Tuesday 24 February 2009

NorthWapiti’s Handler’s go to the Races!

Saturday was an exciting day here at NorthWapiti as we brought 14 ‘B’ team dogs to a local Mosey and Mingle race. Mark drove the truck and gave guidance to the 4 handlers who went to race.

Helen and Gabi each ran 3 miles with a 3 dog team while Markus and Chris each ran 5 miles with a 4 dog team. There were 5 teams in each race and it was a first race for all but Chris who runs these races in Australia.

It was a lot of hurry up and wait as there were other groups ahead of us; kick sled, and two dog teams as well as several skijoring races. The event was well organized and everything ran smoothly so the waiting wasn’t too painful!

It was a quick race and the dogs were all great. Gabi and Helen came in 3rd and 4th respectively and Markus came in 2nd while Chris came in 1st! It was a great day for the handlers and tons of fun for all the B team dogs.

Some of the dogs like Odie, Moses and Loki had not been in the dog truck or at a race for a long time while for other dogs like Trigger, Xena and Comet had not ever been to a race. So it was a great experience for all of us!

Holly, Gabi's leader was waiting patiently for her turn to run!

Monday 16 February 2009

Pictures of the start of Quest 300

Here are some great photo's of Karen and Mark at the start of the Quest 300.

Mark's team and Chris.

Looks like Karen is ready to go.

And they are off!
Now those are happy dogs!
I know Karen is happy too!
Mark's team coming down the chute.
Looks like something caught Wolvie's eye!

Thanks to TamaraLyn of Wandering Spirits Kennel for sharing her great pictures with us. Hopefully this will hold us over until we get the stories from Karen!

Friday 13 February 2009

How's Your Friday the 13th Going??

Ours?? Not so good.

First off, Kelly and Markus are stranded at the Edmonton airport. Apparently due to fog in the area their flight is delayed meaning they will miss their connection in Vancouver for their flight up here. As long as they get to the Vancouver airport sometime today though (which they should), they will be able to make a 10:30 pm flight for Whitehorse and arrive around 12:30 am. Inconvenient, but workable.

And, the dog truck decided it wanted to go on strike this morning and will not start. We have two chargers on it and we have been on the phone frantically looking for someone home in the neighbourhood to give us a boost. Unfortunately, the local towing company can't get anyone out for a couple of hours and everyone in the near vicinity is at work.

We have now missed our vet check appointments. We contacted the Quest office a few hours ago and they have offered to reschedule our vet appointments, but we need to get in town before the Driver's Meeting at 3pm.

I'm sure it is all going to work out - we are just going to figure out a way to make it work, but while we are waiting on phone calls and chargers I wanted to share with you a favorite quote of my friend Colleen. She sent it to me this morning in regards to another matter, I'm sure not realizing how appropriate it would become later today!

"For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one." Souza

Well timed, my friend. Thanks!

The Day Before...

Day before race day today.

We went to the big Quest banquet last night (in my role as a race official). It was pretty much a typical mushers banquet. I must say that I don't like this 'not being part of the 'big show'' even a little bit, but it is what it is.
I'm definitely looking forward to just getting out there and running dogs tomorrow.

We have a busy day today. The alarm will go off in 7 minutes (6am) and we will get dogs dropped and fed Around 9:45 we will be heading into Whitehorse. We are meeting up with Chris (yes, our Chris - he arrived in Whitehorse yesterday) and then doing a visit to our friend Hunter Vincent's kindergarten. At noon it is our vet check, then a quick trip up to the airport to pick up Markus and Mark's brother, Kelly who are flying in to handle for us for the race.
Then back to town for a 3pm driver and handler meeting.

Those of you that are around Whitehorse or seeing pictures of me in the next few days might notice something odd about me. No, I do not have a big, bloody booger hanging out of my nose - Jinx launched herself off my face yesterday while getting into her dog box, putting a big scrape from my nose all the way down to my lip. So many people were asking yesterday "What happened to you?" that I was going to put a sign around my neck that said "My lead dog did it". She is showing not a hint of remorse - the brat.

I'm going to try and put together a blog about following the race sometime today. I don't know how easy that is going to be, as I can't even seem to find a starting order list anywhere for the race and we drew our bib numbers on Wednesday night. If anyone has any suggestions for good places to find information on the race, please post them on the 'comments' section or drop me an email!!

