Sunday, January 28, 2007

Good god! More videos?!?

Ok, ok, more videos! I'm loving the videos lately, partly because they capture stuff you don't notice at the time. Take for instance this weekend's chaotic skijoring session out on the bay. That's what happens when you mix 5 people, 8-10 dogs (something ridiculous like that) and skis and poles and wobbly skiers and bumps and ice and deep snow and loose dogs, etc, etc...

There were a few themes to this day: The most prevalent one was "dogs who don't listen" followed closely by "flailing bodies strewn all over the place" finishing off with "exhausted humans, frustrated dogs."

In this first gem of a video I was "attempting" to get footage of Steph and her 3 dogs - 2 were hooked up in their first-ever skijor. They were doing great! We were all excited so I was trying to capture this momentous occasion. However, you can see my dogs are NOT listening. For some reason they just want to keep running!!!! That's what I get for having Rupert hooked up with Ripper I guess. I was going to take Loki too, but after being drug down the road on my face almost to the highway(!!) I opted to leave the little maniac in the truck.

Here I give up on the video of Steph's team, and just let my guys drag me down the trail. We pass Dave (running my boy, Harris) and then run to Eilidh, who's running Jack. I like how when Jack sees us coming up behind, he starts givin' 'er!! Got some good footage of Eilidh skijoring... then all of a sudden she's flat on her face. I also love how I am extremely supportive and concerned as I laugh at her and basically ski away (no no, I was dragged away, I swear!!)

I still manage to get some more footage of her being drug down the trail at the end of the video. And then MY guys take off (AGAIN!!). I almost run over Jack, hence the video of my skis snowplowing and my final comment to the misbehaving hounds... heh heh... it was SO true. They were so not listening!

The kid is alright - she lives to skijor again!!

We are on our way back here and Steph is coming through the deeper snow (no trail) and that's Dave behind me. Yes, I seem to always be on my butt in these videos, but keep in mind I had 2 maniacs STILL trying their hardest to yank me off my feet. Ripper was really trying to listen, but Rupert was having NONE of that, so who can blame Ripper really? So - that's the reason for yet another video-from-the-ground-level. The topper is Steph laughing then Flint coming up and jumping on me! Oh well, at least she asked if I was ok... ;)

Man! I've never had so much snow down my pants!!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Gravel Pit Ski Hill

This was all taken the day of the last video. This was before I taped the 5-dog skijor. We had a nice little ski in from the truck, and I opted to have the 3 sisters pull me from the truck since it's a bit close to the road. I thought 6 dogs was a bit much to be running loose near the road and people's property. So we skied into the ever exciting gravel pit and lost Jack and Harris along the way - they took off the other way and were gone for a few minutes. The girls excitement upon their long-lost brother's return was captured on yet another video. That was hilarious, as they reacted like the boys had been gone for days!

Nothing but a ski track and dog tracks. Ah, the sight just warms my heart... ;)

The dogs are free to frolic in the snow. They live for these days. Up by that power pole is the top of the hill I started the video at.

Lucy can't get enough snow on her face.

Here was the top of the BIG hill! Ok, it's not that big but did seem kinda steep when I zoomed down it sans ski poles! (can't pole AND record the moment!)

This was our second trip down the hill with Kuna, Gracie, George, Lucy, Jack and Harris. They did great the first time and didn't run in front of me or try to trip me while I zoomed down the hill. That's why I try and "psych" them out in the video by pretending to go UP the hill, then I sneakily head DOWN the hill. Ha, I'm so smart... though you can see Kuna totally didn't buy into it.

Just a warning: hit mute if you don't want to hear me screaming like a schoolgirl the whole way down or sniffing constantly - must remember to bring kleenex next time! (and I had no idea I had so many "yay's" in my vocabulary...).

I have to say - the over the shoulder shot of the dogs chasing behind was particularly impressive! And there's nothing better than getting pounced on by 6 dogs when you're sprawled out in deep powdery snow.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why skijoring with five dogs is a bad idea...

