Saturday 22 January 2005

January 22, 2005 Knik 200

Knik Lake is so bare of snow the race officials let the teams start from their trucks. The trucks were parked in a semi-circle facing the starting chute. (Some like Karen's were backed into their position) All the teams except one went through the chute. There was no way to stop those teams once they really got going. And, all teams seemed to leave the lake on the same trail. We had been told the first 6 or 7 miles were icy, but then the
trail was nice. I hope for everyone that's the case.

Karen's draw was number 10. We harnessed the 12 dog team and friends helped hook everyone up. The starter went from team to team counting them down. I stood out with the leaders for a short time and was rewarded with happy tailwags. I watched Karen for her signal and ran beside the leaders just a few steps to be sure they were heading for the race chute. Karen was smiling, standing proudly on her runners, behind that gorgeous team as she waved a goodbye.

It has turned warm here again. Reports were that it was 30 F plus and rumors of snow or RAIN were possible. Everyone do a snow dance! Please NO RAIN! Last Tues we were training in Willow at MINUS 10. What happened?

Tonight I visited the team members left home. They are fed and settled in for the evening, nestled into their straw beds. Perhaps they are dreaming of being on the race trail too.

Jamie West
Karen and crew ran in the 2005 Knik 200 and while we wait for her firsthand tales from this particular trail, here are some start and finish photos for all of us to enjoy. Our thanks to June Price of Sunhusky for all the photos :)
Here are pdf versions of the start and finish for archival purposes.

There is also a story on with a picture of Karen's team. Here is a pdf version for archival purposes and a link to a thumbnail photo of the team.

A NorthWapiti Group Member noticed some coverage of Karen and the team in an Zuma Diary entry for Knik 200 Part II.

The Editor

Friday 21 January 2005

January 21, 2005 Orion's Harness

I know it is unusual for me to do two diary entries for one day – but this is special and needed it’s own entry.

My friend Teri Turner wrote (and cross stitched up, so I could hang it up on my wall. BIG thanks Teri!) this lovely tribute to Orion. I’ve been waiting for the right moment to share it with you all – and today, the year anniversary of his passing seems like the right time.
Orion’s Harness
By Teri Turner
Do you know the Siberian grin?
You know the one, where you ask
Where have you been?

Few can say they have his miles,
That is his answer as he smiles.
Destined to finish the Iditarod
Years of training with the quad.

Oh, the miles his paws have tread,
Among the many he has led.
Traveling along,
No need to look to the shadow,
A gliding light,
The others knowingly follow.

A glance in the freshly fallen snow,
An extra set of paw prints in a row
Between Galena and Nulato he shall stay,
On a trail he loved that cold, cold, crisp day.
A memories postcard through all eternity,
Beautiful and strong is what you’ll see.

And if you look closely on this team,
Orion’s spirit will surely beam.

I still miss you and think of you often, Bud.


January 21, 2005 Mushing Mecca

I don’t think anyone can disagree with the fact that Alaska is the hub of the mushing world. That has it drawbacks and it’s pluses. We experienced one of the real big pluses this morning – the support community that thrives up here.

As I mentioned in one of my last entries, Chester is still battling injuries sustained during the Copper Basin. I tried running him a couple days ago, but he was still too sore. I’ve been massaging and ‘sweating out’ his shoulders with a shoulder jacket and things are definitely improving, but not as quickly as I’d like. He just can't afford to be out of training for too much longer. I was bemoaning the fact to Jamie yesterday and she recommended that I call Susan Whiton. Now why didn’t I think of that?? Susan, herself an experienced musher and Iditarod veteran, is Vern Halter’s wife and lives just 2 doors down from here. She is a DVM that also does a lot of work with ‘alternative’ medicine and healing. I probably didn’t think about it because such knowledge cannot be found within a 4 or 5-hour drive of Perryvale. Not that my vet’s at home aren’t good – I think they are the greatest – but the high level of specialty knowledge that Susan has is not feasible for them to work towards, as they only have 1 or 2 mushing clients.