One more sleep to go!


Monday 9 February 2009

Happy Day

This morning started off with Junior (literally) dragging me over to Vern Halter's so I could borrow their nice inside facilities (and awesome handlers Misha and DeeDee) to take his stitches out.

He was so well behaved on the table that I swear he knew that getting those stitches out meant he got to run!
Everything looked great, so later in the day we took Junior out for a test run!

He ran lead on a smokin' 20 mile run and Mark described his run as 'Perfect!!'.

Actually, the whole run was pretty perfect. The sun was shining for most of the run, the trails in awesome condition, and the dogs ran really nice.

You might notice I only had 11 dogs hooked up. X took the day off. Nothing serious, I'm just babying his feet alittle. I fully expect him to be ready to race next weekend. We are just playing it safe!

We did play around with our teams alittle and a couple changes have been made to our Quest teams. Bingo and Boom moved over to Mark's team and Runner and ROCKET moved up to my bunch.

So that means my Quest 300 team (barring any last minute changes) will be;












and Runner

Mark's team will be -












and Togo

Everyone is happy and ready to roll - us too!!

Happy Day!!

Sunday 8 February 2009


It has been a weird winter for us here in Alaska. I arrived later then planned, we spent alot of time away from Willow chasing snow - and we are leaving on Tuesday to head back to Whitehorse. It feels like we haven't even settled in yet - forget getting ready to leave.

We haven't visited alot of friends, dropped by ITC headquarters, had dinner at the Cadillac Cafe, Gwennies, or even gotten to Anchorage.

It'll be sad to leave without doing all these things and more, but we are both looking forward to some new challenges and adventures in Whitehorse next week. That helps some.

I did take a few photos around the yard today that I thought I'd share with you all.














Dear Musher

In regard to your request to keep squirrels and other small mammals out of your precious truck, I have bigger "fish" to fry in keeping the dogs safe from various and sundry creatures that lurk in the night.

While you might not realize it, I serve a valuable service to your homestead by keeping larger animals from squishing your dogs, and I'm also attempting to "earn my keep" by providing you with fresh meats. Unfortunately I haven't perfected my hunting skills yet, but I hope to demonstrate this soon and look forward to the look on your face when I drag a moose home.



Friday 6 February 2009

Dear Bait and Tic

Dear Bait and Tic,

While we were driving up north the 'check air filter' light kept coming on on the dog truck. Things finally settled down enough that Mark was able to get the truck in for an oil change yesterday. Imagine our SHOCK when the mechanics found a MOUSE NEST in the filter. I mean we employ to kick ass cats that are supposed to take care of such problems - don't we?? And it is not like you can claim that the truck is parked too far away, I see the two of you up there all the time playing on the fence and around the truck.

So, consider this your notice - get your acts in gear or you will be fired - or at least suffer a serious cut in pay.

Your Boss (not the one that fawns all over you - the one that just barely tolerates your presence)

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Don Bowers 200

After weeks of whining about the lack of snow, the day after we got back from Sheep Mountain it began to snow in Willow...and snow...and snow. By the time race day rolled around, even those of us that had been doing snow dances were starting to think it could stop anytime. The 'icy, fast' trail they had been talking about earlier in the week had become considerably slower due to the up to six inches of fresh snow.

I wasn’t bothered one way or another, as our dogs are still undermiled for the season and aren’t ready to race anyway. Fast trail, slow trails….we just needed trails.

In order to give the six race rookies – Flash, Wolvie, Wonder, Isis, Wifi and Rocket – the best experience we could, I put them all together on Mark’s team and gave him a more conservative race plan.

The start of the race was a bit confusing, as there were different stories about when exactly the 200 mile race was starting. Originally they said that all the 300 mile teams would start, and then there would be a 15 minute break, followed by the start of the 200 mile teams.
As the last 300 mile teams were hooking up, I checked with the race manager, who said that the 200 mile teams were going out right after the 300 mile ones – no break. As I was bib 2, I rallied the ‘troops’ (Molly, Doug, Keith and Mark) and we got the team up to the starting line to be told by the race Marshal that there was a 15 minute break between classes. Argh!!!!
Common sense prevailed though and the marshal asked if it would be alright with me if they let me go now and I made up the time difference on my layover. I readily agreed, as holding the team for 15 minutes would have been quite a chore.

