Sunday 29 February 2004

February 29, 2004 Emergency Surgery

Words are failing me today.

Late last night, Kobuk died from complications resulting from emergency surgery to repair a perforated ulcer.

He had been to the vet Thursday and gave neither Dr. Baetsle or I any real idea of the serious condition he was harboring.

We will seriously miss his unique and quirky personality.


Friday 27 February 2004

February 27, 2004 Back Together

Remember the quote I shared with you all a while back about things falling apart so they can fall back together?? Well, I’m beginning to hear clunks and clicks of things falling into place around here! Wahoo!!

Mark and I did get out for our trip to Skwentna, leaving early Monday morning as the temperatures had dropped into the mid 20’s (F). It did get pretty warm during the heat of the day, but the dogs did great in spite of it. Although this was a serious training run (140 miles) for the dogs, I endeavored to make it as enjoyable as possible for Mark. We only traveled during daylight hours, I tried to keep him well fed and watered, and he got to sleep in a comfy bed at the Skwentna Roadhouse J. Camilla and Kara (‘The NEW Camilla’, as Mark is now calling her – and that is a high compliment from him) did try to kill him once by leaping over a 6 foot cliff on the river, but everyone came through the incident well and Mark as a good story to tell for it – always a plus. 

I’ve done that trip many a time, but never outside of a race and it was a sheer delight for me to do the trip with no clock running. Mark asked at one point whether I would have liked this team the first time I did Knik and my reply was that I would have been THRILLED to have this team on any race I’ve ever done in the past. They are solid, strong and want to GO like no dog team I’ve ever had before. I am proud and I am EXCITED! 

Jamie Nelson is back in the area after her trip up to Kotzebue. She was over at the house almost as soon as she got off the plane and I was thrilled to be able to bring her up to speed on all that is going on with us. I think I chattered at her for a solid ½ hour or so before taking a breath. She knows the dogs, myself and our goals so well - add her years of experience to the mix and she is a terrific sounding board for me. She is a big part of the ‘equation’ that makes up our team – I’m very lucky to have her in my life.

This morning was our Pre Race Vet Checks. Although, you can do this for free through the Iditarod just prior to the Race, it is our preference to have our own ‘Alaska’ vet, Dr. Bryan Baetsle at the Big Lake Susitna Veterinary Hospital, do them privately. Iditarod allows that with certain experienced vets, as Dr. Baetsle is and we believe the more personalized attention gives us a better feel for the true health of the dogs. 

The vet check offered us no surprises, which was good. We did cut one dog from the team but that decision had really been made before we walked into the Clinic this morning. The dog is Kobuk and although neither Dr. Baetsle nor I could give you any clear, concrete reasons the dog isn’t going on Iditarod, both of us had ‘gut’ feelings that things were not 100% with him and it was both our decisions that this year not be his year to go to Nome. 

Really good news is that ‘The Evil One’, aka Olena (she still has the Clinic convinced she isn’t Evil – HA) is no longer pregnant and has been given the ‘go ahead’ to run. I’m overjoyed! 
Oh – and did I mention it has been snowing all morning in Willow?????


Thursday 26 February 2004

February 26, 2004 Press Release

For Immediate Release

Canada's Iditarod Veteran Ready to Race to Nome

Stronger, higher, faster may be the Olympic motto, but for Canada's only woman veteran of the world famous Iditarod dog sled race, these words embody her hopes for this year's grueling 1780 kilometer sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. Karen Ramstead, 39, of Perryvale, Alberta, and her team of 16 purebred Siberian Huskies leave the starting line in Anchorage on March 6, 2004 with the goal of arriving in Nome in less than 12 days. If she's successful, she'll have set a new record for the fastest finish with a team of Siberian Huskies. The current record for a purebred Siberian Husky team is 12 days, 0 hours and 8 minutes set by an American team in 1998.

