Monday, 2 July 2007

July 2, 2007 News From Alaska

Well, back from a wonderful fishing trip in and around Resurrection Bay (Seward) yesterday. Despite Doug's graciousness as a host and patience as a teacher, it looked like there was a strong possibility that no fish were destined to die on my vacation! However, the fish got a little too cocky yesterday and a good number
paid the price. Between Doug, his sons - Nate and Keith, and myself we brought home 6 halibut,
16 silver salmon and 1 Lingcod. Tremendous fun - even though it rained for most of the day! You can see
pictures at
And, yes, we had fish for lunch today!

I'm relaxing and enjoying a 'down day' today and rather then being underfoot for Doug and Krista while they are busy getting ready for their July 4th Bash (they keep refusing my offers of help - my housecleaning reputation and skill at yard work must precede me!), I thought I'd catch up on some of my writing, which I am way behind on. First up is to tell you all about the sign up picnic and my Alaska trip.

I haven't told the whole story yet but a few weeks before my birthday, Mark came home, handed me an envelope and said "Happy Birthday". Inside was a ticket to Alaska. "Go fishing with Doug and enjoy the Sign Up Picnic", I was commanded. Gosh knows I always do what Mark says! (Right Mark??)

For a brief while the plan was slightly sidetracked when Iditarod officials unexpectedly jacked the entry fee to $3000, up from $1850 it had been for the last number of years. Now I had a ticket to the picnic, but not enough money to sign up! I was trying to pull money out of hats when some special friends - namely Donna Quante, Heather Walls, Penny Blankenship, Jamie West, Kim and Kelly Berg, Betty Walden, Marlene Phillips Daniels, Lee Desjardin, Karen Belfi, Mary Dillingham, Pat Bach and my Mom got together (behind my back, I might add) and surprised me with the extra $1200. That was such a cool surprise and I am so touched by their generosity. We were back on track.

Shortly before I left home I was in touch with Dr.Mike Davis about the Snickers Fund (aka SMURF) and asked him if there was any chance he was going to be at the picnic so I could present him with the cheque in person. After a nudge from his wife, he advised me he would be in Wasilla to accept the money in person. This meant being at sign up was going to be very special indeed!

And as if all this wasn't adding up to be enough good reasons for my trip, I was also able to deliver young Powder to her new home with Jamie West personally! Flying dogs is getting harder and harder these days and it is always easier, safer and cheaper when someone accompanies them!

So last Monday Powder and I headed to the airport. Our day was anything but boring. First my flight out of Edmonton to Seattle was cancelled. We were rebooked onto a flight over 3 hours later, but it was late leaving Edmonton and hence getting into Seattle, meaning I was not able to jump through the ridiculous hoops that the TSA puts on folks traveling into the US with pets requires and make my connecting flight to Anchorage. I was re-booked onto another flight, which was also delayed. I was unable to reach Jamie by phone at this point and the airlines refused to pass along a message to her in Anchorage, so after a frustrating 1 ½ hour wait for her, Powder and I finally arrived in Alaska!We arrived back at Jamie's place sometime around 2:30 am. What a long day for all.

I stayed one night with Jamie and then planted my butt over at Grilliot's, which is where I've been since! We've been fishing, sightseeing, fishing, dining extremely well, and - did I mention - fishing??

You know, I haven't fished in more years then I can remember (and I do have a pretty good memory), but the few fishing adventures I've had over the years (well, with the exception of the time I ended up in the hospital in Banff, Alberta with something like 150 thorns in my hand) were pleasant, so I have been keen to experience it again. It has been everything I had hoped for. Yesterday's trip was exciting, with us having up to 3 fish on the line at one time, fish flopping in the boat, lines being reeled, nets being hollered for, etc, etc. Add on top of that great company, fabulous scenery and neat wildlife (like pilot whales and sea lions) - and there is no way I couldn't have had a great time. However, standing along the quiet banks of the Deshka River in the morning fog and a few days later, in the amazing Alaska twilight has been nothing short of spiritual. I know Doug considers the day a failure if nothing dies, but I've had some trouble calling those trips a failure. The memories will stay a long time - although I will admit, adding a fish to the equation wouldn't have hurt things!

Anyway.back on track..

Somewhere in there I managed to sneak a visit into ITC Headquarters and talk to Chas St.George, the publicity guru for ITC, about doing a formal presentation of the Snickers Fund at the picnic. He was tremendously supportive.

So, Saturday morning I slipped over to Jamie West's to cook her breakfast (something I know she doesn't often do for herself) and then headed over to the Headquarters for sign up. The picnic was much as I expected and it was great fun to visit with mushers that I normally only see in the dead of winter. Everyone looked tanned and
very relaxed. A number of folks, mushers and fans alike, came over and expressed their sadness over our loss of Snickers on the trail last year. I was touched people remember and cared enough to offer condolences. The warm hugs from so many were wonderful.

I was very honored to be able to present a cheque to Mike Davis for $2700 from the Snickers Memorial Ulcer Research Fund. We have a bit left in the bank and have a few more donations that folks have committed to, so it will be interesting to see what the finally tally we can hand over to Mike is. (I'm lunching with Mike tomorrow to discuss the projects that the funds will support and will let you all know what I find out).

I had hoped to do a longer speech and tell a bit more of the Snickers story when presenting the cheque, but in all honesty, the day and especially that moment was quite a bit more emotional then I thought it was going to be and I just ended up choking out the very basics.

Please know that I am very grateful to everyone for every penny that has been donated in Snickers name. The pain of losing her will never completely go away, but it is bearable because I know that, in no small part due to you all, something good is coming out of it.

In due time forms were signed, cash and credit cards handed over - and I officially became the 31st musher to enter the 2008 Iditarod.

Very cool to see this year was that we aren't the only purebred Siberian team to enter the race. So far, 4 purebred teams - myself, Wayne Curtis, Blake Freking and Rob Loveman have committed to running. Blake's wife, Jenny will also be driving a mostly Siberian team to Nome too! I am very excited about the competition.

Anyway, I've been rambling on for a number of pages now, probably time to wrap this all up. Oh, did I mention that I extended my trip an extra few days?? Mark just laughed when I called to make sure that was okay with him. He said he always knew that was coming, 'cause it's always hard to get me out of the state!

Off to see if I can't twist Doug's arm in to taking me fishing again..


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