Tuesday 26 January 2010

X update (by Richard)

X contemplates the fact that life on The Cloud may not be so bad after all compared to a trip to Nome, for now at least.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Thanks Jenny!!!

I just got back from a 'ridiculous AM' run to the Fairbanks airport with Mark and Jenny.
I going to miss Mark a whole lot and will definitely be counting the days till he is back. Well, right after a few nights sleep without listening to his snoring I'll start counting down (and I know he will love having a bed to himself tonight without his wife next to him trying to cough up a lung every 5 minutes!)

We had a really nice run yesterday with Mark showing me the trails he has been scouting out while I've been taking some down time.

Just 3 weeks until he comes back!!!! (Okay, maybe I am counting down already!)

But the point of my blog today is to give huge thanks to our niece Jenny!!! I must say that both Mark and I were rather surprised when Jenny expressed interest in going to Alaska with us this year. Even though Jenny lives only 6 miles from us we really have not spent any significant time with her since she was young enough to require babysitting. Maybe that had something to do with the time we nearly got her drowned at the West Edmonton Mall wave pool, even though she insists she doesn't remember the incident!!!
Anyway, not only has Jenny been a great help, it has been wonderful getting to know her better. She is really a delightful, self confident young lady with a charming sense of humor, a strong sense of values and self worth. She was great with the dogs, a careful driver with the truck, quick to help around the house, and never once complained about anything! Basically the perfect handler!!

So, from all the dogs, Mark and myself - THANKS JENNY!!!! Any time you want to tag along with us again, just let us know - you are always welcome!!!

Jenny and her goofy Uncle Mark

Tuesday 19 January 2010

About the video....(by Richard)

The stage at NorthWapiti Films.

I would just like to say thank you so much for all of your comments.

I originally filmed and sent it to Karen as a bit of fun and reminder of home
for her. Didn't realise I was going to become an International film maker !!

I can't take all the credit though. Obviously a wonderful bunch of stars
in front of me makes it so much easier. I just go out and film it, then
come home, hand it over to Kara who for the price of a couple of Dentastix
sits down at the computer and creates what you have all been enjoying.
If anyone wants to see anymore please let her know and she'll direct me as
to what she wants you all to see.

If anyone's interested in the details, it's filmed using a mini bullet camera fitted
to the driver's bow on the sled. (usually fixed to my helmet when skiing or
mountain biking), hence I can still hang on tight! I've also got a GPS data tracker and can tell you at that point we were travelling between 20-24 mph.

So for all those that think Karen's distance dogs aren't that fast - Wrong. They
can turn their little paws to anything they want. Sprint racing - no problem.
The many wonderful photographs Karen takes of her teams don't do them the
justice they deserve when you see them in action.

Glad you enjoyed.

Bye for now.

All at NorthWapiti Film Productions.

Monday 18 January 2010

The B String

The B string back at home sent along this video this morning!! Enjoy!

Sunday 17 January 2010

Thanks for the Company!

Mark and I were off doing our 'own thing' today with our respective dog teams. He was going longer with a bit bigger team and I was going short with a team that had a few of the dogs with minor injuries and a couple leaders I wanted to put a bit of extra work into.
We (being my team and I) were not alone on our run though. Very shortly after leaving the yard this guy joined us...

For about 15 miles he traveled along with the team.

When I stopped to let the dogs roll around in the snow, he flew a bit ahead and landed on the trail to wait for us.

Sometimes he was above us, sometimes behind, sometimes ahead...

...but always around.

See him up on the left next to the really tall tree??? He never let us out of his sight.

About 4 miles from home, we came to an intersection and turned left to head back home. He 'cawed' at us a few times and then headed right. Maybe he was off to check on Mark.

I love ravens so much!!!!

Saturday 16 January 2010

Hamburger Run

Mark and I went 'playing' this morning! The event was the Two Rivers Dog Musher's Association 'Hamburger Run' (so named because the 'prize' for finishing is a hamburger at the Angel Creek Lodge).

They have a really cool 'Alaskan Mass Start' format. Dogs were allowed to be dropped around the truck, but couldn't have their harnesses on. At the drop of a hat, the musher and one handler start harnessing and hooking up dogs.

