Friday, 30 January 2004

January 30, 2004 Moose Tracks in the Snow

It is 8:30 in the morning and daylight is just breaking at Howling Dog Farm. I should be outside feeding and shoveling the yard, but it is –30 F this morning and I decided the time was right to catch up on some email and other things. 

Janet, Natalie’s handler, laughed at me this morning and said, “Oh so you do have a temperature cutoff for running dogs”. I explained that years ago when we first started our cutoff was about –20C, over the years it got colder and colder until there was awhile when there was no cutoff. Now I have a much more reasonable approach to things. If it is brutally cold, but I’m behind where I want to be in training – I go, but if things are going well in training, I’m happy to stay at home below –30! 

As it is, I will probably have to run sometime today, as I’ve committed to being a volunteer for the Earl Norris Memorial Sprint Race at the Willow Winter Carnival this weekend, so I probably won’t be running dogs tomorrow or the next day. Maybe it will warm up if I stall for awhile though!

Things are going pretty well up here. Thinking about Orion is still very painful, but I’ve decided that if I can’t run Iditarod with Orion this year, I’ll run it for him. I’ve been so grateful to the many, many folks that took time to email, write and phone to express their sympathy. It is very touching to me to know that others care. Thank you. 

The dogs are looking great. They are as animated and keen as they were at home and have been attacking the trails in Alaska with gusto. 

The trail system behind Norris’s is in some of the best shape I’ve ever seen it in. It has been lovely to get back to Steven’s Lake, Windy Lake, the Big Swamp Loop, etc. I’m always amazed by how well I and especially the dogs remember the trails. Yesterday I ran the Deception Creek/Romano’s Loop trails that we used a bit when we were training out of Maureen Chrysler’s place in 2000. I was thinking for a while that I might be lost, but every time an intersection came up either Camilla or I remembered which way to go and with only one small glitch we negotiated the 30-mile trail.

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Trail Out of Norris's

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Norris Trail System

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Denali in the distance (the mountain, not the dog)

This past Monday I trucked the dogs over to the Willow Community Center and went for a run with Doug Grillot. Doug is a Quest veteran and will be running Iditarod for the first time this year. I met him our first trip up in ’99 and he has always graciously offered help on our subsequent visits. This is the first time I’ve taken him up on his offers and I am so glad I did. Doug was a fantastic tour guide and our 40-mile run was most enjoyable. He was such a great host that he was even the one to go chase away the moose that was happily munching on willows a hundred feet or so in front of the dog trucks while we were hooking up (probably because he was the one carrying a gun – but it was still very gentlemanly of him!)
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Loping around Steven's Lake

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Taking a break

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Off and running

Speaking of moose, the moose around here are as thick as always. The ‘Give Moose a Break’ sign outside of Anchorage says 235 have been killed on valley highways this winter alone. Not sure when ‘this winter’ starts for them, but no matter how you look at it, that is a big number. That also translates into a lot of vehicle and human damage, as these beasts mostly weigh around 1500 + lbs. You can imagine that no wreck that kills such a big animal is pretty. Alaskans are so practical though. While I was leaving Wasilla the other day, 4 men where working away gutting a moose on the side of the highway. None of the road kill meat is wasted; it is salvaged for people whose names are on a waiting list or by the local food banks. Smart thinking! 

There have been a few of the creatures hanging in close to Howling Dog Farm. Chester had me up until past 1am the other night with his frantic ‘let me kill it’ screaming. Bullwinkle was unimpressed and wandered around the edge of the yard grazing. My insults and verbal threat had no more effect either. I was grateful when he finally meandered off and let us all go back to sleep.

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Norris Trail System - 2

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Norris Trail System - 3

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Norris Trail System - 4

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Norris Trail System - 5

I wasn’t home the other day but tracks (and the folks that were at home) confirm that one walked down the dog trail within about 20 feet of Camilla on Wednesday. My group was apparently quite excited and vocal about the whole thing. Our moose at home take off when they see the dogs or hear the dog yard fire up; moose here seem to find bugging dog yards to be an enjoyable pastime. I just wish my guys would figure out their 38 (in Camilla’s case) to 60 lbs is no match for a moose.

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Self portrait

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Coming home to Howling Dog Yard

Anyway, it is now 9:30. Still –30, but I can stall no longer – time to go feed the critters. 


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