Thursday 28 December 2006

December 28, 2006 Ch Chuchinka's Pathfinder

Chester - December 2005
Ch. Chuchinka's Pathfinder

December 12, 1996 - December 28, 2006
Of course, we have known the time was coming. We've had more then a month (Nov 22, Dec 3) to relive old times and tell our friend how much we loved, cared for and valued him. This morning it was time to prove it to Chester - time to show him by adding pain to our worlds, but removing it from his.
Last night as I was crawling into bed, with Chester's 10 am vet appointment looming over us, I was caught up by the small space between the mattress and headboard on our bed. I well remember Chester being so small that he would slip through that space and thump to the floor in the middle of the night. I'd fish around in the dark until I found fur and haul him back up onto the bed. He'd quickly settle back in between our pillows. It seems like yesterday.


Yesterday, when he was so full of promise and potential. He lived up to all of it and more. He was a great dog and he had a great life. He saw a lot of places, made a lot of friends and sampled some great food (very important to Chester) along the way.

He was one of a kind.
Iditarod 2001 Check In wpe9.jpg (18538 bytes)
Coming into Nome 2001 Iditarod 2001 Finish chute Working hard in wheel Iditarod 2002 fall training Chester looking back
Iditarod 2003 - Chester is READY to go! Chester always LOVED to eat! Chester's white shawl looking back on our Iditarod 2003 print Iditarod - Ceremonial Start
Chester & Grover in lead - Iditarod 2004 - Nome, Alaska
Offspring at NorthWapiti
Trigger at 12wks

(The "Winchester" Litter

Saturday 23 December 2006

December 23, 2006 Handler Needed

As many of you know, Matt left this morning for warmer climates and to be with his girlfriend. We really enjoyed getting to know him - and his help in the kennel will be sorely missed.

This has left us in a bit of a bind, as it is hard to find a handler for just a short amount of time. What we are looking for is help in the kennel for the month of January. You would receive room and board (small private cabin, although you would be sharing a kitchen and bathroom with us) and a small stipend.

If anyone is looking for a month long adventure - please let me know! It isn't a glamorous job, the work is hard and the days are long - but the food is good (so I'm told), there is plenty of dogs to snuggle, and there is lots of opportunities to learn how things work in a 'big' kennel.

Please be advised that our kennel is at capacity right now and we would not have any room for anyone to bring their own dogs with them. Sorry!


December 23, 2006 Karen's 2006 Sheep Mountain 150

I must admit that in the days prior to leaving for Alaska for the Sheep Mountain race, I had some trepidation. Maybe driving 3 days for a race was insane - even by my rather warped standards.

However, once the truck was packed and we were underway, the routine clicked into place and I knew we were making a solid move for the team.

Our drive from Fort Nelson to Whitehorse threw a bit of everything at us. From heavy snow to dense fog to bright blue sky - we saw it all. Wildlife was plentiful with moose, elk, and caribou all making us slow down or stop at one time or another.

The Yukon welcomed us back with an amazing display of northern lights as it got dark. Much of the time we were feeding dogs just outside of Teslin, our eyes were cranked upwards! Greens, pinks and even a bit of red moving in rapid waves - gorgeous!!

The dogs, for the most part, traveled very well. You have to know that when we drove up to Lac La Biche to run, Watt and Charge were making such a fuss in their boxes as we drove down the road that cows stopped grazing to stare as we went by - not a word of a lie! So, we were prepared for the worst on this drive! However, the boys were remarkably well behaved. Odie is the one that has been shhhh'd' the most on this drive. Someone needs to give that dog a wake up call and remind him how old he is - but it's not going to be me!

We arrived at Sheep Mountain Lodge late on Friday evening. The warm welcome from a number of mushers instantly made me feel I was back where I belong - surrounded by like-minded folks where everything revolves around DOGS!

Zack Steer's cheerful staff got us all checked into one of their lovely new cabins. I think that cabin rates as one of the nicest rooms I've ever stayed in - and I've stayed in some pretty swanky places in my day!

We were the first mushers up and tending to dogs in the morning. We enjoyed the dark, quiet morning knowing that everything would be noisy and jumping in the parking lot soon.

I lingered over breakfast, mainly do to my interesting dining companions - Mark Nordman and Hans Gatt.