Off we went. The dogs were moving easily and I just let them do their thing. We zipped down about 8 miles of the Iditarod Trail before heading north into new territory for us. A couple ravens teased the team and flew along with us for awhile.

I love ravens and completely enjoyed being out on the trail with them. The trails were lovely and well marked.
A couple teams passed us and we passed a few more. The dogs continued to move easily.

At about 50 miles out we hit Shulin Lake, that was the landmark race officials had given us for the 1/2 halfway point to Joe May's. I found a nice pullout right after the lake and parked the team. Everyone snarfed up the 'slop' I had for them in my cooler and settled down to nap.

I was sitting on my cooler, listening to a podcast of 'The Vinyl Cafe', watching the odd team roll by when a group of dogs I recognized started to pass. I said 'Hey' and Mark's leaders beelined for my lap. We chatted for a minute then Mark called up his girls to go look for their own camping spot, which they found just a bit up the trail.
My team was settled well in and my sled tied to a tree, so I walked up and helped Mark park. Mark had told me that Jr had gotten sucked into a soft corner and then into a bit of a dog fight. I checked him over as much as he would let us. He had a mean looking gash on the inside of his back leg and some puncture wounds. We moved him away from the other dogs so he could rest better.

After about an hour, it was time for me to hit the trail again. So I said goodbye and pulled the hook.

The dogs roared out of their camping spot and continued to move easily. This portion of the trail was on a plowed road (not plowed to the ground though) and involved no thinking or sled driving to speak of. I listened to tunes and sang to the dogs. Until we turned off into the checkpoint.

I signed in and signed out. The checkers told me 28 miles to Joe May's. The dogs were moving fantastic as we left. The trail zigged and zagged through some swamps and I think they liked being off the road. Jen Seavey caught up with us and passed. She was the first team I had seen since leaving my campsite (well, except for a few camping at the start of the road). We crossed under the Parks Highway on the Big Su river. All was quiet at this time of night.

The next section of trail had been hastily put in in the week prior to the race. It dipped, dived and snapped side to side through the trees, but it was obvious that it's creators had sledding experience, as it was challenging without being dangerous. I enjoyed it thoroughly!
Then back into big swamps for the final miles into Joe's.

The dogs were rambunctious and unruly to park, but thanks to some 'on the ball' checkers it was done without much fuss. I got them settled and then got a warm meal into them - which they all devoured.

Joe and Sandra's cabin was open to the mushers and after hanging all my outerwear in their garage to dry, I headed in and was served a delicious bowl of soup, sourdough bread and cookies. All washed down with juice and coffee. *heaven*

There was an area for mushers to sleep, but I was lurking around waiting for Mark. Pretty much on schedule he pulled in two hours after me. I asked about Jr and Mark said he was doing okay, but needed to go to the vet. So I headed up to May's cabin to make arrangements to get him to our vet in Big Lake.

After all Mark's chores were done, I told him to go sleep a bit and I'd wait for Molly (thanks Molly for jumping out of bed and coming out to get Jr for us!) to come get Jr. After she and Jr left, I caught about an hour of sleep.

I fed dogs again and was making ready for my 1pm departure when I got thinking it would be nice to wait an extra 2 hours and make the trip home with Mark. He told me he'd enjoy the company, so we both left the checkpoint at 3pm.

The snow had stopped and the temperature dropped, setting the trail up quite nicely. My dogs seemed to settle into a nice traveling pace quickly, but Mark's weren't. We messed around with his leaders and such, but they just weren't 'clicking'. After 2 hours we decided that traveling together just wasn't going to work. We wished each other a good trip and off I headed.

There is just not too much to say about the next 70 miles or so. The dogs had jelled into a nice team and were moving along strongly. Even when I stopped to put on another layer of clothing or change headlight batteries, they stayed on their feet ready to go. I was very pleased with them.

We pulled into the finish line at 5am. The checkers commented that they actually weren't expecting me for another few hours, I smiled and shrugged.

I didn't want Molly to have to get up at some ungodly hour of the morning to greet us at the finish line, so I had had her drop the truck off at the Community Center the night before. The checkers steered my leaders to the truck, told me there was food inside the community center for me when I was finished with the dogs and scurried back to get warm. It was cold. So cold that the lid was frozen on the soup bucket that Molly and Jamie had left for me. I unharnessed and loaded the dogs, started the truck, put the soup buckets in the cab to warm up and busied myself putting away gear.
I thought about running the dogs back home and coming back to wait for Mark, but didn't want to risk missing him, so I fed dogs, repositioned the truck, fed myself and then napped for awhile.