It's quick, so pay attention!!! :)

I like to blame the wipeout on all the fresh snow we were motoring through. Given that these dogs had just been free-running around in shoulder-deep(dog shoulder that is) snow for over TWO hours, I was surprised they still had some energy to pull! Hmm... maybe they were all conspiring to MAKE me wipe out!?! I wouldn't put it past them... brats!!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Race Day 3!!

What a beautiful day we had for this race day. It was actually -23C at my place in the morning but it warmed up to about -12C just before our race. Perfect and sunnily delicious. We had a few newcomers to this race, most notably some guy named Hans Gatt who gave skijoring a try. He went out in front of me and I was so hoping I could catch him and pass, even if it was briefly. Just so I could say I passed that wily Gatt in a race! Even though I saw him for a while, he flew. And came in 3rd I think. We had 25 teams, about 8 kids racing and 5 or so pet dogs - so check out the race results within the next day or so for a full, detailed report!

First off, this is why we're called "Chaos Kennel!!"

Things were a bit nutty as the dogs were all over the place. I don't have proper drop chains on the truck, so I used "chewable" tuglines, which Loki was secretively gnawing on while we were otherwise occupied. He just about set Sage and Ivy free, but aha! To no avail!

Tamara snapped all these great pics of my team - thanks Tamara! As we discussed, you rarely see your own team from the front, so that's always exciting to see. And I had NO idea that Sage turns into some kind of Cujo-dog while in harness.

I'm sure you can figure out which one he is.

Our race went pretty good, we came in the middle of the pack (can't exactly remember what #), but we did shave almost 10 minutes off the time from our last race. Loki has a problem though. He goes SO crazy at the beginning that twice now he tired himself out about halfway into the race and had to be pulled from lead.

I love how his upper lip is kind of curled under, giving him a goofy expression. He also looks like he's doing his Loki-pee-squat. The same pee-squat Sage does. They haven't learned to lift their legs yet (or they're just lazy), hence the name-calling at the race by some un-named source calling them "girly boys!" Ooh, the race circuit is a harsh one!

Hanging out in the truck post-run.

"Ah, we've taken a vote and 5 out of 5 paws recommend that you give us some more of that tasty fish. Now."

Jon come in strong at the end. Yes, skijoring with four dogs. A little insane. Untangling takes some skill, and patience!

Us rolling into the finish line:

Ripper did an awesome job leading the whole way. We're all so glad the vet pulled that sock outta his butt a few months ago!! Also, you'll notice that Octane stepped up to lead for us and did a great job. I like how he's not too serious and checking out the people on the side of the trail - "hey, what's going on over there??!" :)

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Lost Team

Here's the "story" (unfortunately, true) of the lost team. It was a completely horrifying moment the with the dogs. After getting over the emotional and physical after-effects, I can now look back on it, um... fondly - as everything turned out ok. It could have very likely been a tragic night, but thankfully (to whomever or whatever was looking over my crew that night) everyone is ok.

Where to start? Well, we headed out on our moonlight run and the dogs were quite fired up. Those night runs just bring out the crazy in them. I took 8 dogs: Jack/Harris in lead; Ivy and Ripper in swing; Octane and Loki in behind and Lucy and Sage in wheel. I was taking the old tank sled, so I thought things would go great. Maybe it's that bit of slight confidence that got the best of me. Perhaps it's best not to feel confident AT ALL on the sled, rather think that the worst is going to happen all the time so you're on your toes. One little slip up and it can really have dire consequences.

You may see where I'm going with this. We flew around the corner at the end of the driveway and I remember thinking "wow, they are STRONG tonight" and we took the corner easily, no problem. The last couple times I went around it too fast and so this time, I hit the brake more than normal and it was easily controlled. At the same time, you can't go too slow, or you end up cutting the corner, and hitting trees or whatever happens to be on the inside of the corner. Fast forward to the next corner at the end of my road - for some reason we flew around it and with no weight in the sled it started to tip to the left. That NEVER happens though, so I don't know if my balance was wonky or what, or if being on the flexible sprint sled for previous runs affected my control of this. I don't know.

The sled started tipping, I started falling and saw 2 poplar trees coming right at my head - they are now imprinted in my memory forever (and I'm going to cut those friggin' things down!). I didn't consciously let go, but those poplar trees were on my mind. The sled slowly left my grasp. The big beaver mitts also don't allow for a lot of grip either. Whatever the reason, the dogs were gone.

