Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Fall, or early winter in Two Rivers is golden. I have left behind the deep greens, deeper grays of Juneau where everything is muted by rain. Soon our “Pleasant Valley” will be whitened with hoar frost and a few hours of a weak and milky sun. But now, everything glows. The sun is still bright enough to reflect off the crust of snow. The sedges and hay still sway gold and if you get out early enough they are still coated in frozen dew. Even though the leaves of the fireweed are bent and brittle they still have a brown “sun-baked” look to them. If I were to pick a soundtrack to the landscape the dogs steadily pull me and the 4-wheeler through it would be epic, operatic, or symphonic. But really I am listening to reggae, RHCP, and 311(oo0o amber is the color of your energy…) which is fine. It is a nice happy rhythm to cruise to, we aren’t building on speed right now just strength and endurance. I am running 2 ten dog teams, and 1 nine(old guys and pups) everyday so that leaves for plenty of socialization with all the mushers of Two Rivers, “Hi Judy, hi Rick, hi Allen, Aily, Jason, Susan, Judy‘s handler.” Some people don’t have names because I don’t know who they are. “I saw Carhartt Guy today.” We aren’t all spread out yet with big miles so we have lots of encounters.
The sun is also one of the best improvements of the new dog yard. Our old yard was kind of in a hole. Surrounded by tall black spruce, it didn’t let much light in. It made for a dark cold dog yard. For property value purposes our stubby black spruce that surround the new yard are less than desirable, but for us it’s a vast improvement. Its also a great spot for stargazing. Last night I saw the whole winter hexagon. A group of 6 constellations, each with a bright star making up the points of the hexagon. Taurus, Orion, Canis Major and Minor, Gemini, and Auriga. The waning gibbous moon was right dab in the middle of it when we got home last night from seeing my friend Brady’s band, Sweatin’ Honey. They rocked the Howling Dog. Good thing because there is no heat in the Howling Dog, so they had to churn up some dancers to make it warm in the joint. It was nice to get out and see live music, it will probably be the last time in a while. It will be a busy winter, so Jim and thought we might as well get out while we still can. Well it time to feed dogs and get on with the chores, so I can get to work on time. Even though it is totally irrelevant I will end with a line from Sweatin’ Honey just because I liked it,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cosmic Canines are Quest bound!!!!

I don’t know how one could feel nervous and excited as well as somewhere deep down, calm and relieved all at the same time. But that would be how I would describe how I feel after turning in my completed Yukon Quest Race Application. After 9 years I am finally going to tackle the adventure again, its been too long. Somehow that makes me feel a kind of peace. A generous sponsor from my employers, Alaska Icefield Expedetions, unhooked the snap at the end of the chain I’ve been yanking on for years and after running full speed for a while down the trail, experience tells me I better slow down, it’s a LONG TRAIL AHEAD. But still…
Time to EAT SLEEP DRINK BREATHE DOGS. Sounds like heaven!
We had a quick trip, though greatly delayed trip from Juneau. The other exciting event this winter is living in our new house. We got the dog yard put in, that was a project. Pounded all 30 posts in by hand, by myself. Moved 3 trailer loads of dog houses. The dogs were staged at Kris’s place 5 miles away, I was going to do whatever it took to get the dogs home ASAP. Soon we will have a well house, imagine running water! Busted out our out trail. What a magic carpet ride compared to where we had to run last winter. No more traveling down icy roads, dodging cars. No more 90 degrees turns 100 feet into our runs. Just a nice gradually turning private trail off the property, then down a powerline right onto Baseline, the main vein that connects many of the trails here in Two Rivers.
The dogs look good, strong, mature. Snow is on the ground. The freezer is full of moose (thanks to Jim’s 69 inch moose), rock fish, and smoked salmon. Spent the last couple of days at the Mushing Symposium, catching up with every musher on earth, getting inspired, researching. Booties are on the way, ointments ordered. Stockpile, stockpile; Batteries, handwarmers, snaps, runner plastic.
I also signed up for our first race, the Gin Gin 200 on December 27th. Unique in that it is an all women’s race. Just about every woman musher I talked to is running the race too. So its sounds like it will be a nice turnout.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Back to the blog

Sorry its been so long. I really have no excuse. Its been a long and wet summer but all is well. I am super anxious to get back into the interior, back to the Alaska I know and love, mostly just back out of the rain! Actually, we have had a handful of wonderfully beautiful days. We've taken advantage of them by fishing and mountain biking. A taste here and there of Southeast Summer, a moment or two to see the tops of the mountains that surround us. The interior fall is calling me though. Our summer salmon is smoked, Jim is leaving to go moose hunting next weekend, and the dogs are riled up with the cooler temps, the daily tour routine isn't quite enough right now to expend all of their energy.