The morning flew by with meetings, race preparations and the arrival of Jamie
and Donna. How good it was to see them again. Soon enough I was standing at the
starting line behind -

One of the great things about the Sheep Mt race is that it is put on by mushers, for mushers. Pretty much all the race officials are mushers themselves, so they know what's what. I was chatting with head timer/Iditarod finisher, Bryan Bearass about the showers in Ruby while waiting for my countdown, when I glanced down at my sled and realized that I had hooked my snow hooks up to my sled wrong. Damn! Bryan asked if I wanted to attempt to fix it in the moments I had left, but it wasn't something that was going to put the team at any risk, so it was just going to have to wait. What a bonehead, rookie mistake!!!

We were off. Sure enough, right out of the start chute I was fighting my snow hook lines that kept slipping under my runner. I was happy to finally get onto the straight trail on the old highway and let the dogs stretch out and blow off a bit of steam. Just before the trail headed into the backcountry, I stopped to see if I could fix my hook lines, but it wasn't a job I could do safely on the trail. The problem was that I had neglected to feed the lines through the hole in the front of my sled, instead hooking them straight to the carabineer. That meant that they were free to slip under the runners of the sled, creating drag and affecting the steering.

We banged and crashed through the tussocks and rough trail. Although I stayed on my runners, neither the dogs nor I were having an enjoyable time. The dogs missed a well-marked corner and wouldn't come back onto the main trail. When I went up front to pull them back, I used a spare neckline to 'McGyvor' my snow hook lines. That seemed to work and the dogs and I took a couple deep breaths and settled into the business of running, rather then struggling with the sled.

We were moving along nicely, and I was really enjoying the handling of my new Gatt Sled (which steers like NOTHING I've ever driven before - even my other Gatt sleds), even so a number of other teams caught and passed us. No sweat, we were here to do our own thing and that's what we were going to do.

The trail detoured off of last years route and up and over Turtle Mt - I believe it was called. It was a tough climb and the reward at the top was a lovely view, once we were out of the ice fog that had enveloped us much of the morning.

We slide down the mountain and twisted and turned through the valley on the other side. There was a bit of overflow ice, but nothing to write home about.
At one point the trail swung left and then dropped down onto an icy patch with a patch of open water in the middle. Another team was on the far side getting reorganized, my team headed straight for them and I was heading straight for the hole. My attempts to convince my sled to swing left just put me on my side and I hit the water runners and feet first. Luckily, the dogs kept pulling strongly and I was quickly out, though my boot and legs were definitely wet.

I stopped right behind the other team. Moments later Jessica Hendricks drug across the water on her stomach and came to a stop beside me. Poor thing, she got much wetter then I did. Another musher was dragged into the pile up before the front team got straightened away and we all got moving.

A couple miles later, Lance Mackey's well-oiled 'machine' of a dog team powered by us. I would have been surprised if he hadn't won this race.

We continued to wind and snake through mountain valleys as daylight slipped away. I stopped and put The Amazing Kara in lead with Hilda. The team strongly drove up over the last big climb of this leg, past the '4 Corners' road signs (out in the middle of nowhere) and down towards Eureka.

We spit out onto a lake and I was surprised to see a dog team 'right in front' of us. Then I remembered that Zack had warned that they had skirted the trail around one of the big lakes to up the mileage of this leg, so in reality, I was about 1/2 mile behind that team, even though they were only a couple hundred feet from me. Oh well!

A race judge was out there on a snow machine to make sure no one was cheating and cutting across the lake! He greeted me warmly by name as my team passed by. Everyone can always tell who I am, even in the dark because of my dogs!

Alittle later then I had hoped, but with the dogs still looking strong and spunky, we pulled into Eureka for our first mandatory layover.

Jamie and Donna were on hand to help me get parked. It was nice to have friends to visit with as I went about my chores. The first thing I did after the dogs were fed and bedded down was to properly reattach my snow hook lines to my sled. It was a relief to have that mistake behind me!

The dogs were all on their straw, but few were actually lying down - they were all sitting up staring at me. I headed up to the lodge, knowing they would finally settle down if I were out of sight.

I had been in about an hour when Zack Steer popped by to mention that Mark wasn't in yet and to ask if I was worried. I wasn't, so he wasn't - however when another 45 minutes or so had gone by, I confessed I was getting concerned.