"This is the year to see what my dogs and I are really capable of. We've taken three years to fine-tune our training and race strategy, building on the experiences of our previous Iditarods. The dogs are a great mix of rookies and Iditarod veterans, and most have been with me since they were born. It's the best team I've ever worked with and we're all anxious to really race the Iditarod trail this year." said Ramstead.
Ramstead is the only Canadian woman to have finished an Iditarod and the only Canadian to do so with a team of Canadian Kennel Club registered dogs.

Her finishing time in 2001 was just under 15 days. She had hoped to go for the record in 2003 but she fell ill and had to withdraw after completing over 1300 kilometers. This is her fourth Iditarod.

During the Iditarod, Ramstead and her team will travel through some of Alaska's most beautiful and challenging wilderness, enduring temperatures that can dip below minus 50C. While on the trail, Ramstead is the sole provider for her team as race rules prevent drivers from receiving outside assistance. She is the coach, cook, medic, massage therapist, and sport psychologist for 16 highly trained endurance athletes. Together, they hope to make this year's run to Nome one for the record books.

Monday 23 February 2004

February 2004 Training in Alaska

February Pictures
Training in Alaska

Mark's team, led by Gus and Camilla on the Yentna River

No, I didn't slam into the tree, but it sure looks like I was going to!

Kara and Hilda

Denali and Evil Olena in lead
Denali and Evil Olena in lead

That's Kara looking back over her shoulder at the camera

Mark looks over his shoulder to see what I'm up to

Mark snacking his leaders (Hector and Gus in lead)

Munching on fish

The sign next to the trail says "Hang On" and they aren't kidding!

Unloading the dog truck

Drop bags

Mark and I oversee the 'weighing' of the bags

Drop bag activity

Drop bag activity

Watching them total up the figures. Final count 1610 lbs. WAY down from my
previous amounts all over 2000 lbs. Faster race = less supplies.



Hanging out with Iditarod Head Vet Dr. Stu Nelson

Sunday 22 February 2004

February 22, 2004 Comparing Notes

Weather and odd facts –
Current temperature 41.3 F (5C)
Sunrise/Sunset 8:26am/6:01pm
Aurora Activity Quiet
Give Moose a Brake sign – 286
Yesterday’s temperature in Edmonton, Alberta 39F (3C)

Well our planned trip up to Skwentna for an overnighter is off. With the temperature this morning already at 41F, we just couldn’t see the wisdom in doing a 140-mile run. The yard is slippery and scary right now. We are hoping that the temperature will drop during the day and maybe we will get a little snow. If so, we will try and get on the river tomorrow – or maybe a trip to Lake Louise will be in order. I’m not too concerned, as the dogs have good mileage on them and I feel are ready for Iditarod anyway, but Mark and I had been looking very forward to the trip.

Many good things have been happening around here, though. On the top of the list – Olena is back at home and back in harness! Yeah! The techs at the Big Lake Clinic were all commenting about what a sweet girl she is. Ha!! That is just proof of her cleverness to Mark and I – the ability to hid her true evilness when it is to her advantage. In all honesty, she is a wonderfully sweet gal to people, but she is hateful around other bitches. She is never really openly hostile, but she is outspoken, pushy, opinionated, and bossy. It really gives her character and makes Mark and I love her more – Camilla, Kara, Nahanni and especially Hilda all disagree. 

She is full of beans and energy. She was literally vibrating as we went to hook her up for the first time and led the team on a blistering run. Hopefully all is a go for Iditarod for this mouthy little dynamo!
The other night we had a really nice dinner with neighbors Joan and Bruno Bryner. Natalie, Janet and Constant were in town for the Woman’s Rondy, which Natalie’s daughter in law (JP’s wife), Kari Skogen was competing in, so it was just Andrew, Mark and I.

