Wednesday, 19 January 2005

January 19, 2005 Settling In

Things here are beginning to feel comfortable. I’ve mostly settled into Jamie and Harry’s place – I’ve even left some room in the basement for Jamie to keep her own stuff down there! She has been exceptional gracious about our ‘sprawl’. My room is huge and lovely – in fact, I’m sitting at the desk typing away. The window in front of me has a lovely view which includes my dogs. They are loving their very own spacious and sheltered lot. They had a bit of trouble learning to ignore Jamie’s 28 dogs, neighbors Paul and Erin McLaren’s (I ran the ’99 Knik with Paul) dog yard, and Vern Halter’s crew 2 doors down but now seemed to have figured out that they needn’t fuss and make noise whenever any dog in the area is being fed.

The trails are looking pretty good. They were scary for the first bit we were here due to ice, but a few inches of snow over the weekend fixed all but a few spots. Sadly, one of the worst spots on the entire trail system is right where my outgoing trail turns onto the main trail system. Overflow keeps seeping onto the trail and has made a large mound of ice that stretches right across the trail and down it for a hundred feet or so. I’ve been running front-end dogs that actually know and obey the ‘Easy’ command - so far, so good.

Mark is back at home. We snuck out to Lake Louise for a couple days training together before he left. That was, as always, really nice. Our first run started off really cold, with temps down in the –32 F range, but about halfway through the 5-hour run things began to warm up and it was –18 when we got back to the lodge. The next morning it had gotten up to a balmy –6.

Wolverine Lodge is always such an interesting place to hang out. The main room serves as the lobby, dining room, bar, pool hall and TV room. CNN is almost always on the giant TV (none of the rooms have TVs of their own) and snowmachiners, mushers and locals sit around eating dinner and watching the news out of the corner of their eye, occasionally adding their own commentary. The night we were there a young man running a trapline in the area had joined up with a friend and made a snowmachine run to the lodge for supplies. Three cases of beer and 3 bottles of whiskey topped the list to get him through for another 3 to 4 weeks. Sky, who helps out owners Kathy and Tree Farmer, snowmachines over from her cabin – which is only accessible that way (or dog team, I guess) in the winter and boat in the summer – to work each day. She has no running water and shares the small place with 12 dogs – and she thinks me running Iditarod makes me interesting. Ha! I think it is the other way around – she is the interesting one with the intriguing life.

This weekend I’m planning on running the Knik 200. I’ve run this a couple times in the past (’99 and ’02) and it is a route we do for Klondike, Iditarod, Goose Bay and in training, so it is a run I’m very familiar and comfortable with. I think it will be a good run to work some kinks out of the team. I’m still tossing around who to race. Grover will stay home, as there is just no need to push him. Chester is still sore from Copper Basin. He’s been laid off for about 10 days, but a test run yesterday had me bringing him back into the yard after only a few miles, so he is still on an extended vacation. He’s sleeping in his house now with a shoulder jacket on with hand warmers in it to help the muscles heal.
Denali may or may not run. Yesterday I had a quick little fight in harness between him and Draco. Draco has been particularly testy with all the girls in season and when we made a wrong turn and ended up in some deep snow he decided to take it out on Denali. The fight was sorted out with a sharp word from me and we got underway again. Nothing to even think twice about – until I got home and Denali passed up on his post run herring. Denali never does that. In looking him over I noticed what looked to be some swelling in his jaw and peeled back his lip to find one of his upper back molars hanging by a bit of gum and root. OUCH!! It was off to say ‘Hi’ to Dr. Baestle and the staff at the Big Lake Vet Clinic. Turns out, not only was the tooth broken, a relatively thin part of the jawbone above the tooth was broken too. Dr. Baestle says it is not a common injury, but not unheard of either. He says it was probably done by a perfectly placed canine tooth of Draco’s. Denali had quick surgery to get the tooth and bone fragment removed and the gum stretched over and stitched up to avoid any infection. He is on some good painkillers and antibiotics for the next couple days, but, barring any unseen circumstances, has been given the go ahead to race this weekend. We will see how he is feeling. He polished off a big bowl of breakfast this morning, so he is obviously already on the upswing.
Well I think that is it for this morning. I need to get my drop bag for Knik done today and over to the Willow Airport. Then it off to run dogs!!


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