Saturday, December 30, 2006

Succumbing to peer pressure

Last night I went down to the local hangout, Two Rivers Lodge. The neighborhood was celebrating that the ownership of the lodge has again switched over, for the better this time. So everyone was there, drinking beer and eating good food.

Jack asked me, " So Abbie, whats going on?"

"Oh just running dogs, I've done 100 miles in 24 hours between the 2 teams, not to mention I cut some wood today, cleaned my stove pipe."

" No I mean, what's going on?"

Ilooked at him puzzled. Though I knew in the back of my mind, what he was getting after. Jack used to race and he always is asking me what races I am running, am I training the dogs hard, etc. etc. So I could feel the corner of my mouth turning up into a smile.

Jack slaps me on the back, "I mean, what race are you running, did you sign up for the Basin yet?"

Before I could answer Brent asks, "You're running the Copper Basin 300?"

"Well..." I start to explain.

Jason chimes in, " You signed up?"

I was bombarded from all sides. I felt cornered.

"You see, I don't know if I have the money, I don't know which race I want to do yet. I haven't put any double runs on my dogs yet...."

"Sign up for the damn race Abbie," Jack insists, " You know you want to run the Basin."

Jason says, " Its stupid to train the dogs as hard as you have been and not race."

"I know, but....."

Jack slams his fist on the table, " I'll put in $150 towards the entry fee!"

Susan cries ou, "I'll match that!"

Ralph joins in, "I put in $50!"

Then the whole bar starts chanting, "ABBIE!ABBIE! ABBIE! ABBIE!"

What choice did I have? Plus Jack is right, I do want to run the Basin, it is by far my favorite race. I may be crazy, and I have just signed up not only for the Basin but also for being close to broke for the next month. But hey, you only live once. I was so excited I went home and wrote out my very strict training schedule for the next two weeks. Along with the pages of things I need to purchase or get ready. Hmmm.....maybe this is really doable.

The race is on January 13th. It is known as the toughest 300 miles in Alaska. I have run it twice, once in 1999, and again in 2001. Jason has volunteered to be my handler. And Susan will feed the dogs left behind. When I told my Dad, he said he might fly up for it. That would be cool!

They haven't updated my entry on the website yet, they have 18 mushers signed up so far. You can follow the race at their webite. COPPER BASIN 300

Monday, December 25, 2006

Titan: What a Stud! Not even a year old.

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A Christmas Story.......corny but true.....kinda

Last night, Christmas Eve, the dogs and I were out on a training run. They looked good, moving along at a nice pace. We climbed high up into the hills, snow was lightly falling, and it wasn’t too cold (-10 below). It was the second team I had run for the day so we didn’t leave until quite late. I don’t know if it was the beautiful night, or the festive feeling in the air, or both, but everything was running smoothly and the dogs were really eating up the trail. Part of being a good musher is recognizing this and going with it. It works the other way too; if everything isn’t clicking together sometimes it is better to shorten your run. (Not always however, everything isn’t going to go perfectly on a race (unless, of course, you are Jeff King) and you need to learn how to work it out.) But last night was an awesome night so instead of running the 30 mile run we had planned we went 15 miles farther.

If I run over 30 miles (and sometimes on shorter runs too) I usually stop and snack my dogs at some point. It is just a nice attitude enhancer for the dogs. Joe May gave me some good advice once, that he never runs his dogs 60 minutes out of the hour. He always stops, even for just for 5 minutes, and gives the dogs a break. Every other hour he usually snacks too. This is a philosophy I follow, and I think you make up for it double in the speed of your dogs, for the rest time you “wasted.” Not to mention, it’s an excellent excuse to stop and pet the dogs. If I didn’t want to be out there with my dogs, I would go and buy a snowmachine, what would be the point? So I stopped at one of my favorite spots, where during the day there is a nice view, and a small spruce tree that I can securely set my hook on, gave the dogs a little fat snack, and pet them, telling each one how great they are. Leo was rolling around in the soft snow just off the side of the trail (just like his Dad, Chebah, used to do). Spock was inspecting the ground around him, making sure he didn’t miss a crumb. Telesto was busy barking, “What are we stopping for?!? Let’s go!!” Gosh, he still acts like a yearling and he is the oldest dog in the team.

All of a sudden, Leo jumps up, Telesto quiets, and Spock looks up. The whole team is turned looking back down the trial, ears perked.