Also at the dinner table was Shawn Sidelinger. Shawn is a wonderful guy, a person I greatly admire, and the individual whose Siberian Iditarod record I’m gunning for this year. He ran Norris’s team in 3 Iditarods and his 1998 time of 12 days, 0 hours, 8 minutes is the standard for the Siberians in the Race. Shawn and I have discussed my goals for this year and he has been nothing but supportive of them. In fact, last night he came over with detailed mileage sheets and his race times for the ’98 and ’99 races. We discussed at length what he felt he did well on the race and where he felt he could have saved some time - very kind and helpful of him. Every time I’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Shawn I’ve walked away even more impressed. Thanks Shawn!!

Speaking of great people. Yesterday afternoon I snuck into Wasilla and had coffee with Jon and Jona Van Zyle, after Jon finished a signing at a local art gallery. For those of you that don’t know of the Van Zyle’s – what kind of Iditarod fans are you?? In addition to being an Iditarod finisher (with Siberians, I might add), Jon is the official artist of the Iditarod. His posters, limited edition prints and sketches have brought the Race to life for people around the world, myself included. A number of his posters hang in my home, as they do such a good job of reminding me of special moments and places on the trail. Jona is an accomplished artist as well and her artwork will grace the official Iditarod cachet envelopes this year. 

The Van Zyle’s donated a bunch of the 2004 Iditarod posters to me to use for fundraising purposes, which I picked up from them yesterday. I am very grateful. Watch for information on the website soon about what we will be doing with them. While you are waiting – you can check the 2004 poster and Jon’s other artwork at You also want to bookmark that site and check it often during Iditarod, as the Van Zyle’s will be flying the Iditarod Trail during the Race and posting stories and updates on and their website. From talking to Jona yesterday, she has some terrific ideas about covering the Race and that will be a place to get great Race coverage this year!

I think that is it for this morning. I’m going to spend the day working on some Trail Notes for myself and some things for the website and mailing list – oh yes, and praying for snow and colder weather! 


Wednesday 18 February 2004

February 18, 2004 Kennel Cough & a Belly Bug

Willow weather
Current temperature –15.7F (-27C)
Sunrise/sunset 8:38am/5:49pm
Aurora activity Quiet

I have a postcard stuck in the mirror in my bedroom here in Alaska that says “Have Faith. Things fall apart so they can fall back together.” That has become somewhat of my mantra the last few months. I remain completely optimistic that things are still going to come back together for us for Iditarod – that is what allows me to keep moving forward with a smile right now. 

The outbreak of kennel cough seems to be almost over, just in time for an intestinal bug to hit the dogs. First off was Draco who went completely off his food for 2 days. If this wasn’t bad enough, he had liquid diarrhea along with the anorexia, causing him to become dehydrated and very depressed. Luckily, it only lasted a couple days and although he is not 100% yet, his appetite and attitude are back. Now Nahanni has been hit and Surge is off his food. I imagine this will work its way through the kennel over the week or so.

The up side of this is that the dogs should be over it before vet checks and, more importantly, before Iditarod. 

We are also having a bit of an issue with Olena. As I reported over a month ago, we had an accidental breeding with her on the trip up to Alaska. An ultrasound 2 weeks ago confirmed a pregnancy. With much seriousness we debated our options and, for a number of reasons, decided to end the pregnancy with a series of shots. The shots have virtually no side effects, long or short term, for Ollie; in fact, they would allow her to remain in the Iditarod pool. She went into the vets on Thursday and she was expected to be home on Monday. Unfortunately – but expected with our luck – Olena is ‘resistant’ to the treatment and as of today remains in the clinic. She has still been off of training for less then 7 days, so it isn’t serious yet – but we are keen to get her back home. 

I am happy to report that we got my food drops quickly done up on Sunday morning. The weather has been very cooperative with temperatures well below freezing, so we were able to leave the bags stored here and will drive them into Anchorage on Thursday. Although I won’t know final weights on the 39 bags until tomorrow, I believe this to be the smallest amount I’ve ever sent out. Chalk that up to a shorter race plan and a more confident musher (no need to sent out everything, including the kitchen sink anymore!).