I have every faith in my husband's abilities on a dog sled, but I've been around long enough to know that often things out of your control can go wrong out on the trail.

It was a huge relief when fellow musher, Michael Salvisberg came over to tell me Mark was in.

I tossed on my parka and still damp boots to head out to check on him and the team. All 13 of them were in good spirits.

Weird things had indeed happened to Mark, but he kept his head and made good solid decisions that were in his and the dogs best interest. I was very proud of him.

So much for sleeping, it was time to soup the dogs again. They all inhaled their soup and looked expectantly at me for more. I told them they were going to have to do some more running before they got to eat again.

Just before I was ready to leave another musher came by looking for a headlamp bulb. Hers had blown and she hadn't packed another one for the race. I always have all kinds of spare bulbs, batteries and headlamps on a race - I learned that one as this young woman was - the hard way! I gave her another and told her that I was leaving just a few minutes behind her, so if she had any further problems to stop and wait for me.

Finally it was time to leave. The dogs had lots of energy, but Kara wasn't too interested in leaving her straw bed. She twice attempted to head back to the straw before resigning herself to heading out into the night. That's my little

Once we got by all the straw piles and onto the trail the team began to click. I have to say that that run gelled into one of the nicest runs - a lovely night, a strong dog team and a fun trail. That's about as close to heaven as I know.

Kara and Hilda were stars. They powered up even the steepest of climbs and zipped along the trails through the woods.

I never even bothered with my iPod, we just 'danced' down the trail to the music of the night.

Sure enough the team in front of me again had headlamp troubles and I came across them in the dark. I gave her a new bulb and a backup. We ran together for a bit before my team pulled away from her young dogs.

About 10 miles from Eureka I blew a headlamp bulb. I quickly switched headlamps and kept going. Six miles from Eureka I blew yet another! Go figure. I had to fumble around in my sled bag for a while to locate my backup backup headlight (I try not to change bulbs on the trail unless I have to). Maybe giving away 3 of those darn bulbs wasn't the smartest move! Oh well, only 6 miles to go and then my next run would be almost all daylight.

Coming back across the lake into Eureka I called up the team and they moved readily into a solid lope. (Donna Q told me that Mark's team, which was in the dog truck at the checkpoint, started to howl moments before I pulled in. I'm assuming they heard me call up my team!).

Jamie had kindly raked up all my straw into a long skinny pile while I was gone, so I just pulled the dogs into their parking spot and they all were able to immediately bed themselves down.

They ate like starving wolves and then sat and stared at me. I expected them to be more tired - they were at this point last year. I wasn't sure this boded well for the last leg. I was worried they weren't getting enough rest.

I left them alone to settle down and headed up to the lodge with all my headlamps in tow. Time to swap bulbs and toss all the blown ones.

I had a huge omelet once the kitchen opened - too huge actually. I was uncomfortably stuffed after eating it.

Again, I just wasn't up to sleeping. Really going 24 hours without sleep isn't a big deal for me.

I was right ready to go when my time was up. In fact, the dogs and I were all up and raring to go long before our 5 hours were up.

I had decided that Hilda had earned a break and put Snickers up front with Kara for the last leg.

Jamie and some volunteers came by to lead my team over to the starter. Despite both my feet on the brake, the team blew off the help and charged up to the checkers on their own.

They were much more jazzed for the leg home then last year and I fretted over whether this meant we were going to have a good run or not. I was worried they would peter out over that last 50 miles if they left really strong. Our usually pattern is to start slow and finish strong.

On the count they charged out of the checkpoint and back towards Sheep Mt. I pleaded with them for a while to ease up a bit, but finally figured - what the heck - and just enjoyed the ride.

Kara set a blistering pace around the lake and loped the team up the start of most of the hills, but eventually began to back off some. I stopped and tossed Dasher up front with Snicks. I looked Kara over for problems, but could find none. She was keeping up with the team, but not contributing. I worked over the puzzle in my mind as we moved along. Finally, I remembered much the same thing had happened to her last year on this race and booties had helped. I stopped and bootied all 4 of her feet. In typical Kara ritual, she took 2 steps, wiggled her whole body and then bounced forward into her harness. Within about 2 miles I had my little leader back out in front of the team and we were loping up hills

The last leg passed by remarkably quickly. It seemed like much less then 5 hours when we pulled onto the stretch of old highway that is the beginning of the homestretch.