The team sped off without me. That is without a doubt, the most horrifying, scary, stomach-dropping, vomit-inducing moment I have experienced. I briefly attempted to call Jack and Harris, who have been known to come back to me before - but not this early in the run, with 6 dogs behind them powering the team along. I ran back to my truck, hopped in, knowing I HAD to get to the highway crossing fast. We go a few different ways, so you're never sure where they're going to go, but I was pretty sure they'd do our 7-mile loop across the highway. I must have gotten to the crossing in less than 5 minutes and I could see they had already crossed. Well, that's one huge relief. But not really. They were now headed through windy, wooded trails. If the sled tips, or the snowhook grabs on something - they are brought to a stop, and we all know sled dogs don't do well when they're forced to stop for long periods.

What to do now? Can't drive up the trail, I'd get stuck. So my mind went to the neighbours and who might be around with a snowmachine. I zoomed over to Darren and Lara's and basically stormed through their door (hope I didn't freak you out too much Lara!) interrupting Lara's quiet evening in her pajamas! I probably looked like a freaked out maniac with my headlamp beaming in her face - I was so panicked, I couldn't even stop to think how to shut it off. I tried, but gave up. Anyways, she bounced up ane we ran out to their skidoo. But couldn't get it started. I swear, I didn't spend more than 5-10 minutes there. I gave up andn went to the next neighbour's while Lara called them for me. Only the kids were home there so I tried to start their skidoo - no luck. I have never started one of those before!

As Lara and I talked about it after - we were both kind of in panic, non-rational mode. I was running around trying to start skidoos all over the neighbourhood, but it never occured to me that the dogs would be making that loop REALLY FAST without anyone behind them slowing them down. I probably spent no more than 15 minutes skidoo-hunting and thought "screw it!" and zoomed back up the highway in my truck. I wanted to catch them by the time they came back across the highway.

There was no guarantee that they were coming back though. Teams can often get tangled, the snow hook can bounce out of the sled (mine did and lodged itself under the drag mat sideways - probably not even slowing the team), dogs can get tangled, dragged, fights can break out if they stop, the horrible possibilities are endless. And they were going through my head non-stop. I even came up with a few new horrible scenarios.

I parked on the side of the highway and ran up the trail, hoping they didn't come down that hill then, because they would probably run me over. At the same time though, I have never wanted to see my dogs so badly. I would have let them run me over, but I also planned on grabbing onto the gangline or the leaders somehow.

No sign of them up the trail, I could see the tracks even though the trails were very hard. Jack and Harris' tell-tale habit of running on the left could be seen going up the trail. I stood at the top of the hill, waiting. Listening. No sound at all on this otherwise beautiful clear night. I called. I whistled. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but slowly it occured to me - the dogs could already have gone by...

It would have been a really fast run I thought, and closely looked at the trail. There were no drag marks (another relief), sled was upright, and then I saw - dogprints on the left side down the trail. Holy crap. They've already been by.

Immediately, the other highway crossing on the way back hit me. I went by it to come find them, but didn't notice the snow across the highway - they couldn't be back already could they? I had scanned both sides of the trail up and down the highway (we use both sides), but it wasn't easy to see in the dark. I could have missed them. My stomach dropped again.

Also - I didn't know at the time, but Lara was out there as well, driving around in her pajamas trying to find the renegade team (my neighbours are the best - thanks Lara!). Not knowing what she was going to do if she found them, hopefully she had her bunny boots on!! :)

So I zoomed home and drove down the driveway, not really wanting to see the team, or more accurately - terrified of what I might see. What I saw was 8 dogs. Perfectly lined out in front of the cabin, stopped exactly where we stop when we get back. There wasn't one tangle. Not one dog looked angry or stressed out in any way. Just 8 beautiful sets of eyes turned back to look at me, as if to say "what the heck are you doing in the truck?!?"