Anyway, the morning is getting old and we must head out for a run! 

Sunday 15 February 2004

February 15, 2004 That's a lotta' Moose

Willow Weather -
Current temp 8.7F (-13 C)
Sunrise/Sunset 8: 46 am/5:44 pm
Precipitation in the last 24 hours 

When I was a child I spend a lot of time in vehicles. My Dad loved going for drives and once we moved West, we spent many weekends driving around exploring the mountains. I would sit in the back seat, staring out the window and scanning the landscape for wildlife. I spotted all kinds of animals, but never saw a moose. Each swamp and lake I'd longingly search with my eyes hoping for a glimpse of one of the majestic beasts. Now I know why I never saw one - the damn things were all waiting for me in Alaska. If I never see another one again that would be fine with me.

Yesterday's moose encounters involved me being dragged down the trail with my feet trailing out behind me after a big bull moose jumped out in front of my team and proceeded to run down the trail in front of us and an 'Alaskan stand off' with a big cow and 2 calves. That was the really scary one. We were about ½ mile from the truck on the way home when we ran into the moose family. Momma showed no inclining to move when she saw my team, in fact, I thought she was going to charge - as she had turned to face us and had her hackles up. Mark pulled up next to me (because he couldn't get his team stopped any sooner on the ice) and it seemed she did the math - 2 humans, 18 dogs vs. a ton and a half of moose and decided to back down. Lucky moose aren't good at math, 'cause I figure we all didn't add up to her weight alone - forget the 'kids'. As soon as she turned a fraction to the side, I said to Mark 'GO' and we got the heck out of there. Luckily, the dogs seemed to realize the seriousness of the situation and didn't attempt to chase her or her children! PHEW!!

Other then that our 65-mile trip out of Willow, over to the Big Su River and up the Yentna with 2 - 9 dog teams went very well. We even were serenaded by a lone wolf for a bit - that was pretty cool! 
We didn't go all the way to Yentna Station, but will plan for a trip there early next week.
Today is Drop Bag Day for us. We are going to try and recruit some of the folks in the house to help out and figure we will be able to knock the task off in about ½ a day, as most everything is ready to be thrown in bags. 

The weather has been a little mild, so once done the bags will get trucked to Underdog Feeds in Wasilla where they will be hard frozen to try to minimize the chance of any thawing of them out on the trail.

Well, it is 5:30 and I hear Mark moving around upstairs. That's probably because I somehow set the alarm on my clock radio the other day and can't seem to figure out how to now stop it from going off at 5:30 every morning. Oh well, we need to get a good start on the day anyway!


PS. And remember Alaskan moose are bigger and meaner then most! Although I will say the one I saw the other day was not a really big one.

Monday 9 February 2004

February 9, 2004 Moose Day at the Lake

My what an interesting run I had today. I started off with Kobuk and Denali in lead. That wasn't too effective and I had to stop and switch Kobuk out within the first mile. I'm not sure what his problem with leading is, as he did a fair amount of it this fall - it might be that he doesn't like leading with his brother, but whatever the trail isn't well packed enough to hold a hook hard enough for me to properly deal with it, so I put Hector up front and Kobuk back into the team.

Another mile or so down the trail Surge really began to back off. I had noticed earlier that his line was loose leaving the yard and now he was really lagging. I stopped to check him over and noticed his front right foot was swollen and he was favoring it. It was bad enough that I did something I rarely do in training and loaded him in the sled bag. Surge, being Surge, handled it pretty well, even though he has never ridden in the sled before. His eyes got big when the sled first started to move, but I gave him an ear scratch and he settled in. In no time he was lounging around in my, mostly empty sled bag. It was actually kind of comical as he came up with various comfortable contortions, usually with his head sticking out so he could watch the landscape roll by, occasionally looking back over his shoulder to check in with me.