I called Susan and made an appointment. This morning I snapped on Chester’s leash and we strolled down the road to see her. In a wonderful and extremely educational hour appointment, Chester had chiropractic, massage and acupuncture work done. Susan took the time to show me some problem areas for Chester and some massage techniques to help him. With the exception of two problem areas in his back, Ches happily and comfortably tolerated the needles for the acupuncture. He’s braver then I.

There was an obvious improvement in Chester on our walk home. The normal ‘bounce’ in his step was much more evident as he strutted his way back up the driveway. He’s still a long way from being ‘Nome bound’ but thanks to the ‘Alaska factor’ he is much closer then he would have been back home in Perryvale.

Not only is Chester heading in for a follow-up appointment next week, Gus and Grover will be heading over too. I figure those ‘seniors’ in the team can use every advantage I can give them.

Thanks Susan – Thanks Alaska!!!!


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!!


Sunday 16 January 2005

January 16, 2005 Copper Basin

Before I regale you all with my tale of the 2005 Copper Basin Sled Dog Race, I’d like to direct you all to 3 different perspectives on it. First, please visit the Copper Basin’s own site for this perspective ; next read the rather sensationalized, rambling and self contradicting Anchorage Daily News story from last Tuesday and then Craig Medred’s excellent report from Wednesday

Now for my story….

The night of the musher’s meeting didn’t set a good tone for the upcoming race. Leaving the icy parking lot our dog truck slid into the dog truck of fellow Canadian Ed Hopkins. ‘Luckily’ almost all the damage was to our vehicle and Ed was more then cool about the whole situation, shrugging off any suggestions of us paying to repair the back of his dog box. The old Ford is definitely going to need some repairs though – Mark had to take a tire iron to the front fender to move it off the tire enough so we could drive it. It is also missing the front drivers side headlight, signal light, etc. We are torn between being annoyed in having to spend a couple thousand dollars repairing a truck that won’t be going much of anywhere after this spring and relief that it wasn’t the new truck that we were driving.

The next morning I was still wishy-washy on which 12 dogs were making the 300-mile journey with me. The rookies all weren’t quite ready to race, so they were out; it is always good for me to race without Grover, just to prove to me I can do it, so he was out…after much debate and changing of my mind we unloaded Surge, Chester, Denali, Odie, Loki, Hector, Herman, Moses, Squeaky, Crunchie, Olena and Hilda from the truck for the vet check. Both Hilda and Olena were in heat and at the last second I tossed Hilda back into the truck and informed our little cab-riding princess, Kara that it was time for her to go to work. 

We puttered and fussed around the dogs and truck killing time until our 10:18 start. Just before my team was about to be moved up to the starting line, Race Manager John came over and mentioned that there was a 90 degree turn with a big spot of glare ice at the end of the start chute, “…but” he said “there will be lots of help there if you need it.” Translation – when you crash big in front of all the spectators and media, there will be people around to help stop your team and prop you back up on the sled. Great! My veteran crew headed by Surge and Odie showed them though, they fired on all cylinders at the word “Go” but obediently slowed down when I gave the ‘Easy’ command. We inched halfway around the corner until I deemed we were out of danger, then when I lifted my foot off the brake with the command “Okay – NOW” – they shot off down the trail with me just a-grinning. I understand all were not so lucky, as Tyrell Seavey apparently crashed hard and messed up his shoulder on that corner. Exciting for spectators, but not a musher, nor dog friendly start to the Race.

For the first 25 miles or so, into the town of Gakona, the trail mostly parallels the highway, so there were a fair number of spectators. Mark and our dog truck even drove passed on the way to Chistochina. We waved at each other and Odie perked his ears forward and sprinted to try to catch up with his dog box for a bit. The dogs actually moved well the whole way and although we were passed by a number of teams, I tried to gear the speed down a bit to get the dogs settled into a good, maintainable traveling pace. The team saw some trail conditions they hadn’t seen before, like jumble frozen ice on a few of the rivers, thick willows to punch through and bottomless, wallowing trail – turns out it was just the beginning of that obstacle. There was also a bit of overflow and icy trail, but this team is very familiar with that sort of thing.