I just want to get on with our exciting winter season. I've ordered booties and new harnesses. I want to sign up for all of the races we have planned right now! But I am trying to be somewhat practical. Experience has told me you just may never know what might happen. Either that or I am listening a little too much to those that say "You Can't" Well while they are wasting their breath I am setting up Team Cosmic so that everything is a little easier for us come race season. Its all I can do to ease my itching to get on a 4 wheeler and start our actual training miles. Just 20 more days! Well off I go to enjoy one of the few dry days here in Juneau. A little moutain biking, a round at the archery course, and a little fishing. Triathalon Alaska Style!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Spring time in Alaska

Can you believe it is the Middle of April ?!? Even for Alaska this is impressive. We have received over a foot of snow this month alone! I have been taking advantage of the SUN and the SNOW and the WARM TEMPS. It is like mushing in paradise. I have been giving the race dogs a little rest before their busy tour season and been focusing on the PUPS and the OLD BOYS. It’s been a blast. Telesto(12), Comet (12) and King(10) feel like the studs of the yard again. And Polaris(13 mos.) and Pluto(13mos.) are gaining confidence. They trained with the race team all fall, but were dropped after the miles became to long and fast. Nova (9mos.) and Pulsar(9mos.) are learning the joy of mushing. And building a solid foundation so that they can do some tours this summer. They were part of the “lucky puppies” the pups born 7/7/07, that many of you held this past summer.

Ahhh they grow so fast. No puppies this year has left me jonesing for my puppy fix. Guess I can wait a couple weeks until I get to camp.

Speaking of which, I am wondering if we will still be going down on the 3rd of May. An avalanche knocked out the hydropower plant in Juneau, they don’t expect it to be running again for a month. This poses two problems: Juneau is running on the diesel powered plant until then, that means electric costs 500% more and if there is an avalanche at Shettisham, that isn’t very far from Sheep Creek, we can’t move up there until Avalanche danger is gone. We’ll have to see.

Jim is off bear hunting in Galena. He snowmachined from Manley (300 miles + ) and I haven't heard from him yet. Hopefully he'll get us a nice bear rug for our new house that god willing we close on THIS WEEK! I am holding down the home fort, Rationing the firewood so don't have to cut it again, but winter won't go away so I'd better warm up the saw.

Friday, April 18, 2008

MY season begins

Well now that the dogs’ season is coming to an end, my season has begun. I ran my first 5K of the year. The Beat Beethoven. It is a fun race, it is a fundraiser for the Fairbanks Symphony Orchestra, they play Beethoven’s 5th Symphony and you are to finish the race before it ends (it takes 31 minutes so it’s pretty easy). There is also a guy who dresses up as Beethoven and runs the race, he times it so that he finishes at the exact moment that the music ends. I smoked him! Not my best time, but pretty happy for the first race of the year. Placed 7th out of 60 something in my age class. The first mile is uphill (but nothing like some of the Juneau races) and it was about 18 degrees so it was a little frigid on the lungs. Over 578 people were in the race. I finished around 60th overall. Have 2 5K’s this weekend. Hopefully the Sheep Creek crew is in training already too, so we can rock the SERR race circuit again this summer. We should do well with our 2 new mushers, Lucas has run ultra marathons, and Ed has run a few marathons himself, then of course we have both Matts, Tasha, and Sarah returning

Our Last Hurrah!

Our last hurrah. Last week I was supposed to run the Taiga 300 but I had to spend the race budget on purchasing our new house, so to make myself feel better Jim and
I loaded up 20 dogs and Cosmos into the truck and headed for the White Mountains.