As we turned off the 'Intertide' Power line I was greeted by a strange sight that I had seen the day before too - 4 ravens 'bathing' in the unbroken snow. Yesterday when I came in from my run, I had shared with Natalie my strange story of watching a couple ravens dipping, shaking, and fanning their wings in the snow as if they were taking a bath. She admitted that was unusual and something she had never seen in her years. And there they were again today 'splishing and splashing' away in the snow. Weird!

As the trail merged with the trail to Steven's Lake I came upon Darrin and Andy out with their teams. Hector and Denali needed a little extra encouragement to pass, but they did eventually manage to get it right.

We hung a right to go counter clockwise around the Lake and I noticed a few moose tracks along the side of the trail. About the same time Surge's nose shot out of the sled bag, wiggling like crazy - then he started struggling to get out. The dog team picked up their pace considerably too. As I wrestled Surge to stop him from jumping out of the sled, a light bulb clicked on in my head - we are chasing a moose. Sure enough, we rounded the next corner and in the trees along side of the trail, I spotted 2 moose calves trotting up a hill. Still juggling a wild and struggling passenger, I scanned the landscape for Momma. "Please let her be ahead of them". Lucky for me she was leading her kids out of our way.
The team continued along at a good clip and I wondered why they weren't slowing down any. Surely there wasn't another moose ahead - in the 4 years I've trained on these trails, I'd never even seen one moose while running - 4 in 10 minutes would be wild. Surge, who had briefly quit attempting to free himself, resumed his struggles, so it came as no surprise when another moose came into view. This one was on the trail. He turned and trotted along ahead of us. I firmly stuffed Surge down into the sled bag and Velcro'd it closed while standing on the brake with both feet to slow the team from catching Mr. Moose. The moose finally bounced off the trail and into the trees.

Now I'm looking around for Darrin and Andy. They hadn't seen a moose since arriving in AK and I was anxious to show them their first one. Turns out they had gone clockwise on Stevens Lake, so they didn't get to share in my moose viewing but at least Darrin had caught a distant glimpse of the one that we chased.

Hector passed Darrin's team without incident, but lost his nerve when faced with a second team in a row and tangled my group up as we passed Andy. I went up and sorted them out, as I stepped onto the runners and called up the team, my sled bag suddenly came to life - seems Surge had had enough of being trapped in there and wanted to see out again. I opened the dog so he could once again look out. He fussed a few more times on lake, making me think there either were or just had been other moose nearby, but I didn't see them and he finally settled back down to be a cooperative rider.
We passed a couple people 'dragging' the trail with snow machines. The beautiful trails around here take a lot of work to maintain and all the mushers in the area put time in running heavy metal 'drags' over the trails to pack it and smooth them out. Denali did an admirable job of leading the team by. Last year he was petrified of snow machines and watching him pass them now reminds me how much he has grown up in the last 12 months!

My ride along moose detector started to act up again as we crest a hill near the Windy Lake turn off. I was busy stuffing him back in the bag when I realized we were almost upon the corner and I better give a command to make sure they didn't take the 'Haw' over to the Lake, so I opened my mouth and said "HAW". What??? That was exactly the way I didn't want to go. It was too late now, as Denali and Hector had turned the second the command was out and we shot around the corner and down that trail. No real harm, but it added another 8 miles or so to our run.

We were finally close to home when Surge started to mutter at me. I realized he probably had to pee, but we were so close to home, I urged him to hang on for just a few minutes. He was wiggling around and had squirmed forward enough that I couldn't quite reach his collar, especially seeing I had just called the dogs up and they were now loping towards the dog yard. In one second he managed to go from 'dog in sled bag' to 'dog on the trail'. I slammed the brake on and he lifted his leg and peed and peed and peed. In fact, he took so long that Denali started the team into banging on their harnesses. I hustled Surge towards the sled bag, nervously watching my snow hook all the while hoping it would hold. It didn't. As I was loading him in (imagine legs sticking out in all directions and me trying valiantly to stuff them all into the bag) the hook popped and the team shot down the trail. Luckily I was able to swing on, but Surge was ½ in ½ out of the bag, so I reached over the handlebar and tossed him free of the sled into the soft snow on the side of the trail. He shook himself off, took a few limping
steps and then broke into a lope and followed us up the remaining bit into Norris' yard.