Jenny may be a great handler (I'm completely forgiving you for not being at the finish line on time today Jenny!) but she can't be in two places at one time, so she worked with me at the start and Jan's friend, Georgann, helped Mark.
Out of 9 teams, Jenny and I got my team out second or third!

My team consisted of Jinx, Bang, Tess, Rocket, Wolvie, Q, Charge and Crunchie! They were wonderful and finished the 32 miles in 3 hours and 5 minutes (including harnessing and hookup), which was good for 5th place.

Mark's team was Dasher, Spider, Hector, Runner, Barq, Irving, Bingo and Wonder. He was very pleased with his run (sorry I didn't catch his time, but it was about 45 minutes behind mine). He finished last, but prefers to note that this was his first top 10 finish in a race!!! :)

My ankle (wrapped in it's brace, in one of Mark's socks, and stuffed into my boots) held up pretty well, the burgers were indeed good and a great time was had by all!!!

Thanks to Jan DeNapoli of Muzzy Graphics for the photos!

Friday 15 January 2010

Cabin Fever????

"Cabin Fever -
Remedies, cures and healing techniques

From time to time, we all occasionally experience some form of Cabin Fever. What do you do to combat this horrific, degenerative mood erasing dilemma?

Sometimes a cure for cabin fever will require more than just an environment re-location- you may have to prescribe yourself to some good ole fashion out-of-doors activity.
Don't let cabin fever get you down"

So, what do you all think?? Has Richard just come up with a good way to avoid Cabin Fever? Or is he already lost to the illness??

Wednesday 13 January 2010

Copper Basin 300

Well, those of you on our list or Facebook pages know that the CB300 did not turn out as we had hoped. Both Mark and I ended up scratching from the event. Me at the Sourdough checkpoint and Mark 40 miles later at Meier's Lake.

The race started out well. It was a BEAUTIFUL morning, with scenery that only Alaska can do - big mountains rising out of ice fog, beautiful pink skies, vivid blue backgrounds with ice fog shrouded trees. I wish I had brought my camera along!

Many teams, mine and Mark's included, ended up on the highway within the first 5 miles or so. I was able to 'Gee' my team down the next driveway, but missed the 'haw' back onto the trail and ended up in some folk's yard. I 'Come Haw'd' the team around, shot back out the driveway and caught the sharp 'Gee' this time. Problem was the corner was a bit tight for a 12 dog team and I smashed through some trees and landed in a heap. I looked up to see Mark's crew coming down the Glenn Highway too. With commands from him and some whistles from me, his team was quickly back where they belonged!

The rest of the run into Tolsona was uneventful and quick.

Mark and I have trained on the leg from Tolsona to Wolverine Lodge a number of times. It has always been a dream kind of trail, hard, fast, a couple little 'sporty' moments to keep interest up but mostly just clean running into Wolverine! Not this year. A good part of the trail was non existent. A light layer of abrasive sugar snow lightly dusted over frozen mounds and tussocks. The common consensus by spectators and other dog drivers is that that is the kind of trail Siberians thrive on - well, not mine!! They HATE crap like that. They kept moving, but the pace was slow and I took several breaks to bootie dogs up. Thankfully, once we hit the trails maintained by Tree at Wolverine things got back to good and the dogs where happy to kick it into gear again.
We came across the lake and into Wolverine Lodge strong. Unfortunately, team parking there wasn't that great and I ended up off in the boonies on an unpacked base. It was a long walk to the lodge and the trips make back and forth dragging my food drops and water, as well as the rough trail on the trip over was taking a toll on my ankle. I could feel it was swollen and mad, so I opted just to leave my boot on. My best 'ignore it and maybe it will go away' act.

I did alot of visiting while waiting on a (delicious as always) hamburger cooked by Tree and then lay down for a 1/2 hour or so before heading back out to the team.

As I walked out the door of the lodge I slipped on one of the steps and wound up in an inverted 'U' shape between their deck railing and the stairs. I lay there for a moment thinking "Damn, I'm getting too old for this" before regrouping and dragging myself back to my feet.