Over a half hour ahead of schedule we pulled into the first checkpoint. Mark caught the leaders and after doing the checking in thing, helped me over into a quiet parking spot off the beaten path (translation – we wallowed through more snow to get to it). This was all the help he was permitted to provide to the team. This was the first time Mark and I have done a race of this format, where you have handlers in the checkpoint, but they are unable to help at all. Personally, I don’t like it. If Mark has to stand around twittling his thumbs, I’d rather he wasn’t there at all. Plus the parking was such and the race officials scarce enough that I think many were pushing the limits of this rule anyway. If you are going to make a rule like this, corral the mushers better and have enough officials around that everyone is forced to play by it. At least that’s my thought on the matter.

Anyway, everyone bedded down like the pros they are, but watched me intently while I prepared their meals. On cue (kibbles rattling into a metal food dish) they all hit their feet and started to bark. Everyone hit their dish with enthusiasm and polished it clean. Not much makes a musher happier then that!

I called the vet over to look at Chester, who had been uncharacteristically not pulling well coming in. They found a little muscle soreness, probably from wallowing around in some of the soft spots on the trail, but nothing serious. I gave him a massage and covered him with a blanket so he could get the best rest possible before heading inside to grab a bite to eat and then a quick nap.

When I was getting some water after my rest, I began to hear rumblings about the trail conditions. Word was traveling the ‘grapevine’ that the trail breakers had left for Paxson at 11 am and now, after over 8 hours they still were not there. Rumors of deep snow and open water abound, but no one knew for sure. Mushers, including myself, left Chistochina not knowing if we even had a ‘do-able’ trail all the way into the next checkpoint.

The dogs had no idea about the issues around the trail and so they left Chistochina without hesitation. In fact, I was thrilled with how strong and eager they were to get out of there. I had taken Chester for a walk while we were getting ready to go and he had looked really good, wagging his tail, grinning and moving without hesitation, but within 5 miles he started to back off again, making it clear I had made a mistake in taking him on this leg. He and I had a little chat and we decided that he would continue along in the team, free of the expectation of pulling until he indicated he would like to ride in the sled. Chester HATES riding, so I knew he wouldn’t make us haul his 62 lbs down the trail unless necessary. The next 30 miles or so were darn near perfect. The dogs moved exceedingly well… the trail was gorgeous… the night spectacular. I even caught sight of a couple shooting stars streaking across the night sky. It was all just about as close to heaven as I know how to get. Then we hit the creek.

My dogs have never been fond of water, but they will go through overflow without much issue – running water is an entirely different story. Their eyes bulge out and their brains turn to soup at the sound of a trickling stream – so it was no real surprise when they all bunched up at the edge of a open and gurgling stream about 35 miles into the run. What was surprising was the level to which they fought me to cross this rather small stream. At one point, about 10 minutes into our battle of wills, Herman was perched on the edge of the snow pack, screaming protests at the top of his lungs. I know the darn critter is not made of sugar and will not melt if he touches water, but anyone within earshot would have swore otherwise. Sweat was pouring down my back as I untangled and tried to drag dogs into the ankle deep water. Now, also remember I had mentioned Olena was also in heat??? Well the boys hadn’t forgotten and all took turns trying to move into position to breed her. How she got out of that situation with her virtue intact is a miracle. It took about a half an hour before the way out of the situation was offered to me. Somehow in all the mess Squeaky found himself at the edge of the water, rather then screaming and carrying on like the others, he was calmly watching the water go by. I asked him if he was ready to be a leader and save me from this situation and took his lack of protest as an affirmative. A little bit of reorganizing found he and Denali at the front of the team. Squeaky allowed me to lead him into the water and across the stream and Denali finally decided that if that red hair ball could go in, he could too. Once the front end was across, the rest bailed in with only minor protests and we were on our way again. Squeaky firmly planted his feet and refused to lead after we were through though. Apparently he had just felt sorry for me at the stream, but I was not going to trick him into becoming a full time leader. I thanked him for his well-timed 5 minutes of leadership and put him back into the team.