The dogs were still full of beans and bouncing around after their short 20-mile adventure. I was just glad to be home in one piece!

Post run note - Surge's foot does not appear to be anything too serious. It looks like he has a good bruise on the top of his middle toes, from what - who know, but some fluid has built up over it. He is on crate rest right now and I'll speak with the vet this morning - just to be sure!

February 9, 2004 Willow Weather

Current temp 17.2F
Sunrise/Sunset 9:03am/5:27pm
Precipitation in the last 24 hours

Well, my optimistic outlook for February has been tested a little already. The dogs continue to cough and now I’ve joined them. I’m sniffing and coughing and blowing my way through a cold of my own. It has made me very sympathetic to how the dogs are feeling! We are continuing to run though – I figure if I can drag myself out there to hook them up, they can run and I think they figure the opposite – it they can run, the least I can do is get out there and hook them up! Our runs are a bit shorter then ideal right now, but I’m still convinced that we will be ready to roll on March 6th (only 26 days to go!!)

The Norris household has taken on a real international flavor of late. Darrin and Andrew arrived from England on Thursday and Constant from Holland showed up on Saturday. Darrin leaves for home in a week or so, Andrew at the beginning of March and Constant at the end of March (I think). Constant hasn’t been here long enough, but I’m picking up all kinds of great new British words for my vocabulary. ‘Bloke’ and ‘Daft’ are two of my favorites!

All three men are very nice and I’m enjoying their company a great deal, but, of course, I’m most eagerly awaiting ‘the Canadian guy’ getting here on Tuesday. Yup, Mark flies in on Tuesday evening. It looks like he has everything squared away at the house – including keeping the evil little Spidey dog in her pen – and he is set for his trip to Alaska. Our friend Barb is moving in while we are away so we know that the house and critters will be well cared for during our nearly 2 month absence (actually 3 months for me).

Mark and I will probably do a few runs up the river to Yentna Station and/or Skwentna and then we will need to focus on getting my drop bags ready for the 18th. I still have a few odds and ends to do, probably a days worth, and then Mark and I will spend one solid day filling and sealing the bags.

Well, that is the news for this morning!

Sunday 1 February 2004

February 1, 2004 - Diary entry from Mark Evil has a New Name

My drive home from work this morning was fairly uneventful, the slippery roads kept me at a level of consciousness that was just enough to keep the sub between the ditches. The complete lack of traffic at 7:00 on a dark Sunday morning was also welcomed, this way I could use the whole road. I turned off the highway and headed down the hill. The freshly plowed road made it feel like I was driving through a tunnel. The few inches of snow that fell after the road was plowed was speckled with hundred of tracks from the deer that know it easier to walk down the road then in the deep snow. 

I turned off the county road and on to our drive way - it was like entering the Batcave. The snow heavy on the branches and the berms from the plow completely absorbed my headlights. Now with only a few feet left until I can park the truck and head off to bed, I'm greeted by a familiar sight, Fly. But what's this? Are my tired eyes playing tricks? Is the yard light causing weird shadows? No. Its Spidey. I stop the truck and walk into the garage to put down my lunch kit, she follows me in then we both walk up to her pen. I open the door and she hops in. This is becoming a regular thing.

I go back to the house hoping that she will stay in until I wake up in the afternoon. I don't think that I even got my boots off before I saw her at the back door. So I walked out to the garage were she followed me, I put her in a crate and said "see you in 6 hours, I've got a surprise for you".