Now I like to “rock out” on my runs, so I have my MP3 player head phones in, listening to something or another (my mushing soundtrack I will touch upon in another blog) plus I have my thick beaver hat on, the one my handler used to hate me to wear because she would try to talk to me but I can’t hear a thing, so I didn’t hear anything. I have some of the best ears in the animal kingdom to listen for me, and they were all alerting me to something coming up behind us. I pressed pause on my player and lifted one of my ear flaps so I could hear what it was.

I could hear a jingle in the distance. As it grew closer the jingling grew very loud. Dogs are given metal ID tags each time they compete in the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest which hang from their collars. But this jingling was so loud, I thought, “Geez, this team must have run both races for the last 10 years!”

As I attempted to work out which musher would have such an impressive race career, I could see the silhouette of a team against the white snow. I tried to make them out through the falling flakes and dark, “Holy cow! Those dogs are huge!” I said out loud to Telesto. Then I saw shadows of antlers coming out of the dark heads. Was it a herd of moose tagged so many times by biologists that they rang like bells? Then I saw a giant sled driven by a fat musher.

“HO! HO! HO!” He cried. I actually say “Ho!” to make my dogs stop, instead of “whoa!” So I thought the musher was just telling his team of “freak dogs” to stop. He got off his sled and walked up to the front of his team, “Good boys and girls,” he said in a jolly voice. All of my dogs started wagging their tails madly. I could see he was wearing a red parka with a white ruff.

It was Santa!

“Well it’s nice to see another driver out here tonight,” he said as he approached. He smelled of candy canes and ginger spice, “Nice night for a sled ride!”

Santa and I exchanged training tips, and talked about gear like harnesses. He actually uses QCR plastic and aluminum runners on his sleigh; they ride nicer on roof tops. He was also contemplating swimming the reindeer during the summer like some of the top mushers do now. He liked my homemade “Seavey Style” spreader bars that hold the tuglines the dogs pull from straight, so that they pull more efficiently and is thinking about having the elves make him some to try out. He said Donner has been fighting a chronic shoulder injury and he has been massaging it with Algyval. I asked him what kind of headlamp he used and he said he didn’t need one on account of Rudolf. I asked if he had an Iditarod win wrapped up in his sled for Lance Mackey, and told me that no matter how good we mushers are, victories are only given out by good dogs, good luck, and hard work.

“Speaking of work, I must get back to delivering all these presents.” He turned around go back to his sled, but then stopped and turned back around, “ I noticed you didn’t hang up any stockings, and I am afraid to put any gifts under the tree you decorated outside, you know how the ravens get into everything. I was wondering how I was to give you….”

“But Santa,” I looked at my dogs, down the trail, and at the softly falling snow. ” I already have the best gift ever, I’m living my dream.”

“HO! HO! HO!” He smiled at me with a sparkle in his eye. Then, without a word he climbed back onto his sleigh. The snow danced and whirled around us as they flew by into the sky.

I went back to my own sled, but before I could pull the snow hook all of my dogs began to howl.

“OOOoOOoOooooOOooooOOooooo!!!!” I couldn’t help it, I joined them.

Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!! I hope you all got your dreams for Christmas too!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice everyone! It not only is the first day of winter but is a big deal up here because tomorrow we start gaining daylight. Officially the sun rose at 10:58am today and set at 2:37pm. and even when it is up it is just above the horizon glowly weakly. It isn't very motivating, and though life goes on here even though it is in the dark, I think every Alaskan does "hibernate" in a way. I try to remind myself that we are the Cosmic Canines, think of all that time under the stars. And at least we aren't above the Arctic Circle, they haven't seen the sun at all since some time in November, and won't see it again until sometime in January. I went to a bonfire last night to celebrate and will go on a night run tonite (gee what are the chances) with the dogs. I thought I would share a poem I wrote a long time ago about the Winter Hexagon, which is a group of constellations that are very prominent in the Winter Sky. If you would like to check out a star chart mapping the WInter Hexagon. CLICK HERE