The dogs sailed across the finish line and pulled to a stop with smiles and wagging tails. Bryan asked if I wanted help to my truck and I declined. "Go to the truck Kara" I asked after I was checked in and off we went.

Overall, I have nothing but good things to say about the team. Kara, of course, was the star of the group, but I was also very pleased with Hilda's leadership. Barq did his first race ever with me and I have nothing but great things to say about him. We are now reaping the rewards of our patience with him over the years! Waiting for him to 'grow up' is really paying off!

'Youngsters', Q and Jinx did a great job too. Out of the veterans, I was most pleased with Herman, who was in tremendous form for all 150 miles, although I have nothing bad to say about any of the dogs on this race!

Definitely a weekend worth the drive!


Friday 22 December 2006

December 22, 2006 Sheep Mountain 150

It is going to be a bit before I get a chance to sit down and do my Sheep Mountain Tales of the Trail, it is just too hectic here right now. And bound to get worse after Matt leaves tomorrow.

Mark spent the night in the hospital last night. Understand that in the 23 years I've been with Mark, he has only on three occasions asked me to drive him to the hospital - when his appendix ruptured about 5 years ago, when he broke his ankle last year - and last night. Turns out he has the Norwalk virus. He's back home, but still not feeling great.

Anyway, before he got too sick, Mark did sit down and do up his story of the Sheep Mountain race - so I'm passing that along to keep you all entertained for now!

Mark's Tale
Planning for this race started back in October, I phoned Zack at Sheep Mountain Lodge and entered two teams. Zack said "Okay Karen's musher 17 and you can be musher 22" I asked if it would be okay to be musher 40 because I would be running a young team and didn't want to interfere with anyone who was actually racing. He said "not a problem". When we arrived at Sheep Mountain Lodge on Friday night I found out that because of the expanded field and mushers pulling out that I was now musher 26 in a 43-musher field. I thought about asking Zack to move me to the back but I figured that he had better things to do, so I left in the 26th position and tried to stay out of everyone's way.

Shortly after the start my glasses fogged up and my trick of pulling the hood of my parka up over my head didn't thaw them out, so I took them off and put them in my pocket. Without my glasses I'm as blind as a bat. Normally this isn't a problem while running dogs, they know where to go and I just follow. The Trail for this race was very tricky, definitely requiring a higher skill level then I posses, especially being half blind. The bad news is that I spent a lot of time on my side the good news is that my runner plastic is still like brand new.

After about four or five miles, teams started to pass me. I kept looking behind me so I could line up the team for easy passing. After about a dozen teams went by, I looked back to see several more teams coming. Green blur, Blue blur, Red blur. I stepped on the drag and looked back again. Green blur, Red blur, Blue blur. I saw a spot ahead of me that looked like a nice place to get passed so I stepped on my brake and looked back. All I saw was Lance Mackey as he flew past me in his Red parka. I have to admit I peed my pants a bit. Shortly after Lance disappeared I was passed by a Green then a Blue parka. The spot where I was passed was not as nice as it looked, it turned out to be a side hill covered with what looked like glacial ice, it didn't bother Lance or Mr. Green or Mr. Blue. I fell down. Now with my face resting on the ground it was confirmed, it defiantly was glacial ice.

After a few hours of not seeing anyone else I was pretty sure that I was all alone at the back of the pack. I had a hard time negotiating the trail, Draco and Holly made sure that I was going in the right direction, but I couldn't see the ruts and bumps so I fell a lot.

The hills were very long and very steep. I don't like long and steep, I'm built more for rivers. After several of these hills Draco became very good at the command "whoa cough cough, wheeze, good boy, cough, lets take a break" I don't know if my insurance covers heart attacks in a foreign country. I couldn't figure out why I was having problems on these hills, we have bigger ones at home and we do them on the four-wheeler. Midway up one of these hills I notice that my front end was bunched up. Holly had enough. I took her out of lead and replaced her with Hector. I have used him in lead before and because he was in wheel he was one of the only dogs I could see. It was dark when I pulled the hook and I instantly knew that heart attacks would no longer be an issue. We flew up that hill and the next and the next. I wonder if my insurance covers hitting a tree in a foreign country.