I jumped out and grabbed as many dogs as I could as I fell into a weeping, blubbery mass. The dogs sensed something was up and every single one of them (shy Loki included) came up to me and I suddenly had 8 dogs pawing at me, licking me, jumping on me, almost as if to let me know they were all totally fine... ah, what a great feeling! THEN the tangles started. But who cares. They were all ok. What I couldn't get over was how damned HAPPY they were!! They were panting, but looked full of energy. And Ripper didn't even look like he had run 7 miles at 100 mph at all. Unbelievable. We figured that they probably did that in under 20 minutes. I couldn't have been running around the neighbourhood for more than 15 minutes. I told Lara I should let them run like that more often! But with me on the sled.

I told the dogs if we were cats, we'd have all used up one of those 9 lives that night. Or we're all just damned lucky. Either way, somebody, or something was sure watching over them that night.

And once again, thanks to Lara. It's good to know you have friends who get as panicky as you do about your own dogs, and who will drop everything without hesitation to help out. And I think she knows how to start that skiddo now?! :) Mental note to self: Learn to start skidoos!

So... check out Lara's website!! It is the coolest art stuff and jewellry north of 60!! (she even has dogsled scenery stuff!)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I love the warmth!

I keep trying to put up my Lost Team story, but there is so much other stuff (ie: FUN!) going on. I'll get it up soon. It's just something that MUST be told - so my neighbour Lara tells me. :)

Oh man what a weekend! The temperature was AWESOME on Sunday (-5C), and the sun was shining brighter than ever. It made for some great skijoring and sledding. Trail was a bit punchy mid-afternoon(our favourite time to go out), but it was do-able.

Here we are heading out on the recently overhauled sprint sled. We did the 16-mile loop across the river.

This was Saturday and it was actually -20C when we went out.

It was a weird run. The dogs did great for the first bit on the river, then when we crossed it they got all weird. They just didn't have the usual normal exuberance they usually have and I had to switch leaders, basically using up every dog in lead. I swear, they HATE running on the river for too long. We always seem to have that problem out there. They certainly had it in them, because when we headed back home and hit the wooded trail less than a mile from home, they LOPED the whole freakin' way.

This was also the day Loki redeemed himself and actually listened to numerous commands. I didn't even know he knew commands! Him and Ivy picked up the slack and led us home when everyone else was um, lacking enthusiasm. Ivy, who is sometimes on/off really impressed me today. Of all the dogs, she had the greatest, most consistent run this day. And to jump into lead and drag us all home, was particularly impressive! So we'll try the river again, just a shorter version to see how they do.

Sunday's skijor was almost the polar opposite - it was a blast!! I took Octane and Rupert since they were left out of the run the day before and we did our 10-mile loop. They were great, but made sure I worked too. They're also no spring chickens, so while we didn't break any speed records, we did have fun and all worked hard. The trail was even punchier due to the warmth.

Here's a rather impressive over-the-shoulder shot of Kuna following behind if I do say so myself.

I had booties on this little brat and at one point he disappeared for a few minutes behind us so I stopped to wait. A little bit later he came barrelling down the trail looking quite happy. Why was he so happy? He was bootie-free! He must have stopped and gnawed them off because both were suddenly missing. I'm quite sure they're lying right in the middle of the trail somewhere...

Heading home - from the dogs perspective

I have a GREAT video of Rupert woo-wooing his head off just before we started off. But it's so big it's taking me forever to upload it. So stay tuned if you would like to hear the whiniest dog in the history of dogs. I re-played it at home last night and the whole cabin full of dogs erupted into a frenzy! So there's your warning. Make sure your room is dog-free before listening to this howler. If I ever get it uploaded that is.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lead dog training

See the dog team zoom down the hill! See the dog team (Loki) refuse to listen to their musher at the highway crossing. See Loki drag the whole team the wrong way. Hear the musher yell at deaf-when-he-wants-to-be Loki (who's newest trick is not to listen at this spot). See Ripper-the-Wonder-Dog actually LISTEN and watch him as he takes the lead and drag Loki's sorry butt the RIGHT way! Hear a happy (and somewhat cold) musher's sigh of relief...