It twas the 21st of December
I kneeld to poke the burning embers
To strengthen the only lamp
Of this remote forest camp
Where my dogs and I stopped for the night
The fire cast its weary light
Chased by my tired eye
On things around me lie
It was a startling observation
My surroundings resembled the constellations
There across the river's way
Which on top milky ice lay
Awaits my sled, my arctic chariot
Where the star Capella aught fit
Next to which seemingly from the same cone
For so akin they had grown
Stood two spruce trees dignified
Where should the twins Gemini
There's my small lanky husky
Which silent drinks the river's tea
That through rocks and pebbles steeped
Now through a hole in the ice it seeps
The other dog gazes at me with eyes of blue
The larger more serious of the two
In a monent 4 ears perk
For into camp something lurked
I turn my gaze past my snowshoes where
Earlier I had seen a hare
I kept turning full 180 around
Till a bull moose my eyes found
There for a moment silent he stood
And then turned a disappearred into the wood
I thought long to wonder why
This animal had not been shy
I figured he came to represent Aldebaran
Solely to complete my Winter Hexagon
So to complete this stellar riddle
Leaves me like Betelguese in the middle
To this thought the night became colder
Because I don't have Orion's shoulder
On which to rest my tired head
For miles away is the homestead

Sunday, December 17, 2006

AIE Camp on the Denver Glacier

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On the way to Denver Glacier by Helicopter

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Our trip to Skagway

Because it took me so long to post on my blog, I wasn’t able to tell you about some of my adventures I had while I was still in Juneau. Occasionally I will post these stories so that you can see what I was up to for so long.

It seemed every day off I had was another adventure. Halfway through the summer Matt arranged the schedule so that once a month we could have two days off instead of one. I had been debating whether or not to take up our company discount in which we get ½ off flights on SkagAir. I had wanted to go to Skagway all summer but I still hadn’t decided whether or not to spend the money and head up. I got off after tours on Friday and wouldn’t need to be back to camp until Monday at 11:30am. Johnnie also had off on Saturday and asked if I would like to go take the boat out to Echo Cove which is located 42 miles North of Juneau, at the end of the road. I decided to go with the flow; it was the most beautiful day. It had been raining (imagine that in Juneau) for days, but Saturday the sun had chased every cloud out of the sky. So I agreed.

Cosmos, Johnnie, and I jumped in the boat and headed off to sea. We went out in the boat and all the way to the head of the bay. It couldn’t have been a better boating trip! On the way back we even pulled the boat close to shore and went swimming. I couldn’t believe I was swimming in the ocean in Alaska! It wasn’t too bad either; Echo Cove is pretty shallow so it gets warmed up by the sun.

We headed back in after spending the afternoon on the water, and of course had dinner at Johnnie’s favorite eatery, Chan’s Thai House. He was leaving for Wyoming that night and I had agreed to take him to the airport. So after dropping him off I went to the waterfowl refuge which is at the end of the airport runway to camp. That way in the morning I could wake up and take a jog on the 5 mile trail that winds around the wetlands. I had a half marathon to train for so I wanted to keep in shape.

I woke up and strapped on my running shoes, the trail runs right at the end of the runway. I still was debating whether or not I might head up to Skagway. The plane didn’t leave until 11:00 so I thought I could take a run, clear my head, and make my decision. As I ran at the end of the runway, it was if I had planned it, I was directly under an Alaska Airlines 737 as it took off. To those of you that have never experienced being about 30 feet under a plane taking off, it is quite overwhelming.

It stopped, and jumped up and down with excitement. “That was AWESOME!” I yelled. There was a walker coming from the other way, they looked at me as if I had just escaped the asylum.

I started to run again, now, perhaps I am silly, but I took it as a sign. After my jog I was going go take a shower at the company duplex, and then jump on a plane for Skagway. It also was the second perfect day as far as weather goes, so I thought I’d better take the opportunity as it arose.

I had a nice run, took my shower, and headed to the airport. The SkagAir planes are small, 4 person planes, which to some people are scary. I am the opposite, I feel quite nervous a jet, if there are problems on a jet there is no second chance usually, you just careen to the earth. I guess the physics of a multi-ton vehicle thousands of feet in the air doesn’t compute to me. That doesn’t mean I won’t get on a jet, it just means I am one of those that have to have a cocktail or two for some liquid courage and a window seat, because if I don’t look out the window at all time the plane might go down. Now on little Cessnas and the sort, if there are problems you can possibly glide to an emergency landing. I know my logic is skewed, but remember I am the girl who makes travel plans because I had a “sign”.