We took 2 ten dog teams 30 miles out to Crowberry Cabin, a BLM cabin and set up a base camp. Everything had been melting fast so we thought this may be our last trip. It was snowing heavily when we left the parking lot, it was like running in a slow globe. That made the trails nice, but was kind of disappointing because without the vistas the whites are kind of blah. A forest fire 2 years ago wiped out much of the trees, and even the old Crowberry Cabin. But it was nice to be out with Jim and the dogs. Actually the burnt black spruce have a sort of charm to them.

We ate HUGE King Crab legs, Spring Asparagus and shared a bottle of Pinot Noir and watched the crescent moon rise behind the White Mountains as it chased the snow clouds away. The dogs were a little rowdy that night, 30 miles isn’t much even for the yearlings. Plus for some of the dogs, this was their first camping trip.

The next morning we woke to beautifully sunny skies and a wonderful view into the mountains we would be climbing. We headed out to the Windy Gap Divide. It was a wonderful trip, we made fresh tracks on the untouched trails, so it gave us the feeling of being “way out there” instead of just 4o miles outside of Fairbanks. It was hot so we stopped often, which provides for tons of doggy/musher bonding. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Back at “base camp” the sun was still out (thank god for Alaska’s Midnight Sun, or 10:30pm sun in April) and the dogs laid and basked in the sun. They were much relaxed after a big work out and the warm temps. Jim and I feasted on Burgandy-Pepper Steaks, and Asparagus, and shared a bottle of Merlot and watched the neon peach sunset dance with the wispy blue sky.

The next day the skies were clear again. We slept in and left at noon to head back to the truck. It was slow going, but we arrived tanned faced and happy. A perfect end-of -the-season trip.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Me and Meade

Solstice 100

The Cosmic Canines participated in their first race Saturday. We entered the Solstice 100. There were 12 teams and we finished 5th. So I was pretty happy with the crew. The trail was a little slow because we just got 8 inches of snow and it was warm, so it was a little bit of a slog on the way out, which truthfully the dogs need. We’ve been training on a “bullet proof ice skating rink” for most of the season, so it was nice to give them a taste of some different conditions. But for us mushers, it doesn’t get much nicer, warm (25 degrees) and absolutely gorgeous. Sunny skies and warm weather don’t normally go together in Fairbanks in the winter. So it really was a blessing of a day.

My dog box isn’t built yet so I had to run the dogs to the start. It’s only 2 miles to Pleasant Valley Store, the starting line. I felt kind of “bad ass” pulling up to the parking lot like that. “Yeah, the Cosmic Canines don’t need no truck.” The start went relatively smooth and we started passing teams within 7 miles of the start. I was a little worried about passing our home trail, 4 times, but the dogs passed without hesitation. It was a wonderful, but slow trip out, but definitely fun.

Dark Star was running a little funny, though I couldn’t find any injuries, but she is young so I decided to drop her at Angel Creek. I must not have given Kobuk enough time to recover from his wrist injury because it was sore when I checked it, he’s a big dog, and didn’t want to carry him if it got real bad so I dropped him too.

I had a burger and a couple of beers while I enjoyed the company of my fellow mushers. There was a mandatory 4 hour layover, so I relaxed while the dogs rested. It was dark when it was time to go. I bootied up the dogs. I just wanted to hold my 5th place position. Jody Bailey left 17 minutes in front of me, and Molly Yazawinski about 11. Carol Blevins was due to leave 9 minutes behind me. So I was worried more with Carol catching up from behind. The cooler temps firmed up the trail so it was a lot faster. The dogs were going at a good clip; I held them back a little to pace them for the whole run back. About 5 miles down the trail I saw a headlamp….ahead of me! I turned mine off, so I could “stealth” the musher that wasn’t aware of me catching up yet. We caught them quickly and passed. I turned my head lamp back on. It was Molly. Now I wasn’t planning to move up any positions, but just that little taste of competition drove me. Hey maybe I could catch Jodi too. We pulled away quickly; I began to call the dogs up. We went around a bend where I knew I was out of sight and I turned my headlamp back off. That way it would be harder for her or her dogs to see me and “give chase”. The moon was almost full and really I didn’t need the headlamp. I kept on the dogs to keep a good pace. Samson and Leo were responding well in lead. I could tell they were having a blast. About 15 miles later on a long straight stretch I could see a headlamp behind in the distance. “Oh crap, I don’t know if that’s Molly, or Carol, but I was getting used to the idea of placing 4th.” I started pushing and running, calling the dogs faster. I knew in the open swamps it would be easier to see our silhouette against the glow of the moon reflecting off the snow, so I would really push them so we could hide in the trees again, then I would let them catch their breath again. We held the team off for about 10 miles. I had put my parka on because it was about 0 when I left Angel Creek. But I hadn’t planned to be getting so much of a workout. I was sweating. I didn’t even have time to pull my parka off. Then I remembered the strip of reflective fabric that I had sewn around the skirt of my parka for safety. I sure that it stood out in the light of a headlamp, even from a distance. So I pulled up my skirt in the back so it would cover it.