Everything was going great; I managed to reduce my crash rate to a record breaking 3 or 4 times a mile. I could see the lights of the checkpoint glowing in the distance and we were on a lake. I like lakes, very few hills. I knew that we were supposed to get on the lake, run around it and exit it somewhere near where we got on. All of a sudden the team stopped, I sunk a hook and went up to see what the problem was, nothing, they just stopped. I surveyed the landscape with my squinted eyes and headlight and was surprised that I didn't see any trail markers. I also noticed that the trail that we where on was not a trail that had been used by 41 other teams but just a single snow machine.

Not sure what to do I thought that maybe my little hill killer Hector was no better at finding trail than me, so I walked down the gangline to see what options where. Then I saw him (sort of) Odie, he could get me out of this mess. I swapped out Odie and Hector and walked back to the sled. Only to be greeted by Odie and Draco, I looked up and saw the team was now in the shape of circle starting at the front of the sled and ending at the back. It was then that it occurred to me that I had put Loki in lead and not Odie. I straightened the team out, unhooked Loki and grabbed Odie. To make sure that I had indeed grabbed Odie I ran my hand down his front right leg and felt a bump. Yes this is Odie, he has had this bump on his leg for several years. As I put him in lead I thought that it was nice of Karen to mark our dogs with brail for this occasion.

With everyone in his or her proper place, off we went. I didn't know were we where going but at least we were moving. After several hundred feet we left the lake and crashed through a bunch of trail markers that were crossed in the shape of an X, not good. Soon after that I realized that we were on the trail that we just came in on before the lake. I turned the team around and several fights broke out. Once I stopped the fights and looked at the team it occurred to me that I was failing at the only task that I had for the race, "make the race a enjoyable experience for the dogs and keep them happy".
Hoping that my glasses had thawed out, I dug them out of my pocket only to find them still pitch black and useless. At this point I was very thirsty because I didn't pack any water with me. So with things stacking up against me I decided to stop, pull out the cooker and make a meal for the dogs and melt some snow for myself. I was ready to make a fire and spend the night. I knew were I could find some kindling, reflective tape burns real good. I told the dogs to take a break, we wouldn't be moving again until daylight unless a snow machine or Tim Osmar showed up.

I was just picking up bowls when I heard a snow machine off in the distance. Then around the corner some kid shows up and asks if I'm Mark, I must have been dehydrated because I just said "Yes". Once he turned around we followed him for about five miles into the checkpoint.

The team was taken to the truck, fed again then boxed.

If things would have worked out better, I would have run the dogs to the check point rested them for 8 hours, run the second 50 mile loop rested them 8 hours then scratch.

This race was pretty tough for a puppy team and it was way too tough for me!

Wednesday 20 December 2006

December 20, 2006 Sheep Mountain Report

by Jamie West

Donna gave a wonderful description of the Sheep Mountain Race! The mountains and snow make a gorgeous backdrop to the excitement of the race, as seen by her neat photos. Zack Steer's management and his organization make for a  more and more popular race. We got to hobnob with many other very famous Iditarod and Quest mushers and see them in action running and taking care of their dogs. There were 47 teams parked every 6 feet or so down a runway side by side. That's 564 dogs!

Many of the volunteers who were assigned to park the teams had never done this. They learned quickly and did a fantastic job. I got to drive the truck! The famous huge red North Wapiti dog truck! Glad I  don't have to park that thing every day, but it was great fun to drive. It  has a new camera you turn on to see behind the truck from the cab!

A minor thing about loading the dogs.........After years of getting 60 pound dogs into dog trucks I can and did get the dogs into the 2nd row of the dog truck. It does look like it's the top of a 2 story building! The dogs help get themselves in by pushing off my shoulder.

The NorthWapiti Dog truck (a Ford F450) before the 2006 Copper Basin 300 race.