Shortly after there the trail began a notorious climb, virtually up a mountain. I had heard many horror stories about this climb, but the dogs did well enough that the reports seemed over blown. No doubt though - it was a massive climb and I was relived to finally hit the top. Relief was short lived, as it turned out the worst part of the trail was the descent – it wasn’t hard, fast and hairy – rather bottomless, soft and difficult for the dogs to negotiate. Every few hundred yards the bottom would fall out of the trail and send the dogs wallowing and flailing in deep snow. Give me a challenging trail to drive any day of the week, but I’m not for trails that just beat up dogs for no reason, as this one was. It was very obvious this was a freshly broken trail, not one that had been worked and maintained throughout the winter, as most race trails are. To make matters worse, Mark reported to me afterwards that the trail breakers came in on ‘Powder King’ machines. These may be good for busting through deep powder, but they chew up the trail underneath them to do it, making things even worse for dog teams behind them. I had expected more from an organization such as the CB300. We slogged and struggled down the mountain. In the distance I spotted a couple headlamps apparently stopped ahead – from what I had already learned about this trail, I figured this wasn’t a good sign. I was right. Two teams were tangled up on the edge of a open river crossing – and I mean OPEN. It was wide enough that the dogs couldn’t even see the other side from the near bank, so no way were they going to bail in on their own. The rushing mid calf to knee deep water even had me thinking twice. Surge surprised the heck out of me by following me in and across quite willingly. I guess he hadn’t liked his brother having to come to my rescue on last crossing. I stopped to change booties on Chester and snack the dogs as a reward once we were all across. When I was all packed up and ready to leave I noticed one of the other mushers still struggling with his team in the water. I felt sorry for him and waded back into the river to help. When Surge and I waded through we were careful to pick a path that wasn’t too deep so although my boots were frozen, my feet only got mildly damp – I wasn’t so lucky this time and stepped in a deep spot that sent icy water into both my boots. When I got back to my team I tried to undo the buckles on my NEOS so I could empty most of the water out, but they were frozen solid. I did some ‘risk analysis’ and decided that leaving the water in my ice encased boots and allowing my body heat to warm it up was the best plan. Turns out I was right – although my feet were very uncomfortable for the next 3 or 4 hours, no permanent damage was done.

The dogs traveled very well for the next several hours and we even caught up with a few other mushers. That perked all of us up. I also enjoyed my first glimpse of the Alaska Pipeline as we traveled next to it for several miles. Pretty cool.

I was starting to anticipate the upcoming checkpoint and warm feet when we crossed the highway and ventured onto Summit Lake, but a speedy journey in was not to be. A virtual absence of trail markers left myself and 3 or 4 other teams running circles on the lake looking for markers. I understand when earlier teams, wind or the likes knock down markers, but these markers were just never there. I understand that the first team onto the lake was lost for close to an hour. All the backtracking and hunting frustrated both Surge and I and the team slowed down considerably. I was re-passed by the teams I had passed early but the dogs were still moving along okay. Finally we climbed the impossible looking cliff off the lake and did an easy few miles down a plowed road and into the Paxson Checkpoint.

While I was getting the dogs fed and settled in, Mark was filling me in on everything that was going on, including the 3 trail breakers that had gone through the ice and had to be rescued by a BlackHawk helicopter and the fact that the race was officially ‘frozen’ until the Race could get some new trail breakers to put a new trail in. The beginnings of doubt about whether or not I wanted to expose my dogs to more of this race began to nag at me. Throughout the afternoon mushers that I greatly respect also wrestled with this decision, many opting to scratch. Mark and I talked about what we expected the trail ahead to be like. We discussed at length where the dogs were in their training and whether or not we felt such a demanding push at this stage of the program was in their best interest. I went to lay down for an hour to mull things over and when I got up I was sure that withdrawing was the best decision for my team and my bigger goal of getting them to Iditarod in the best condition I could. 

As most of you know, I’ve shed tears in the past over decisions to scratch and after the fact I’ve question whether I made the right decision – neither of those things happened this time. I was and still am certain that we made the right call on this.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it….


Friday 14 January 2005

January 14, 2005 Hundres of Miles, Christmas, and a Wedding

It has been a busy time since my last diary entry. We celebrated Christmas, a wedding, have made our annual pilgrimage up the Alaska highway, settled in at Jamie West’s place and made an unsuccessful bid at the Copper Basin 300 – but lets start at the recent beginning... 