Flying with me that day was a jewelry dealer making his business rounds from his Juneau to Skagway stores. (You would be surprised how many jewelry stores there are in both towns catering to the cruise ship travelers. They deal all kinds of jewelry, of coarse specializing in gold nuggets, Russian Diamonds, and my favorite amolite. Amolite, is a semi-precious stone that changes colors as you turn it back and forth, reminding the holder of the aurora. On one of my first trips by the stores in downtown Juneau I had to make an oath to myself not to come by the jewelry stores after getting paid, in fear I might buy one of the gorgeous pieces they display in their windows instead of saving my money for more practical things like, dog food. I thought of my Aunt Karen who would have a field day picking out something to add to her amazing collection.

The other passenger was a teenage girl who had come up from the lower 48 for a mission trip through her youth group. It was her first trip in a small plane and she was very nervous. I tried to give her my philosophy of flying in small planes but I might have been making things worse so I stopped.

As we were taxing, the pilot asked. “Would you like to go straight to Skagway or would you like to take advantage of the beautiful day and take the scenic route?”

The jewelry dealer said, “Whatever.” He had taken this flight to many times to be impressed.

The teenage girl didn’t say anything, she was too busy praying and making sure her seatbelt was tightened.

Cosmos couldn’t see out of his kennel in the back anyways so he didn’t care.

I said, “Definitely! The scenic route!”

So off we went. The pilot took us over the mountains and glaciers, tilting the plane so we could get a nice view. It was incredible!

After an hour of stunning landscapes we arrived over Skagway. The plane had to do a sharp 180 to get situated properly for landing on the airstrip between the mountains that tower above the tiny town.

After we landed, Cosmos and I asked for directions to the Temsco Headquarters, which is the helicopter company that flies for our tour company. From there I called my friends who were working at the other “dirt dog” camp in Skagway. They are our competition so I wanted to check out their operation. They didn’t get off until late afternoon so I decided to also check out our own company’s glacier operation in Skagway.

I booked a trip, which wouldn’t leave for an hour or two, and Cosmos and I headed down town to check out the historical Gold Rush Town of Skagway. It is a cute town like Juneau, geared for tourists, but Skagway is more rustic or frontier. I also noticed that the gardens were so much nicer than Juneau. It is one of the more “sunny” places of the notoriously wet Southeast, and it is apparent in the beautiful gardens that are scattered about the town. We had lunch at a little cafĂ© with a patio. Cosmos sat on the chair next to me, attracting all kinds of people. He is such a popular dog. Then we headed back to Temsco to catch a heli to the glacier.

Cosmos had to stay behind unfortunately. I boarded a copter with 5 other tourists, who had no idea that I was a musher myself. I wanted to get the full experience of what it was like to go on a heli tour.

I had been to our other camp before, but I took a crew flight, which b-lines right for the camp. On the actual tour the pilot took us on a scenic trip over ice falls and high mountain lakes, giving us information about glacier formation and such. When we landed we walked out we were given an orientation speech by Ken, who I had met before. He smiled at me knowingly. Afterwards he pulled me aside and asked if would like to go on a tour or just walk around camp and check it out. I told him I wanted the full tour effect. We were split into groups and assigned a musher.

Glacier rides are done with 2 sleds with seats in the basket of each one. The musher drives the front sled, and one person sits in their sled, then one tourist drives the “tag” or “tandem” sled tied behind the mushers sled with another passenger inside of their sled.

Being by myself I rode in the front sled with the musher, who was Tim. Tim has a reputation of being one of the most entertaining of all of the tour guides in our company, a title which he deservedly earned. Though he was a little “cheesy” from my standpoint, being in the business, his demeanor was perfect for the tourists. I found myself thinking I wish I was funny like him on my tours. Partway through the run we stopped so that the tourists could take pictures. Tim asked if I would like to drive the sled. I needed a sled fix, so I jumped at the opportunity. I finished the tour on the runners.

At the end of the tour while we were waiting for the helicopter, many of the “glacier people” came over to ask how our camp was and introduce themselves. We loaded back on the helicopter. The tourists were incredibly impressed with the tour. They all agreed it was one of the most amazing things they had ever done.

When we landed, I still had a couple of hours before my friends met me, so I went the botanical gardens and the museum, then finally to the bar.

Matt and Becca came from their dog camp and picked me up. We went out to dinner then headed out to their camp which is located outside of Skagway in an old settlement called Dyea. We drove their truck the 9 miles around the winding dirt road that skirts the end of the inlet. We had to park near the river and pile, all three of us, onto their 4 wheeler.

