Monday, February 27, 2006

The latest...

Well, the Quest banquet was great! Turns out the only photo that really turned out well was one I took of my beer bottle on the table!! Go figure. Then something happened to the borrowed camera I was using and the some 170 pictures I took turned out way dark. Stephanie is working on salvaging some and I'll later post the semi-good ones. Check out Susan's site again, she's got some good photos, esp. one of the can-can girls!

It's really not a Yukon party without the can-can girls...

We've been doing the usual around here - training dogs! Working on those new leaders in small teams still.

Here's the first crew after a short run. This is Harris who had to take over the lead position from Ivy. She was NOT into leading at all today!

She just preferred to take the less stressful position behind the leaders.

That's her with Jack in the background.

Rupert worked his butt off in wheel.

Gabe had a blast!

"Alright, happy? I went outside today - now lemme get back on that couch!"

And then there's Kate. Kate led the whole way, and kept everyone moving pretty quickly. We get back and notice how EVERYONE ELSE is panting? Well, she doesn't even look tired! This is immediately after the run.

"Doo dee doo... ummm.... what the hell? Are we done already??"

Then later, Rupert puts on his shy face.

"Get that evil, soul-sucking device out of my face!"


Loki's first time in lead from the very start. He looks like a natural eh?

Even Ripper is like "what is WITH this maniac?!?!" And that's saying a lot!

They looked pretty good together. We had a few troubles with commands, one while I was taking a video of the run! The dogs shot down the wrong trail and the incident was all caught on video for prosperity. If I can ever figure out how to make it smaller, I'll post it - anyone have any ideas?

They did amazingly for the whole run. Loki didn't look back once until we were a half-mile from home coming back. He suddenly looked back and I swear he had a look of surprise on his face - what were all these dogs doing behind him?!?! It was like he was so insane for the last 8 miles, that he had no clue there was a team attached to him.

So I slowed down and gave him a break a couple times - his inner sled-dog overcame his self-doubt about leading and he was screaming and lunging at the harness again in mere seconds. As you can see he made it back in lead, and looks pretty confident, staring right into the evil-soul-sucking device.

And big-head came along for the run as well.

Staring right into the camera. He has no soul anyways!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Quest personalities

I've been neglecting the Quest a bit - it's been a total bummer that the race didn't pass through here. Besides, plenty of other sites are doing a great job of keeping everyone updated. In addition to the Quest site and News-Miner site, fellow blogger Susan, gives great insight into the life of a Quest volunteer - little sleep, and a lot of waiting around! Check it out.

Anyways, Lance Mackey pulled off his second win in a row. Congrats Lance! Word is is that he has a steamin' dog team, and comments have been made time and time again about how his dogs have been barking and lunging ready to go at all the checkpoints. Heck, even at the finish line of this almost 1000 mile race, his dogs can be heard barking! Pretty amazing.

Lance at the finish line with his lead dog, Larry - who also helped lead the team to victory in 2005 (photo by Eric Engman of the News-Miner).

Gerry coming in 5th place:

See all those little dog coats? Gerry mentioned that his mom actually made all of them. He had stacks and stacks of dog coats and dog blankets, all lovingly made by his mom. Each musher has an amazing support system that help make the race possible.

And a great shot of Gerry's team:

(photo by Eric Engman of the News-Miner)

So much focus is on the front-runners, but the race isn't over till that last musher crosses the finish line. Holding that red lantern position currently is Kyla Boivin. There are rumours that she may scratch due to on-going physical problems of her own. It's been said her dog team looks great, it's just her that is having a rough time. This 23-year old is very tough though, and a scratch at this point means something serious is going on. To start off, she has not one, but two bad knees. Those knee problems kept her out of last years race. This year, her problem (in addition to the bad knees) is a bad back. Mushing really takes it's toll on the body...

Either way, Kyla seems to be happiest with her dogs. Here she is after a training run back in January.

I almost find the stories behind the people more interesting than the race itself. It's a huge feat for anyone just to get to the start line, but most notably for Wayne Hall. Wayne, his wife Scarlett and their son live in Eagle, Alaska. Because the roads are closed in the winter, just to get to the race, Wayne had to mush his dogs all the way to Tok! Now that's dedication.

Wayne and Scarlett in Eagle during this years Quest (photo by Eric Engman)

Not only are these people really great, super nice people (and I'm not just saying that 'cause Scarlett made me a beautiful fur ruff for my parka!), they are really living the life. They live a subsistence lifestyle and the dogs are more than racing dogs - they are often key to their very survival while out on the land - while trapping and/or hunting. As noted on the Quest website, to get back to Eagle, Wayne will mush his team back from Dawson! In fact, when they come down to race in the Percy de Wolfe (Dawson-Eage-Dawson), Wayne and Scarlett run the dogs to Dawson a few days earlier, Wayne runs the race, then they run the dogs back home! That's almost a 100 mile trip one-way.