Excuse my "NO, LOKI NO!!!"That little brat had done this EXACT thing the last time I had him and Ripper in lead in this exact spot. The problem was then, that I couldn't swing them the right way as my sled was falling apart and Ripper would NOT go the right way even though he knows where we go. He isn't so confident sometimes. And shy-Loki turns into Mr. Freaking-Confident when he's in harness. What's up with that?!? (although I'm happy to see him that way)

Anyways, Ripper came through in shining glory this day - he got extra fish and head rubs after this run. I think he really knew he made me proud and I was ecstatic he took the initiative to go the right way. Damn, I love it when things go right like this. Too bad it doesn't happen every run!

So that was Loki and Ripper in lead, Ivy and Octane in swing and Rupert and Sage in wheel. Because I'm sure you were all dying to know that!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

'git the old farts off the couch!!!

Gabe is turning into a sausage-dog who seems content to sleep, oh, um... ALL FREAKIN' DAY!!! Just when you think he's slept enough... he keeps on sleeping! I know, he's like 12, but quite frankly, he's turned into a lazy slug. So I figured it was high time to harness the ol' boy up. Sure he hadn't been harnessed at all this winter, so it was quite funny to see his reaction.

First off, he stiffly *let* me put the harness on him. There was not a lot of willlingness there. I could hear the wheels turning... "whaaa?!?" he silently screamed to himself as I fit the LARGE harness on his LARGE frame... it was still a bit tight. Then I harnessed up 14yr old Kate who is game for anything and still thinks she's a spry young maniac. Ok, almost. She's a spry, OLD maniac!

After the initial bouncing around, Kate was getting into it down the driveway but it seems Gabe (who used to be a fairly decent leader) totally forgot the "job" of a sled dog. He was looking around at the neighbour's then slammed on the brakes and decided a big spruce tree NEEDED some of his urine on it. I just about ran him over, but was able to avoid him as I veered away at the last second. It's not like we were going, ah... fast or anything close to it.

However! When they hit the side road, they remembered how it all works. Well, why don't you have a looksee for yourself??

It's quite wobbly, 'cause these guys don't let me slack off so I'm skiing away trying to keep up our momentum!

And although this is an old pic, this is EXACTLY what they did the second they got in the cabin. In fact, I let Gabe off at the neighbours and he high-tailed it home and ran straight to the porch. Oh well, he's spoiled now. There's no turning back...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

shaken or stirred?


There it is! Right in northern BC/SE Alaska. Who else felt this shaker this morning? I have a mid-week day off and woke up to a shaking bed this morning at 7:50am. At first I thought it was a dog scratching downstairs. Sometimes they'll shake the whole cabin, but it went on for what seemed like, ever! Then in my dream-like state, I thought it was the squirrels!?

It kept going and going... so I got up, turned on the light, saw the water on my bedside table sloshing around in it's glass. The longer it went on, the more nervous I got. Then it abruptly ended. Whew!

Anyone else have stories? I heard it didn't last very long on the radio, so maybe I dreamt part of it?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Pet Dog Training!

A few of us got together and did a pet dog skijor yesterday out on the Copper Haul road. CHT pet dog competitors Dave, Heather, Eilidh and Michael were training for the next race on Jan. 20. I took out my "pet" dog, Kuna (who was pretty much the worst puller out of all the pet dogs) with Harris. Michael took Jack with his dog, Nanuq. Check out Michael's account of his skijor to see how it all went down from his perspective.

Jack and Nanuq not really working *together* - yet!

That's Dave with his big, shaggy Bouvier, Aklak in the background kneeling down and Heather and Keno behind Michael.

Apparently Jack and Nanuq took off from Michael further down the trail and completed the small loop on their own! I'd just like to say for the record, that for Jack - that makes two times in a row that he's run without a human behind him. I'll update you all on the runaway dogteam semi-nightmare I had a few days ago - as I'm still recovering from it (my 8-dog team ran our 7-mile loop, crossed roads and highways without me. But all came home safe, thank goodness.).