Christmas is usually a ‘non event’ for Mark and I. Usually we are in full swing preparing for our trip to Alaska and training dogs and just can’t justify the time to put up a tree, etc. At our house it was this way again, but my brother Jim and his fiancĂ©, Melissa decided to get married on December 26 (Boxing Day to us Canadians!), so we ended up at my Mom’s in Calgary for the better part of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It was the first time in something like 14 years that we had been ‘home’ for the holiday (Mark gets most annoyed when I say that and reminds me that Perryvale is ‘home’ – and it is – but you all know what I mean!). 

We all managed to spoil each other silly with lovely gifts. My Mom bought me a new dish set and cutlery – much needed and appreciated. Many of you may not be aware, but in the years before dogs I managed a Royal Doulton China Shop for a while and it gave me a definite appreciation for table settings and such. My dishes and cutlery were all 15 – 20 years old and starting to show their age badly. I don’t think I could have set a table with matching items. Now I can and I’ll be itching to invite some friends over for dinner when I’m home again in April. 

Melissa never did come to her senses in time and she and Jim got married in a very small and lovely ceremony in their home. In keeping with who they are, we toasted them with orange juice and munched on ‘Turtle’ cookies in lieu of wedding cake. I thought it was all very touching and am thrilled to officially have Melissa as part of our family. 

After scurrying back to Perryvale later on the 26th we managed to pick up our U-Haul (no Y’Haul this year – this one had B.C. plates rather then Texas ones), get it packed, get a few runs in on the dogs, get them all in for blood work and health checks and head for Alaska on the 3rd. 

Many folks have questioned what dogs made the trip with us this year and I tell you, this was a very, very difficult decision. Things were up in the air until the very last minute and in the end I just couldn’t narrow it down to 20 and we ended up bringing 21 up with us (I would have made it 22, but that would have meant cramped traveling for a couple of the dogs and it is too long a trip for that – as it was, Kara just rode up in the cab with us and everyone had comfortable digs for the drive). So (drum roll please) here are the 21 (I’d say ‘in no particular order, but no one ever believes me when I say that anyway) – 
*These dogs also made the trip up to Alaska in 2004
In order to make my cuts a little more bearable this year, I with the help of a few trusted friends, made a few ‘rules’ for the team - all 2 year olds were cut and only 3 year olds that led made the trip. That left behind some wonderful young dogs, like Barq, Pepsi, and Jr – but they all have a great future ahead of them!

There was also one quite deeply felt veteran cut – Camilla. She still remains the most reliable front end dog we own, but as she gets up there in age, she is lacking the speed and drive needed to hang with this team – and a late season injury set her back some in miles too. I know it was the best decision for the team and for Camilla, but she got an extra big good-bye hug and an apology as we got ready to leave. I’m sure she will enjoy ‘Lording’ over the yard and telling tall tales to the youngster’s in the absence of the rest of the veterans.

The drive up was pretty uneventful. As some of you may have heard, our impatiently awaited new truck arrived before we left, but not in time to allow us to build boxes and make necessary modifications before our trip, so the old Ford was turned to again to haul all our butts and gear up the Al-Can. We did have one thing for the new truck that we ‘borrowed’ for the trip – a Sirius satellite radio. Way cool!!! Rather then watch the numbers going around and around without stopping when we hit the seek button on the radio, we were able to choose from 160 stations while buzzing down the highway. We did lose reception once we hit Alaska, but that is less then a day of the journey, so that was no real hardship (apparently you can buy a $150 antenna that will give you better reception while in AK, but we mostly wanted it for the drive up anyway). I just can’t rave enough about this system. After years and years of living on the edge of civilization with spotty radio reception and listening to the same tapes over and over, this is a bit of heaven. Well worth the $150 investment!