The Winter Carnival was on, so eventually folks started showing up for that. I chatted with friends and then hung out at the Willow Dog Mushers Association table with friends Jamie and Donna.

At 1:45 I was up with the race officials chatting about maybe sending a snowmachine out to see what was up with Mark when Vern Halter came upstairs and announced that Mark was down in the parking lot. Apparently the spotters had missed him coming across the lake and he had been in for 45 minutes. His dogs were fed, his sled empty and most of the dogs boxed by the time we got to him.

Apparently Mark's crew had picked up a bug and he had opted to take it easy on them on the trip home, stopping twice to camp. It was definitely the right decision for the team and I was very proud of what excellent care he had taken with them.

Complete results of the race can be found at http://www.donbowersmemorialrace.org/ - but I must point out something that I am very proud of. If you look at my running speeds for the 4 legs of the race, you will notice that each of my legs was run faster then the previous one. With my fastest mph being the last 70 mile leg to the finish. I am very proud and excited about this group of dogs!!!

And that is the story...

Things That Make Me Go "Eeek" - and a Junior Update

So before I give you all a Junior update, I thought I'd share a quick tale from the Don Bowers Race.

It was about 4am when we reached the ramp off the Big Su and onto the Corral Hill Trail, which is about 8 or 9 miles Willow Lake. Just as we were about to turn up the ramp, the dogs all kicked it into high gear. At first I thought they recognized the ramp, which they have traveled alot and realized how close to the truck we were, but then I noticed a number of them leaning and looking to the left.
I don't really know what I expected to see, maybe a moose off in the trees or a fox or .... but what I did see certainly woke me up because running parallel to me about 6 feet from my head, was a moose. I could have reached out and slapped her, but what I did instead was what any self respecting, rough, tough musher would do - I literally yelled "Eeek". She tossed her head in the air and thundered off into the woods, the dogs and I roared off to the right and up the ramp.

Staying awake for the final hour of the race was NOT a problem.

Anyway, I picked Junior up from the vet yesterday. He was THRILLED to see me and is doing just great. Andrea said to give him time off until the stitches are out, but we will be able to run him a few times before Quest and if he is comfortable, he will be good to race! Excellent news!

Everyone else napped away most of yesterday, but Junior was at the end of his chain stomping around and trying to get any one's attention. He just didn't get why all anyone wanted to do was relax!! After all, he only ran 50 miles!

Silly boy!

Monday 2 February 2009

"Junior Heal"

I'll have some more stories from the trail soon, but I've had alot of inquiries asking which dog Mark dropped, so I thought I'd deal with that first.

Junior was Mark's dropped dog. Relatively early in the race Junior got pushed into the soft snow on the inside corner of a turn. Mark suspects that he got injured by some sticks that were under the snow, he cried out and one of the other dogs jumped on him. Mark got it all quickly sorted out, but Junior had a tear to the groin (we suspect the original injury) and a number of other puncture wounds.

Mark and I both camped with the dogs on the trip up and our stops overlapped by about an hour, which made for a nice little visit. Junior had run up to the camp, but was feeling very sorry for himself. Once he rested a bit, things got very sore so Mark carried him in the sled for the final 50 miles to Joe May's.

Molly, who is living out at Jamie's right now (and helping Jamie out alot while Harry is away) came out and picked Junior up and dropped him off with our friends at the Big Lake Susistna Veterinary Clinic. I talked to them before we hit the trail again to make sure Junior was okay. At that point he was just waiting to go into surgery, but was going to be fine. I asked them to hang onto him till Monday, as I didn't want to inconvenience anyone at the house - and figured that Junior would enjoy some quality, inside healing time.

I talked to Andrea (his vet) yesterday when she and her husband, fellow Iditarod musher, Sven Haltman stopped by the truck while I was dropping dogs and waiting for Mark. She said Junior was doing great. He took about 10 stitches and had a small flap of skin removed. I asked if he was 'out for the season' (as I expected he was) and she gave me a surprising 'wait and see' answer. She said he had come out of his surgery very well and was already walking around quite comfortably.

So we will wait and see.

We will be picking him up later today and I'll make sure to post a few pictures of him.