It was slow night at the largest pulp mill in the northern hemisphere. The few calls that I got for electrical problems were handled quickly. All my emails were read, all the surfing was done. I wasn't even paying attention to half of the solitaire games that I was playing. I decided to go for a walk, maybe find a newspaper or something. As I was walking through the shop, something in the scrap metal bin caught my eye. I went to get a closer look, I stood there staring into this huge bin as the gears turned in my head, that's it, that's what I can do to make this night go by a little faster. I'll build a Spidey Trap.

Grabbing pieces of angle iron and expanded metal, I made up four triangular pieces that I could mount in the corners on Spidey's pen. She uses the corners to make her escapes.

(This is actually a picture of Sprite...but perhaps
this is where Spidey found her inspiration...)

1:00 PM

I wake up half an hour before my alarm goes off, I'm so exited about installing my new triangles that I can't sleep anymore. I throw on some clothes and head out into the garage to put on my insulated coveralls. I'm expecting to be greeted by a screaming little puppy, to my surprise Spidey was laying in her crate like a little angel. I suited up, told her I'd be back, and went out to put the pieces on. When I came back in the garage to grab Spidey, I soon realized why she was a little angel. It seems that the crate that she was in was right beside where the bags of kibble are stacked, she managed to rip several of them open, and the entire bottom of the crate was covered with kibble and her gut was as tight as a drum.

Anyway I let her out and we walked up to her pen and I let her in. She checked out the four corners and the new pieces and kept checking them out just like the Raptors in "Jurassic Park". She never did escape but I don't know if its because of the new pieces or because she was too fat to climb.
We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Mark (Karen's husband)

February 1, 2004 Winter Carnival

Well, I have to admit some relief at turning the page on my calendar this morning. With the loss of Charlie, Bravo and Orion all happening in the last 30 days, January of 2004 will not be kindly remembered in our lives. 

This weekend has been a tough one for a dog musher, such as myself, who is itching to be out on the Race Trail. In addition to the Earl Norris Memorial Sprint Race, the Don Bowers Memorial Race and Tustemena 200 are also running in Alaska right now. 

I really debated running the Don Bowers race, which offers either a 200 or 300 mile class, but sternly reminded myself of the plans and goals we set earlier in the year. That plan calls for Iditarod to be the sole race for us this season - we had good solid reasons for those decisions then, so there is no need to second guess them now. And besides, a number of the dogs have a mild case of kennel cough, so stressing them too much right now would be far from wise. Squeaky could have his name changed to 'Raspy' - poor boy. Crunchie, Odie, Draco and Hector are also hacking away. The team was vaccinated for the disease before they came to Alaska, so it should run its course pretty quickly. Better now then at the end of February or the beginning of March, I keep telling myself.

As I mentioned the other day, I volunteered to help out with the Earl Norris Sprint Race, which is held in conjunction with the Willow Winter Carnival. My 2 hour stint as a Race Judge was very easy and gave me a nice opportunity to stand in the starting chute and take some pictures, something that I don't usually get much time to do at a sled dog race. Afterwards we wandered around and took the time to cheer Earl's grandson, Halvor Norris to a repeat victory in the 'Ice Cream Eating' Contest. 

The Carnival is a big deal here and boasts something for everyone. In addition to the Ice Cream Eating Contest and sled dog races, yesterday boasted such events as a Cribbage and Yatzhee tournaments, (I wanted to try this one - as many of you may know, Mark and I play 'Yatzhee for dishes' each night at home, but was busy with the race), Ice Bowling, the worst Carhartt contest, booths of local arts and crafts, snowshoe races and much, much more. Activities go throughout the week and into next weekend. The whole Norris Clan, alone with Janet and myself hit the prime rib kick off

dinner on Friday night. Rumor had it it was moose, not beef, but whatever - it was great. 

Today it is back to the races and I want to hustle home afterwards, as it has snowed overnight and I want to get my dogs out breaking some trail before all the neighbors get out and start grooming the trail system with their snow machines. 

Welcome to February - it's going to be a great one. I can just tell!