Our border crossing was faced with a fair amount of angst and dread. See, just a week before our trip we got word that the US was letting no kibble into the states. Even if you had US made, beef free kibble (as Eagle is) you needed a permit, which took 4 – 6 weeks to get and you had to be a US resident to get that. A frantic few days of phone calls and the help of a few nice folks at Eagle Pet Products, US Customs, and Mountain Dog Food had us sitting at the border with a mound of paperwork and a knot in our stomach. A Border Guard having a bad day can destroy even the best-laid plans. Our fear was unfounded as the Guard looked at a bit of our paperwork, asked a few questions and then wished me luck on the Iditarod. I felt my blood pressure actually drop a few points at that moment!

I should note that not all mushers were as lucky – apparently William Kleeden of the Yukon crossed a few hours prior to us and had all his food – kibble and meat – seized by US officials!

So, as planned, late Wednesday evening we pulled into Jamie and Harry’s lovely home in Willow. This will be ‘NorthWapiti Alaska’ for the next few months. Jamie looked only slightly concerned as piles and piles of gear and supplies were dragged out of the truck and trailer and piled into her house and yard. We assured her that things would look better after we got settled and especially once food drops were done. “Just when are food drops?” she quietly asked.

There was only one problem with the situation in Willow this year – there was no snow, just sheets and sheets of glare ice. Jamie explained that on New Years Day the trails had been near perfect and then it began to rain and continued to do so for 3 days. Figures.

Thursday we finished unpacking, dropped off the U-Haul, snuck over to Bob Chlupach’s – where it wasn’t quite so icey, for a run and started repacking for the Copper Basin.

Watch our next diary entry for the Copper Basin tale!!!

In closing, I’m adding a chart of information on our 21 dog ‘Alaska Team’ for this year. I’ll even do it in alphabetical order so no one can accuse me of favoritism in my listing! Hope you all enjoy!!

Dog Registered Name Sex Color Weight Birthdate Status Experience

Ch. Chuchinka’s Pathfinder M Black/White 61 lbs 12/12/96 Leader 2x Iditarod Finisher

NorthWapiti’s Crunchie M Black/Buff 50 lbs 06/06/01 Leader ’04 Iditarod Finisher

NorthWapiti’s Dasher F Grey/White 41 lbs 21/12/01 Leader Rookie

NorthWapiti’s Denali M Grey/White 55 lbs 27/05/00 Leader ’03 Iditarod

NorthWapiti’s Draco M Grey/White 58 lbs 05/11/97 Leader ’01 Iditarod Finisher

NorthWapiti’s Super Grover M Black/White 53 lbs 13/07/96 Leader 2 x Iditarod Finisher
Gus NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus M White/Grey 52 lbs 13/07/96 Leader 2x Iditarod Finisher
Hector Chlout’s Hector of NorthWapiti M Black/White 48 lbs 28/08/01 Leader ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Herman Chlout’s Herman of NorthWapiti M Black/White 48 lbs 28/08/01 Team Dog ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Hilda Chlout’s Hilda of NorthWapiti F Black/White 44 lbs 28/08/01 Leader ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Kara Ch. NorthWapiti’s Valkyrie Kara F Black/White 44 lbs 27/07/99 Leader ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Loki Ch. NorthWapiti’s Loki M Grey/White 51 lbs 27/07/99 Team Dog ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Moses Clout’s Moses of Velikaya M Appears white
  – but Grey/White
53 lbs 04/01/00 Leader ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Nahanni NorthWapiti’s Nahanni F Grey/White 44 lbs 27/05/00 Team Dog ’03 Iditarod
Odie NorthWapiti’s Oden M Grey/White 50 lbs 27/07/99 Leader ’04 Iditarod Finisher
Olena Alaskan’s Olena of Anadyr F Black/White 42 lbs 28/07/00 Leader ’03 and ’04 Iditarod
Skor NorthWapiti’s Skor M Grey/White 54 lbs 06/06/01 Leader Rookie
Snickers NorthWapiti’s Snickers F Grey/White 42 lbs 06/06/01 Leader Rookie
Sprite NorthWapiti’s Sprite F Grey/White 43 lbs 01/07/01 Leader Rookie
Squeaky NorthWapiti’s Robert E Lee M Red/White 50 lbs 27/12/98 Team Dog ’04 Iditarod
Surge NorthWapiti’s Sir Galahad M Grey/White 56 lbs 27/12/98 Leader 2x Iditarod Finisher