Wayne's gorgeous leaders at the race start

Stay tuned for some post-banquet photos after the weekend...

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snow! We'll take it...

Woohoo! Snow!

It was a welcome sight this morning to see everything covered in a nice, even blanket of white. As I groggily looked out, dogs at my heels ready to pounce when the door opens, it was so amazing, and... untouched (till the hounds were released). Beautiful. God, I've forgotten the power of snow! It was only a few inches, but a precious and welcome few inches.

Ivy was one happy pooch - I think she was pumped up about the snow too. Doesn't take much to entertain her. She was zooming around like she normally does when Sage chases her, yet she was alone.

I had her out alone this morning as her little abcess has returned once again. This damned thing comes back every few months. Now we are on a homeopathic treatment schedule. Let's see if that works. Anyways, the abcess is once again draining on it's own now. Although I did give it a little help yesterday - *warning - gross description ahead* - I decided to give the abcess a squeeze, and pus n' blood came squirting out at such a rapid rate, Ray and I both gasped at the flow of liquid shooting from her neck. It was like I had opened a pus n' blood faucet (hey, that's a good name for a bar or something...).

Leader training was under way this week! The ol' experienced Kate showed Ivy the ropes on a short, but speedy 6-mile run. It was an "attitude builder" - just a short, quick fun run after our 30-miler. The dogs had a blast as you can see from the expressions on their faces.

I cannot emphasize how great a leader Kate is. I'm glad she is still able to show these young guys how it's done. I had 7 dogs in the one team, plus Kuna attached to the sled when we ran into three neighbors walking down a road, with some kids and 2 loose dogs. Geez, if that won't train leaders, I don't know what will. Well, Kate ran by everyone (they were all spread out along the road, so we had 3 different distractions to pass in minutes), and Ivy only made a move to go visit person #1. She attempted to slowly veer over, hoping Kate and the rest of us really wouldn't notice, but that stellar leader Kate, was having none of that. She sped by without so much as looking at the people, dogs, kids and sleds we passed.

That said, the neighbors are great and know what to do when a team comes by to make it easiest for all of us. They got off the trail and held onto the loose dogs till we passed. Nice eh? It makes it less distracting for the team.

Gracie and George were on this team.

Getting back after the run - George hops in the truck, not really caring that she is still technically "in the team" and should not really be up in the truck. But...whatever!

Next was the team of lopers! This 6-dog team FLEW down the trail. They spun around corners, and seemed to be really pumped up by going fast. They had me really hanging on and driving the sled. It helped that the trails were hard packed and fast. Sage and Ripper led here.

I tried Sage in lead right from the start. The hardest part seems to be for the leaders to hold the line out tight, with all the flailing maniacs behind them. It can be stressful for a nervous or non-confident young dog. Well, Sage has confidence - he is rapidly trying to move up the ladder to be "top dog" in the yard. But he was a bit nervous, or excited (he gets so excited he vibrates!), and we had a few moments of him turning around, getting a bit tangled, but not too shabby. We finally got out of the yard without a tangle and he did really well on the whole run. This team didn't get to pass people, but we did pass a couple vehicles easily.

I have to say, today was "The day Ripper learned commands." Or, no. It was "The day Ripper listened to MY commands instead of making up his own stubborn mind!" We're really working TOGETHER now. He listens to me on the trail and I let him break into food bins at home while turning the other cheek. Hey, you gotta give somewhere right?

I think he's more confident with the young guys up there with him. It means he's now the "veteran" so there's pressure there to live up to that name. Or so I was telling him before we left in our "pre-run talk." I threw some new turns at them and went on a slightly different route and sure enough it was Ripper who took control and showed Sage the way.

Fast forward a few days, and our next run, a 15-miler. I put up Loki in lead with Ripper halfway through, since the other leaders were a bit wacky. Earlier in the season, I tried Loki in lead, but he got a bit freaked out after 10 minutes leading an 8-dog team. I've been wanting to try him again, and put him in after the chaos of the start was behind us and the trail was fairly easy - and holy crap!! From the second I put him up there, he did his usual Loki-screech, harness-banging, and loped his reddish-furry-butt off for the whole rest of the run like he was a seasoned pro! Unbelivable! He didn't look back, and looked more confident than I've ever seen him. Good job Loki!! Here he is later on, getting a much-deserved rest on his new favourite cabin accessory - the pillow!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pupdate and Quest stuff

Kuna & pup checking each other out

Y'know she's thinking "please don't eat me..." Actually, she was the bravest of all. She wouldn't leave him alone and he had a high tolerance for her smacking him in the face with her chubby puppy paws.

