 12:05:30 0:37:30 11 3 Amanda Gecas 11:48:00 12:25:51 0:37:51 8 4 Steve DeMolen 11:42:00 12:20:14 0:38:14 14 5 Nathaniel Stitt 11:54:00 12:32:44 0:38:44 13 6 Charlie Jagow 11:52:00 12:32:12 0:40:12 2 7 Lia Amundsen 11:30:00 12:12:05 0:42:05 9 8 Abbie West 11:44:00 12:26:11 0:42:11 12 9 Joanna Jagow 11:50:00 12:32:22 0:42:22 3 10 Robert Ramires 11:32:00 12:15:00 0:43:00 7 11 Erik Milan 11:40:00 12:24:34 0:44:34 6 12 AJ Sutton 11:38:00 12:25:03 0:47:03 5 13 Greg Newby 11:36:00 12:28:03 0:52:03 4 14 Ilana Kinsley 11:34:00 12:27:14 0:53:14

10 Dog Race

Bib # Place Name Time out Time in Total time 14 1 Skeeter Stitt 11:20:00 12:42:41 1:22:41 2 2 Jason Weitzel 11:02:00 12:27:55 1:25:55 16 3 Bill Cotter 11:24:00 12:53:30 1:29:30 9 4 Laura Allway 11:16:00 12:47:18 1:31:18 15 5 Rick Tarpey 11:22:00 12:56:46 1:34:46 11 6 Cali Gavora 11:18:00 12:52:56 1:34:56 3 7 Mandy Nauman 11:04:00 12:43:53 1:39:53 6 8 Suzan Amundsen 11:10:00 12:50:20 1:40:20 5 9 Wes Brightman 11:08:00 12:48:27 1:40:27 1 10 Tamara Rose 11:00:00 12:40:58 1:40:58 7 11 Eric Cosmutto 11:12:00 12:59:43 1:47:43 17 12 Tony Angelo 11:26:00 13:15:14 1:49:14 4 13 Bob Hauer 11:06:00 12:57:10 1:51:10 8 14 Donna Patrick 11:14:00 13:23:15 2:09:15

Adidas and Rapid showing there enthusiasm at the starting
line.  Photo Credit: Mariska Wright
Rapid doing the "happy dance"
at the starting line. Isn't she cute?
Photo Credit: Mariska Wright
The team leaving the starting chute.
Photo Credit: Mariska Wright