Thursday 13 January 2005

January 13, 2005 A Great Dog

Gone...but not forgotten
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Ch. The Professor of NorthWapiti CD, SDU, TT
(BIS, BISS Ch. Chuchinka's Shawn Boy SD x Meomar's Miss Liberty)
We are VERY proud of Spud. A Pup in Group winner and Group Placer in the show ring, he finished his obedience title with a 193. On the trail he has proven wonderful, being one of our main leaders. He has an unbeatable temperament, usually the one we pick for doing school visits! He has also proven himself as a sire with Champion offspring and excellent running dogs.
Major Races
Race to the Sky
Iditarod 2000
Knik 200
Klondike 300
Current Working Status
Rainbow Bridge Member

Spud's Photo Gallery
(click to enlarge image - hold mouse over image for description)

Spud Spud Spud as a pup Spud as a pup
Aug. 12, 1994 5 puppies with Meomar's Sunshine Coast Orca
  - The "Outlaw" Litter -

May 4, 1994 2 puppies with SilverWind
  - The "Spud x Silver Wind" Litter

Mar. 13, 2002 5 puppies with Ch. Jophil's Alysheba O'Scimitara
  - The "Spud x Aly" Litter -

Wednesday 12 January 2005

January 12, 2005 Copper Basin 300 Picture

Copper Basin 300 Picture

This was taken in the Paxson checkpoint at Copper Basin.

Tuesday 11 January 2005

January 11, 2005 Alaskan Travelers & CB300 Update

I was hoping to do some diary entries tonight, but something came up and that won't be happening now. I will quickly answer this question though, as it seems to be the 'burning' one on the Northwapiti Yahoo Group list.
The dogs that came up to Alaska with us are (in only somewhat particular order) -
*These dogs also made the trip up to Alaska in 2004

Yes, that's right - Jamie can't count :) - only 21 make the trip (and yes, Kara rode in the cab). The criteria for making the team this year was tough - all 2 year olds (ie JR) and all 3 year olds that didn't lead (ie. Pepsi and Barq) were cut. Barq was definately the hardest cut as I've been so pleased with him this season, but he will be even more ready to race next year. Camilla was a very hard cut too, but a late season injury (she is fine now) kind of sealed her fate.
Anyway - must run. I'll try to get to diary updates tomorrow.


Here is a wrap up story regarding the Copper Basin 300 top finishers found at and for future archival use a pdf version of the story.
The Editor

Sunday 9 January 2005

9 January 2005 Gone... but not forgotten

Gone...but not forgotten
Ch. NorthWapiti's Mr. Thurston Howl SDU
(BIS, BISS Ch. Chuchinka's Shawn Boy SD x Meomar's Miss Liberty)
August 3, 1991 - January 9, 2005

Howl’s Tribute
He was a "dog's dog".

He never begged for attention or food, he never sucked up to anyone for anything - not that he wasn't an affectionate and loving dog, but he got it all on his terms. He was as proud an animal as they come.

He knew his place in the universe and loved being in it. He carried himself with extreme dignity - heck, even we called him Mr. Howl. Although he was our first Canadian Champion dog, Howl was not at home in a ring - it was on the trail that he shined. He was a 'professional' sled dog. He took his job seriously and did it exceedingly well.

He was one of the dogs that made the switch with me from sprint racing to distance racing. He was on my winning 6-dog sprint team in the mid 90's, my winning Gold Rush Trail 54 mile race team, my 2000 Iditarod team - and everything in between. He led our teams for many miles in the beginning and was one of the key players in our 4th place Race to the Sky finish. He was a sire of Champion and Iditarod finishing dogs and his offspring are always evident in our dog teams.

He died like he lived - on his terms - never showing weakness, just leaving when he felt it was his time.

When we meet again there will be no tearful greetings and overt displays, just a rejoining of souls and hearts. 'Till then Mr. Howl.