Anyways, due to dying camera batteries I only got a few shots of us starting. And as usual, the start is always a bit chaotic and nutty. It didn't help with Jack and Harris lunging and screeching upping the excitement level for all canines and humans. Dave, Heather, and Eilidh took off first with Michael and I in behind. I was in front of Michael and all of a sudden saw Jack and Nanuq zipping by me. Michael's bungy had broken, so they were headed off without him. Well, Jack was. Nanuq did not seem to be a willing participant at all. But they stopped and things got sorted out. Then they took off like a rocket! It seemed that Nanuq had picked things up and Michael and team seemed to be sailing down the trail. We had a gazillion skidoos pass us, and after that it was nice and quiet for the rest of the run.

This is a perfect, unplanned shot of Nanuq's stealthy attempt to slip the harness!

A bit later, we caught up to the other teams who I think were taking a break. The snow seemed pretty slow and sticky - the fresh snow over the last couple days hadn't been packed down yet so we all were lamenting on how it was a bit of a slog. My guys were doing ok, Kuna was merely "keeping up" with Harris for the first half.

We did the loop through the trees and came out onto the trail with Eilidh and Asha behind us.
We ended up in front and Kuna was now totally obsessed with Asha-the-Rottie behind us. He could not FOCUS and kept looking back, and this made for an annoying bit of skijoring. Harris was raring to go and was also getting a bit annoyed at Kuna. We were practically dragging him. So a few little nudges to the butt got him moving in front of me.

I had to de-layer some clothing and the other teams all came up and had a bit of a break too. We went out after everyone, and that made for a better skijor with Kuna - dogs in front are always good for chasing! We got back and went up the hill rather slowly but still had a good time. It's still fun when it's a good workout for the human too.

Eilidh (who is 14) had mentioned wanting to take out my dogs skijoring next time we go out. So I offered up Jack and Harris right then for her to get a feel for it. I know they're crazy strong together, but thought the 5km loop would have taken a bit of enthusiasm out of them. So she willingly hooked them both up and went out down the hill (sans ski poles) hanging on to the tow rope and screeching the whole way. Immediately you could see her balance was a bit shaky as they sped off and I was thinking "uh oh, I'm going to be responsible for maiming my friends' kid here..." - and before I knew it, she was on her butt, snowdust flying up all around them, sliding down the hill!! It was hilarious, especially since she was laughing and not needing medical assistance this time. Jack and Harris were nice enough not to drag her too far. Then they even turned around to check up on her. Ok, they were also walking on her, bumping into her and knocking her over, but I'm sure they were *very* concerned. Thank goodness teenagers are so limber and reslient, because in no time she was back up on her skis screaming down the trail (literally) again. They came back a few minutes later, everyone looking happy and frosty!

Ahhh, good times!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bring out the Tank!

Wowee!!! What a fun time we had on this ol' beast the other day!!!

Some new plastic on the runners, a bit of hockey tape and voila! It performs like a speed machine. Either that, or the dogs were jacked up on Red Bull. We did our 9-mile loop and I forgot how relaxing it is to drive this thing. No worries about zooming around tight corners, the sled just bounces off of everything. Um, not that I hit anything. And I certainly didn't hurt myself again, mom. Really.

But the best part was coming back down the ditch on the last mile. We crossed the side road and hit the berm going back into the ditch faster than we've ever flown over it. The berm was nice and rock solid thanks to the snowplowers keeping that 1/4 inch of snow falling every few days cleared off the road. So the sled and I were completely airborn for a few brief, but exhilirating moments. The front of the sled hit that berm and catapulted the rest of it (and me) into the air. A passerby in a vehicle was witness to my graceful landing and off we spe down the trail - the dogs, as usual, not interested in what is going on BEHIND them. What blast. Jack and Harris led the team like old pros and I've never seen those two go that fast for the whole run. If they could only repeat this on race day!! :)

I also had Octane, Loki, Ripper, Sage, Ivy and Rupert. Ivy was a bit iffy today, sometimes she pulls, sometimes she doesn't. I'm seriously considering booting her out of the race team and bringing in Mr. Solid-Octane. But... it is partly about them getting the experience as well. And when we ran on the CHT for training, she did really well. We'll see. 17 days and counting...

And sorry for the lack of photos, but for some reason I keep forgetting my camera which was at one time a permanent fixture to me. I'll get some this week as we go "Moonlight Mushing!"