I really enjoyed the time I spent with Mark, Karen, and Donna. Now, I'm looking forward to seeing Mark and Karen as roomies in Feb. And I love having Donna as a down the highway buddy :)
Jamie West

(landlady, musher, and part-time truck driver)

Karen, the Sheep Mountain 150 team and Jamie

Tuesday 19 December 2006

December 19, 2006 Sheep Mountain Report

by Donna Q
Now that I've had a day to get myself back together, here's what happened over the weekend from my point of view. (For more pictures, see Donna's Sheep Mountain Photos)
I left Willow at 6 am, picked up Jamie West and off we went for the 100 mile ride to Sheep Mountain. It was cold and dark and the Glenn Highway is narrow and winding for most of the way. It wasn't snowing then, so that was a good thing.

Glenn Hwy Alaska Glenn Hwy & Sheep Mt Lodge Sheep Mountain in relationship to the Iditarod Trail
Glenn Hwy, Sheep Mountain Lodge & the Iditarod trail

We got to Sheep Mt. Lodge at 9 am. Found Karen and Mark out on the landing strip where the race would start. They had parked the truck and were taking care of dogs. We dropped off the food and frozen sausage we brought and took my car back to the lodge parking area. Put our stuff in the new cabin Karen and Mark rented...boy, very nice. We all agreed we could live there. I remember seeing them being built as I drove by when I moved in September.

I found the other musher I had brought stuff for and delivered his packages. Then it was musher meeting time. Jamie and I weren't allowed in for that. When that ended, we had a few minutes before it was time to head out to the start area. While Karen, Mark and Jamie stayed at the truck, I took my video camera and headed up the hill...way up the hill. The start would be along the landing strip and then climb the hill and off into the mountainside. I stopped where the trail took a turn so I would have a nice side view of all the teams after watching them head on as they powered up the hill. I must tell you, it was very cool to watch them all look so strong and vibrant as they climbed. Just beautiful.

Click on the image to start the video or right click to download

Karen was number 11 and the team looked fabulous! They paid no attention to me and glided on by. Karen waved.  I did miss Mark's team. My own fault. I knew he was number 26. I knew when he was next. I had paused the camera after number 25 and was adjusting my stance to get the best shot I could. Now you have to understand all the clothing I was wearing and the bear bag covering the camera made me look like the Michelin man with a big sack. I must have accidentally hit the start button and not known it. SO, when I put the camera to my eye and hit the button again, the tape paused. I am so bummed, because the shot of Mark and the puppy team was lovely. They all looked great and moved on by very smartly. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Next, Jamie and I take the truck and head to Eureka Lodge to wait for the teams. It is truly a surreal place. In the pitch black all one can see are musher headlights, firelight and once in a while the headlight of a snowmachine. There is smoke from the fire. The headlights silhouette the mushers. It's pretty quiet except for the rustling of clothing and the crunch of feet on the snow. Once in a while a dog howls, or maybe growls or maybe has a tussle with his neighbor dog, but mostly I remember quiet. The whole thing reminded me of a scene from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Karen gets in just as she predicted around 5 hours later. Her team still looks jazzed and not at all tired. Since the race is following Iditarod rules, Jamie and I can do nothing to help Karen. She has to snack the dogs. Unhook tug lines. Go get water. Cook them a meal. Feed them. Pick up bowls. Check feet. Distribute straw...not necessarily in that order. Once the dogs are snuggled into their straw we go inside the lodge for dinner. We can eat with her and we all have halibut and chips for dinner. Yum. During this time, Karen gets a bit worried about Mark not being in. Zack Steer, the race organizer, tells her they have to go check some trail markers and will be on the look out for Mark.

Karen gets kisses from Q before leaving the final checkpoint

A while later, we hear Mark is in. We head to the truck and he's there with his team. He has scratched. Turns out, the transition lens in his glasses never went back to clear mode when it got dark. He literally could not see the trail. He trusted Draco in lead to keep him out of trouble, which he did. But he knew when they had gone around the same lake twice, he was not going to find the trail out. So, in my opinion, he did the best thing possible. He stopped the team. He fixed them a snack and waited to be found. There was no reason to continue if he couldn't see. Why risk a dog or himself getting hurt. I know he was disappointed, but said the dogs had a great run and they don't know they didn't finish, so who cares?!

We stayed around for a few more hours and it was time for Karen to go on the second leg of the race. The team was up and ready. They were having a great time. They stepped out smartly into the darkness. The rest of us took Mark's team and went back to Sheep Mt. to get a little sleep. Well, two people slept and I listened to snoring. HA!

