Greetings from Alaska!
After a fairly uneventful trip, Jim and I arrived up in Alaska last Monday night. He spend Tuesday helping me get settled in at Howling Dog Farm (the Norris' place) and then flew home on Wednesday. Which he had to do, in order to be ready for a performance he had on the weekend (for those of you that aren't aware, Jim is a very talented trumpet player and, pretty much, makes his living off of performances and giving lessons). It was really great to spend the trip up with him. I think that is the most time we have been together since I got married and moved out of the house 16 years ago.
The dogs are doing really good. They all made the trip well, in fact, alittle too well and I'm finding I'm having to cut meals back alittle to get rid of the few extra pounds that some of them (especially Nik and Chester) gained. I've had them out and running several times. On Thursday and Friday I trucked them to spots with better snow, but after getting 2 1/2 inches of the white stuff on Friday night, I braved the trails that run out of the yard here yesterday. Things were not too bad, alittle bumpy, but definitely do-able. It was terrific to be back on trails that I know and love from my trips up in '99 and '00.
Howling Dog Farms is going to be a terrific base for us. They are on a great trail system, have a really good dog yard, and the folks around here are wonderful. Natalie is spoiling me. I fully expected to be cooking for myself while up here training, which generally means a quick meal from a package or a can, but she has insisted that I have dinner with them every evening. So I didn't feel to pampered, I did negotiate that I am responsible for my own breakfast and lunch - but even that took some doing - Natalie is a very generous and kind lady. She is also one of the most knowledgeable people in the world about the Siberian Husky and I'm learning lots from the great conversations we have been having. Her history in the breed and stories she has to tell are simply amazing.
There are two handlers up here. Katherine, from Sweden, and Janet. I've been roping Janet into all kinds of trouble since arriving and have had her double sledding and riding along as a passenger for me. That has been really helpful with the sparse snow conditions.
The house always seems to be bustling with activity. Natalie's son, J.P, and his wife Kari have some of their Siberians in the yard here, so they are through a few times a day. I'd not met J.P on my previous trips here and am really enjoying his humor and rededication to the Siberian Husky. Not many mushers come back to running Siberians after having had Alaskans, but J.P. and Kari have - the Siberian breed will be better for it, I'm positive. Jon and Jona Van Zyle were visiting yesterday. I missed most of their visit, as I was out with a team, but it was nice to say 'Hi' and have a short visit with both of them. They left the Norris' and I each a signed copy of the 2003 Iditarod print - an adorable print of husky puppies based on pictures of Natalie, J.P. and Kari's puppies from this past year. I'm a big fan of Jon's work, as many of you know, and have a number of his prints framed in our house - so getting another signed poster was a real special treat. I believe you can see copies of the 2003 print, and Jon's other work at his new website www.jonvanzyle.com.
I had signed up for the Little-T race that runs in conjunction with the Tustemena 200 next weekend, but they have postponed the Race until the beginning of February now. In fact, the same weekend as the Knik 200, which I had also hoped to run. I'm alittle undecided now about which to do. I may enter both to hedge my bets, in case snow conditions force the cancellation of one of them. I'm also hoping to enter the Don Bowers Memorial Race the weekend after next. Hopefully that will be a go.
Well, Janet is out feeding the Norris dogs and I can hear mine complaining about the 'neglect' they are being subjected to by not being fed at the same time, so I must run.
Do snow dances for us!!