I knew the road crossing was coming. We train on this trail regularly, so my dogs don’t really need help crossing the road. On the way out the dogs kind of freaked seeing all of the people at the crossing. So I left my headlamp off hoping that the volunteers wouldn’t see me coming and I could skate past the crossing. But a truck was heading down the road, so I had to stop and the volunteers saw us so they came running out and the dogs balked. The got tangled and wouldn’t move off the road. Finally we got across and I had a hard time getting them untangled. Here came the team from behind. Shoot! All of that hard work ruined for something as stupid as a road crossing. They caught us quickly and I had to give them trail because we were still 5 miles from the finish. We tailed them but didn’t have quite enough to pass. Oh well, I was happy with 5th when I left Angel Creek, I should be happy with it at the end.

So we finished 5th, just seconds behind Molly. Not bad for a bunch of young dogs. It was pretty cool after pulling over the finish line to just mush the dogs on home, ”Race done, we’re not, later!”

Friday, January 04, 2008

Update from Paradise

We've been putting on lots of miles and having fun. The team is really coming together. They really are surprising me, they are still young though so we are taking it slow. It has been pure luxury lately because after over two weeks of running this whole show by myself and working 6 days a week during the Lodge's busy Holidays...Jim is back and I have a whole 10 days off from work! Its been nice to focus just on the dogs and catch up on all of the stuff that has been barely maintained while I've been so busy.

I hope to do some long 50 - 100 milers during this time to choose my race team. Yes my race team! Thanks to generous anonymous sponsor, we will most likely be running the Don Bowers 200. 15 dogs are trying out for the race. They are:

All of my 2 year old "Solstice Girls" aka "the princesses" : Eclipse (L)
Corona (L)
Umbra (L)
Zenith (L)
My 3 year old "momma's boy" Leo(L)
My yearling stud Titan(L)
A good 4 year old leader I bought from Mike Jayne Samson(L)
My 14 mo. old super stars Apollo
Dark Star
Wild man (2 years) Stellar
And his fellow freak (1 year) Space
The Saluki Hounds (3 yrs?) Scotty
Captain Kirk aka Captain Crunch (L)
and the Big man (3yrs.) Kobuk aka Chewbaca

I've been running 10 dog teams, would run 12 doggers if it weren't for the 2 rutted up 90 degree turns 25 feet into our run and the 2 miles of standing pressing as hard as you can on the brake to slow down on the hard pack icy road to get the the trail so we don't hurt our dogs or get run over by cars.

Its been great though, nice weather, not too cold 0 to 20 below. Checking out all the Two Rivers Trails. They are actually in really nice shape. Little bumpy in spots, but I can get a hook in anywhere. Nice enough I might get the Prairie Bilt out (the BMW of sleds). So far I have just been riding around on the beater toboggan. Which really is not a bad ride itself.

If the local dog club ever deems it safe enough to drive dog teams on the trails most mushers have been running on for a month now they may have 70 mile race Jim will run in.

We just got home from driving "out the road" to check if the river crossings are frozen and cut some firewood, then a soak in the Hot Springs, and a burger at Angel Creek Lodge so we could visit Steve and Anette. Time to go feed the dogs and hit the hay. Life is good.