At 4 am, Jamie and I got up and went back to Eureka. We took the dog truck and the dogs, just in case. Mark slept in. We got to the checkpoint about 20 minutes before Karen returned. They had a good run. A tough run, but a good one anyway. Lots of hills if I remember correctly. Karen went thru the same routine with the dogs while we waited. Then she and Jamie went in the lodge to eat. The kitchen wouldn't open till 7, so I opted to take a nap in the truck. After an hour or so, Jamie came out to drop Mark's dogs and feed them. I got out to help. While they were eating, I poured myself a huge glass of orange juice from my cooler of drinks. I put the glass down to help load dogs and by the time I got back, my drink was almost frozen. That's how cold it was there.

About 10 am, Karen came back out to get the dogs ready to leave again for the last leg. It was now light out so much easier to do things. The dogs were happy and spunky. I was able to give them all hugs and pets. Karen got them to sing. The one thing I do remember is all the race officials who help with getting dogs to the line and/or parked in their spot, is that they all loved Karen's dogs. So many mentions of how sweet they are and how beautiful. 

Olena, Hilda & Jinx, Q & Crunchie, Moses & Barq, Herman & Jr

They are breath taking when they head out to the line. At 10:45 they took off for the last leg. Jamie and I cleaned up their sleeping spot, helped two other mushers with dropped dogs and then headed out.

We got back to Sheep Mt., dropped Mark's dogs again and fed them. When they were safely back in the truck, we went in and feed ourselves. The Van Zyles stopped by to visit, which was a thrill for me as I never met them. I have several Van Zyle posters and a pair of mittens that Jona did bead work on. Really nice people. Then we went back out and repacked the truck so the Ramsteads could leave early the next morning.

Karen returned just after dark. Said they had a great run. Since the race was over we could help her with everything. First the dogs got snacks. Then they got kibble and warm water. We took the dogs from the gang line and attached them to the truck. We removed harnesses. Everyone got lots of hugs and pets. They have such wonderful personalities. Karen went to shower while we finished up. Mark had to load all the team since they went in the top line of the dog box and neither Jamie or I could lift them that high. They settled right in. We all went over to the banquet. Then Jamie and I drove back to Willow. Two days that felt like a week, but so were so interesting and fun. I slept like a rock last night and for me, that is amazing!

Donna Quante
Creator of the DVD "Pretty Sled Dogs" featuring Karen and the dogs of North Wapiti

December 19, 2006 Sheep Mountain Photos

by Donna Q

Draco, Hector, Odie & Boom


Charge & Eeek

Boom looking at camera, Odie next to him

Odie & Boom

Getting ready to start out on the last leg back to Sheep Mt. Lodge

Snickers, Jamie, Kara & Dasher

Hilda (her head is down) & Jinx, Q & Crunchie, Barq & Moses, Herman & Jr, Karen

Karen howling with Barq, Moses & Herman

Q & Crunchie

Jinx (to the right), Q & Crunchie behind her, Karen with Barq & Moses 

Jamie West holding Snickers & Kara in lead, Olena & Dasher behind

Karen gets kisses from Q

Olena & Dasher 

Herman & Jr


Karen gets kisses from Snickers

Q & Crunchie

Jinx & Hilda

Karen checks in with Jinx & Hilda

Princess Kara

Dual purpose Siberian...a Princess AND a good sled dog - Kara


Karen waiting for the end of her mandatory 5 hr layover so she can leave

Karen talks with Snickers

Snickers leads a group sing-along before heading back out on the trail

Dasher sings

Dogs in harmony

Karen's team leaving is:
Kara & Snickers (not visible)
Dasher & Olena
Hilda & Jinx
Q & Crunchie
Moses & Barq
Herman & Jr

Snickers howling

Dasher & Olena howling

Dashing down the trail

On the move again..

Q & Crunchie, Mo & Barq, Herman & Jr

Snickers cuddles up against Jamie

Dasher & Olena, Hilda & Jinx behind them

Olena, Hilda & Jinx, Q & Crunchie, Moses & Barq,
Herman & Jr

Barq & Moses - Jr & Herman

Snickers & Kara lead the team back out on to the trail

The view from Mark & Karen's cabin at Sheep Mountain