Now if you are paying attention, in a 48 hour period I had traveled nearly everyway possible. By foot, by swimming, by boat, truck, plane, helicopter, dog sled, and ATV. I though I should find a horse or tank or something to round everything off.

Before we headed up the hill to their camp we stopped at the creek that we had to cross to see if we could catch a salmon. The river was full of spawning salmon. Matt and Becca tried with the net along the shore. I asked for a chance. They handed me the net, I rolled up my pant legs and waded out into the freezing river. After many attempts we gave up, those salmon are fast, and we were full from dinner anyways.

They gave me the grand tour. Their operation is much different than ours. First of all they are on a treed hillside so the dogs are not as organized as our camps. It was nice but they it made me appreciate our company’s strife for ultimate professionalism. Plus they didn’t have half the amenities we have at our camp. Like showers and a cook, and wifi. One thing I did like better was their carts. They were lower to the ground and lighter.

We hung out and exchanged stories of our summer. They are housed in small cabins at their camp, and invited me to crash on their floor. But I looked at the soft cushy moss that covered the floor of the surrounding forest and opted to sleep there.

“But it’s going to rain Abbie.”

Clouds were forming in the sky, and it is Southeast, but the moss looked so inviting. I decided to take my chance. I rolled out the sleeping bag in the trees up on the hillside above their cabin and crossed my fingers and Cosmos crawled inside with me.

About 5 in the morning I awoke to the sound of drops on the forest floor and my sleeping bag. I poked my head out of the bag and looked up to the sky. It was sprinkling. But oh what a heavenly sleep! I didn’t want to go to the cabin.

“Please,” I pleaded, “Let me sleep out here the last few hours!”

As if the clouds heard, it stopped instantly. (I have tried this pleading repeatedly lately, asking for snow, but it has yet to work.)

We woke and went down the hill to begin Matt and Becca’s dog chores. I met Sebastian Schnuelle who I had been emailing for quite sometime. He had some harness for me to replace the ones that had been chewed over the summer. It was a brief encounter, as that he seemed very busy, I would find out later he was having a very bad day.

They finished their chores and took me back to town. It was raining now. So the flight back to Juneau wasn’t as spectacular as coming up.

It was a wonderful weekend. I as I remember it I long to go back to the Southeast. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not anxious for the end of winter (probably because we have hardly had one yet!) but how wonderful that I am actually looking forward to summer!


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Herbert Glacier from the Plane

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Berner's Bay

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Johnny, Cosmos and I at Echo Cove

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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Cosmic Canine "A" Team

Some of you know the Cosmic Canines personally so I thought I would tell you all what they are up to.

Basically they are divided into 2 teams. I have been training the A team for races which unfortunately have all been cancelled for lack of snow. We plan on racing in January sometime however we are not sure which race we will be running yet. A lot depends on trail conditions and other logistics, such as cost of fuel to get wherever (yes the high gas prices are affecting dog mushing too!) We do have a partial sponsor for our next race, who wishes to remain anonymous, he or she has graciously offered to pay the entry fee on our next race. So that is nice. One nice thing about the delay of being able to race is that some of the B team may be abwle to move up and race too.


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Telesto: Yes the old man is still hanging in there. He is 8 years old going on 2. This truly one of the amazing dogs I have ever run. He is a wonderful leader. He is still fast enough to pull the team up a notch. He has a great attitude, never gets tired, and doesn’t mind showing the younger dogs the ropes. He has done every single race mile I have ever done, and I think he still be going for a few more.


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King: A 5 year old leader I bought from Andrew Lesh (2nd in the Yukon Quest in 2001) for $1500. He has proven to be worth the price. He isn’t the fastest leader but he is my “Steady Freddie.” Nice fast trot.


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Leo: My 2 year old stud. He wasn’t to keen on leading for tours this summer, but like his father is a serious leader. He has the fastest trot in the team, but is still young so he is still getting his head together. He and King have a little bit of “issues” as that Leo is scared of King and won’t run lead next to him. But Leo sure gets the team cookin’ when he is paired with someone else


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Gemini: Leo’s sister. She is equally fast, but a little less experienced in lead than Leo. She did not do tours with us this summer so she started off a little behind, however you could never tell. She seems to have a never-ending endurance.


Ursa: My little surprise leader. Last spring she helped train the pups in lead but I never really considered her a main leader until this fall when I put her up front just to check it out. She is my speed demon. She loves to push the team faster and faster


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Eclipse: She is the only yearling that made it into the A team. She already leads and is a speedy focused little girl. You can see her transformation from a scrawny pup to a buff little dog.