These little maniacs were getting a little.. ahem... "rowdy" so I brought in the big guy for reinforcement:

Surprisingly he didn't attempt to eat one of them! He was really good with them and actually a bit curious. He has power - can control four pups with one snarl!! Amazing! I later tried that... did it work? Umm, not so much.

Chuck (on left) was my absolute favourite. He's such a goofy, whiny, affectionate pup.

Well, they're now gone to their "dads" - it's so darn quiet around here now...

I have to share these photos DH sent out in our Quest pool update. They give a great glimpse into the layover in Dawson. And of course they focus on our neighbor, Gerry, and his team/camp (no coincidence that most of us around here put him as our #1...).

Gerry in the dog tent during the layover

The camp - wall tent in background, dog tent in foreground

Lara giving the dogs some sweet attention. Lookit that content doggie-face!

What a sweet face eh? Laurie, one of the leaders as they prepare to leave Dawson

Getting ready to head out

Great shot of the team 1/2 km from the re-start. Leaving with all 10 that he came in with.

Go Boyle!!!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Quest finish line altered...

So, breaking news with the Quest!! The finish WILL NOT be in Whitehorse! Bummer!! But, you can kind of see why - check out Darren's photos taken on their trip up to Dawson yesterday:

This is south Braeburn.

This is taken near Minto, where the Quest trail follows along in the ditch for 10km or so.

Apparently, there is going to be a "closed door" meeting with the mushers up in Dawson at 1pm local time. Then an public meeting will follow at 2pm. We should know where the finish will be then. What a bummer, but they are taking the safety of the dogs and mushers very seriously, so we know the officials are making the best decision. It's no surprise, as I've been whining about the crap conditions all winter. Along with everyone else.

However, I'm lucky around here - the conditions are pretty good on the river.

Ok, so this doesn't look ideal - especially on skis! This is me skijoring with Jack and Harris and holy crap - I didn't realize it was that icy as we left the yard. I was actually surprised I made it around my two sharp corners, down the ditch, and across a gravel road, without any problems. The adrenalin was pumping full-on by the time we hit the river.

And then, yeah, it was nasty here too with the glare ice and slush underneath. These guys were fine on it though, and it's super easy to direct the dogs on skis.

In fact, I think they have too much freedom!

Then things started looking great!

And thanks to Ripper gnawing the straps off my poles last year, they're a bit harder to hang on to. The snow is rock hard and does it's best to grab onto the poles.

Backtracking with these guys is easy though.

Bit of a break for Jack to take a snowbath.

Harris-the-licker doing what he does best.

We managed to do almost 20 miles on this trip. Kuna started dropping further and further back near the end, but happily trotted along, joining us as we waited for him as we head off the river.

If you look reeeeeal hard, he is the little speck on the trail over to the right.

Harris & Jack recognize their buddy!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Well, I've been neglecting the ever-exciting Quest coverage!! There is great coverage on the Quest site as well as the Daily News-Miner site out of Fairbanks. The Whitehorse Star also has some good stories. The exciting story of the first part of the race included a helicopter rescue for a bunch of mushers and dog teams, who were stranded on the summit of a mountain. All dogs/people made it out ok. But as a result, the field has shrunk from 22 to a mere 13!

But, what can I say? Life is pretty busy when you've got 5 pups demanding and whining for attention everytime you step out the door.

And really - how can you resist?? This was the one split-second they were NOT jumping up on me and flailing around the cabin. Their new favourite move is to come barelling at me as fast as they can and launch themselves into the air, flinging their little round puppy bodies onto (or into - they don't care) me. Little goofs!

Oh this poor paper towel roll... doesn't stand a chance....

But y'know... some days, you just need a puppy to crawl all over you and make you laugh. I had a rough start to the morning. Just a warning to you all (or me): Never pick up your (my) alarm clock and hold it over your (my) HEAD in an attempt to tell the time. There is the distinct possibility that it could slip from your (my) grasp in your (my) groggy state and land on your (my) head. You (I) could be sporting a dent in the forehead as a result. I'm just sayin'...

Back to the Yukon Quest!!

Once again, RON-IN-EAGLE comes through sending us up-to-date photos of the mushers and that amazing scenery way up on the Alaska side of the Yukon River. Thanks Ron-In-Eagle!!

Gatt looking cheery. Is he going for #4?

"Hee hee... I'm in the lead... na na na na na na..."

Teams lined out taking a break.


Mackey coming into Eagle

"Doo dee doo... where is that wily Gatt fellow?"

Kleedehn arriving shortly after.

"Heh Heh... I'm gonna sneak right up on y'all..."

Sebastian - no he's not really short, he's got a modified cooler/seat thingy.

Neff poling away.

So there you go. The front-runners are now on their way to Dawson. Our pool-stat-extraordinaire-guy, DH, is predicting them to arrive around 9pm Thursday night. Hopefully we'll get some info from there and I'll be heading to some of the checkpoints after that. Go teams!