Major Races
Race to the Sky
Knik 200
Klondike 300
Iditarod 2000
Current Working Status
Rainbow Bridge Brigade
Ch. NorthWapiti's Oreo
The Flying Nun of NorthWapiti
NorthWapiti's Domino
NorthWapiti's Panda
NorthWapiti's Tmax
with NorthWapiti's Ginger Grant
Ch. NorthWapiti's Against All Odds
with Kaita's Moon Shadow
Hawk's NorthWapiti Vindicator

January 9, 2005 Copper Basin 300 Status

As of Jan 09 1752 AKST (GMT-0900) Karen has apparently scratched from the race. I would think that whatever her reason(s) for stopping it was in the best interest of her dogs to do so when she did.
Bib No. Musher Current Checkpoint Previous Checkpoint Time en Route Speed (MPH) Layovers
Checkpoint Time In Dogs Time Out Dogs Time at CP Checkpoint Time Out 8 Hr 14 Hr
10Ramstead, KarenPaxsonJan 09 090812Scratched------ChistochinaJan 08 214411:246.1 5:38

Current updates during the race can be found at

If you'd like to read details on each checkpoint, visit and here is a map provided by the race organizers

CB300map2005.jpg (151194 bytes)

The checkpoints are:

Race Start:
Pinneo Park in Glennallen

22 miles to Gakona

Gakona Lodge (optional)

30 miles to Chistochina

Chistochina Village Hall

70 miles to Paxson

Paxson Lodge

17 miles to Meier's Lake

Meier's Lake Roadhouse

35 miles to Sourdough

Sourdough Creek

48 miles to Wolverine

Wolverine Lodge

28 miles to Tolsona

Tolsona Lake Resort

24 miles to Race Finish
Race Finish:
Pinneo Park in Glennallen

The Editor

January 9, 2005 Alaskan Hosts Arrival

Hello everyone from Willow, Alaska. 

Just a note to say how honored we are to host Karen and Mark and the dogs! We spent much of the summer preparing for an extra 21 dogs on the property. And, knowing Karen, I prepared 23 setups, just in case. The truck has boxes for 21 dogs and 22 dogs showed up. Princess Kara rode in the back seat. The truck towing a small U-Haul trailer showed up around 11:30 pm Wednesday. I went out and started hugging dropped dogs, first Chester then Squeaky, before Karen said, "how about us?" Well, it was good to see them too!

The dogs went back into their dog boxes for their first night here. Their arrival brought the kennel census up to 49 dogs! It wasn't a quiet night with the dogs visiting back and forth with barks and howls and other doggy introductions. We do live in a musher friendly area though with a few hundred dogs within a few miles. (Just down the road from Howling Dog Farm and the Norris's place.) Everyone in the area understands a few introductions. The next morning the dogs were put into their new dog yard and seemed quite happy with the accommodations.

As Karen was getting ready to leave Canada last weekend we had perfect trails. You can reach a hundred miles or so from our dogyard. she left Canada toward Alaska, it started raining in Willow. Not just a little rain, but it poured for 2 days! Our snow is still here, but so is a lot of ice. It will have to snow again before our trails are good, Karen wanted to test out her sled legs and find the "mileage" pace that the dogs should acquire on a distance race. So, she trucked the dogs a bit North on Thursday to get a few miles in. She came back quite happy with the dogs performance, and her confidence was boosted in the transition from a year's worth of 4-wheeler training.

Friday morning much of the mountain of supplies and equipment they had unloaded got loaded back into the truck to head to Glenallen for the Copper Basin musher's meeting. We will see them next week! Say, this is fun! I see where Karen's draw was number 10. And, she is off and running. As of Friday morning she wasn't quite sure who would run this race with her, but all 22 dogs were back on the truck for the trip to Glenallen..

Cross your fingers for a couple of inches on snow for our trails! And, follow Karen on the Copper Basin website!

Jamie West
Westrunner Kennels
Willow, Alaska

Thursday 6 January 2005

January 6, 2005 Alaska Arrival

I'm not really online yet, but have stolen Jamie's computer to let you all know (especially you Mom) that we made it safely to Alaska. 

We were well prepared and had no problems with the border crossing!

Still much to be done before Copper Basin tomorrow. Must run....