Comet on the left or "Haw"

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Comet: The other old man that is still going strong. He is the oldest dog in the yard (9) and still is the first to howl the team into motivation. He is a big and powerful a dog that is an asset climbing hills. And still earns his nickname “the vacuum” the way he sucks down his food in seconds.


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Taurus: The 3rd in the Leo – Gemini litter. He looks a lot like another Comet and is strong and focused like him too. He makes a nice team dog and a nice wheel dog.


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Spock: My crazy ¼ Saluki Hound is hanging in there! He actually has a nice trot and I swear sometime he is single-handedly pulling us up the hills himself. He is a hound still though so he has to wear a coat when the temp drops


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Bellatrix and Vega

Bellatrix and Vega: My wild sisters are still pumping up the team with their cheerleading and no nonsense work ethic. The have great attitudes and have been running wheel a lot lately even though they are both leaders. They are 6 and slowing down a little so the are better back in the team a little. But I’m deep into a race I can depend on them to keep everybody moving


Alcor: Actually made the cut, I’m glad I didn’t give him away when I was going to. He is a fast trotter and a hard work. Unfortunately he hurt his shoulder because of the poor trail conditions. But with a little time off and physical therapy I’m sure he will be roight back in there.


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Bear: A 3 year old male I am trying out from Ray Redington. He ran in a 2nd place junior Iditarod team last year. He has a beautiful fast trot but is a little unfocused.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Looking for a retirement home:Ester

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Spock sporting his cold weather gear

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Camp Two Rivers

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It been a while

Hello everyone!

Sorry it has been so long since my last post. We’ve been very busy, and getting everything arranged to operate a “home kennel office” with no electricity has been a project. But thanks to modern technology, a little organization, and a little time I should have everything set up again to post regularly.

Its hard to believe that at our dog camp in Juneau, high up on the mountain we have all the amenities, running water, electricity, super fast wireless internet service, while here in the “suburbs” of Fairbanks, I have none of these luxuries.

Though we had really not wanted to come back to Two Rivers, about 25 miles Northeast of Fairbanks, it does have many advantages.

First of all, FRIENDS. I have such a nice core of friends here in Two Rivers who are always ready to give a helping hand or just hang out and have fun. I have set up our winter camp, which may be temporary depending on the weather, at my dear friend Kris Krestensen’s property. Kris is about 70, a former musher himself (he ran the Quest in 1986 under the name John Two Rivers), a former merchant marine, a native Norwegian, speaks 7 languages fluently, and a devourer of books. Needless to say he is not only a kind man but an interesting one. He is living at his “girlfriend’s” house and graciously offered his place for us, where we are able to “stay until we die.” Though the place isn’t much to look at, a small lot littered with Kris’s left behind junk, a couple of junkie broke down trailers, and a dead Toyota pick up, if I just keep my line of vision towards the dog yard I can pretend that none of that stuff exists. Plus it is right smack dab in the middle of Rick Swenson’s, Ray Redington’s, Bruce Milne’s, and about 5 or more other musher’s yards, all of whom were Grandfathered in, so not a word will be said any of the neighbor’s, whom for the most part used to be mushers themselves, about dogs barking. We can sit at home and say, “Ray must have gone to town tonight, he’s feeding awful late.” Or “Rick sure is getting on the trail early today.” It’s great! If I feel like running my dogs at 11 at night, because the full moon is lighting up the landscape and the northern lights are dancing, I can, and I have. Not a word will be spoken by anyone. Jim, my partner who came up with me from Juneau, says, “I don’t think that people insulate their houses for the cold so much as for the noise.”

Like I said though, we don’t have running water, which is the case for most of Two Rivers, but Jason and Susan (the owner’s of the 9 other dogs that I ran tours with this summer), have let us fill up our 5 gallon buckets for dog water daily so long as it is during the day, for they are not as fortunate to live in the “musher friendly” neighborhood, and are regularly being hassled by their neighbors about dogs barking. It has become quite nasty there too. Lawyers have been called, dogs have been poisoned, and gossip has been spread. Ironically, we are a little over a mile away, as the raven flies, so you can hear all the dogs in our neighborhood anyways. Hey people its Two Rivers! Dog mushing capital of the world, if you don’t like dogs, live somewhere else! If we don’t make it over to their house before dusk, which isn’t hard in December, in the interior, because the sun sets at 3:30, we can get water at the Laundromat for 25 cents for 6 gallons. This is also where we take showers, unless we drive out to Chena Hot Springs, just 25 miles down the road.

The other nice thing here in Two Rivers is the nice trail system. There are hundreds of miles of trails, on all kinds of varied terrain. You can travel on flat and fast trails, or climb some hills, or jump on the river when it freezes. Dogs learn good trail manners, passing other teams, running past loose dogs, crossing roads, running past moose. Now if only it would snow some more on all of those trails. It has been a hard early training season. We got about 6 inches of snow in late October, and have only got one inch since. Most of the mushers around are still running dogs on 4 wheelers. Let me tell you training dogs on a four wheeler is nice because of the control you have of the dogs but it is BORING and COLD. Ask any musher, there is nothing colder than sitting on a 4 wheeler for a couple hours. Top it off with the fact that it was colder than 20 below for 3 weeks straight in November, I have had it with this never ending fall training. I used my old sled for a while but I broke the runner so it was back to the ATV. We started getting into the bigger miles, 30 and 40 milers, and my brand new PrairieBilt Sled arrived that my Dad bought me, so now we are back on the sled with small teams, fingers crossed, and a daily snow dance ritual every night before bed. Wow! What a nice ride even over our bumpy trails. Thanks Dad! We just find trails to travel on until the mushers that are still on ATV’s come and pound them rock hard again, and then go find some more. It’s a divided issue. Those mushers on the 4 wheelers eye us with scrutiny and jealousy as we pass. I know they are mentally evaluating weather or not they too should put and end to their cold throttle thumbs and wind burned knees. I would say 40% of the mushers are on sleds and are questioned often by the other 60% during chance meetings at the local general store, “how it is going?” It is warmer now, which is nice; it has been over 0 for a week now. And the full moon and the meteor shower. It has been nice even without the foot of snow we need.

Finally what nice about living out here is how convenient it is to be a dog musher in Fairbanks. This really is the dog mushing capital of the world. There is 4 feed stores all geared for mushers, and if I don’t feel like driving into town I can have dog food, straw, meat, whatever, delivered to my doorstep. Many of us here in Two Rivers try to see how long we can go without driving to town. I figured out that if I plan my groceries right, I could stay out here all winter! Except I like to watch football, and the new owner of Two Rivers Lodge is trying to do away with his bar crowd, so I have to go all the way into town or all the way out to Angel Creek Lodge (out by the Hot Springs) to watch the game. We haven’t been venturing in lately though because we have been very focused on training up the dogs.

Our first 2 races have been cancelled due to lack of snow, but our main focus is the Yukon Quest 2008. Every race and training run we do this year is just in preparation for the Quest next year. I have a nice group of 13 dogs that are in my “A” team. Unfortunately, hard trails mean injuries for dogs. I have only had one major one in this A team, but I have been taking a lot of preventative measures to keep the team together. The dogs are inspected carefully after every run. If I know they have been traveling fast on hard packed trails, or cruising down hills I massage the dog’s feet, wrists, and shoulders with a Diluted Rosemary oil mix after the run. The bigger dogs really pound on their wrist so I wrap them with wrist wraps directly after a run, sometimes icing them too. We have had only one serious injury, poor Alcor hurt his shoulder, so he will have to take some time off for a while. Jim has been training another group of dogs that are too young or old for the A team or new comers in the yard that are behind in miles. Next year, many of these dogs will be moving up to the A team.

We have 6, 4 month old pups that are terrorizing the kennel. Which go on jogging runs with me or bike runs with Jim.

We do have a few retired dogs that I wish I had more time for. Saturn has to live inside now because he can no longer handle the cold. Lyra has to come inside also if it is really cold out. Ester has a permanent injury so she can’t pull a sled anymore, and Misty is just old. All of these dogs would make excellent pets if anyone is interested in helping out these dogs in their golden years, contact me at These are all my buddies for a long time, we’ve been on a lot of adventures together, so they can only go to the best homes, they deserve it!

Well I’m off to get my chores done in the yard, so I can get on the trail and be back in time to go out to the Hot Springs tonight. This month’s Two River’s Dog Mushers Association meeting is being held out there, oh darn! And if you have any unwanted snow down there in Texas and Oklahoma, or wherever, send it our way!