I bootied almost all the dogs, closed up my sled and we slogged around a bit in the deep snow before Jenny was able to get my leaders on an outbound trail. Once we got on something 'trail like' the dogs very willingly headed out.

The night was cold and dark. I rigged up my new sled mounted light to backup my headlamp and was very pleased with the result. It's a nice little Browning headlamp, modified to run off a 3V lithium battery (sometimes having an electrician for a hubby is a very good thing!). I think the dogs really liked it too, as the few times I bumped it and it wound up pointing at the ground, their speed slacked off a bit, only to pick up again when I repositioned the lamp. Or maybe that was just my imagination!

I grabbed a cup of delicious warm soup to go at the unofficial Crosswinds Lake 'safety stop' and quickly sipped away before we got off the lake and onto anything bumpy enough to cover my fur ruff in bean soup! I swear it warmed me all the way to my toes.

A team passed me while I was replacing some booties and I occasionally saw headlamps in front of and behind me through out the night, but never saw another team.

It was very early and very cold when we pulled into Sourdough. Jenny hadn't arrived in the checkpoint yet and the checkers made it very clear that getting down to the parking area was 'dicey'. Thank goodness Sue Ellis was there and willing to help! (I appreciate it Sue - and haven't forgotten that I owe you a few beers!)
We negotiated the 90 degree turn, the sharp drop with the metal pole at the bottom and the chewed up final descent to the parking area. Drop bags were back up the hill and straw was off in some other direction.
The dogs were still spunky and hungry, rather then hike up the hill (yet again) for water, I melted snow and cooked them a nice warm meal. They ate every last crumb and curled up in their straw for a nap.
I headed up to the heated cabin to do the same. Problem was I just couldn't get to sleep. My ankle, aggravated as much by the walking in loose snow as by the trail was pounding. I repositioned myself a few times and even tried switching to a chair to sleep. I was sore, stuffed up from my cold, and exhausted but totally unable to sleep. I began to obsess about my ankle, what if it was more then a sprain? What if I was compromising it by pushing it on this race enough that it was going to interfere with Iditarod? It hadn't hurt this much since a few weeks after I originally did it, 8 or so weeks ago.

I was badly in need of someone to hear out all my concerns when friend Clint Warnke strolled by (Clint was handling for his girlfriend Sarah Love)."Got a minute?", I asked. When I spilled out all my concerns to him, he simply said "How much have you invested in this race?". "Not much", I said. "How much do you have invested in Iditarod?". Oh yes, that drove home the point. With only a bit more waffling and stalling, I asked for a scratch form.

Jenny and I packed up my team and sled. When Mark got up from his nap, we saw him off and headed over to Paxson Lodge to wait.

It turns out that Mark scratched at the next checkpoint, Meier's Lake. That story is his to tell, but I will post what he posted on his Facebook page (yup, Mark has a Facebook page and actually posts to it!) -

"The reason I scratched is that the young dogs stopped having fun. Poor trail conditions between Glenallen and Wolverine caused some feet problems that a more experienced musher might have caught, but I missed. My plan was to run through Meier's and take my 8 hour layover in Paxon, but half way to Meier's it was obvious that my plans would have to change. When I got to Meier's I set my snowhook, gave each dog a fish, and congratulated them on a job well done. As far as they know it was a 300 Kilometer race. Anyway they're young and will see more races."

So, not the results we hoped for, but it is what it is!!

Congratulations to Mike, Sue Ellis and the rest of Team Tsuga for a great showing on the Copper Basin!! Way to do the breed proud guys!!!

As a 'footnote' (ha, ha - pun intended!) - I went to the Fairbanks Urgent Care Clinic on Tuesday and got my ankle x-ray. Thankfully there is no fracture, just a sprain. I have a proper brace, an exercise program for it, and instructions to 'ice and elevate' at every opportunity. I also have reassurances that if I push it, it will hurt and slow down healing, but I won't do any permanent, long term damage!

All good!
Karen (who is sitting typing this with her ankle elevated!)

Thursday 7 January 2010

X Update

We are spinning off in about 20 different directions this morning, but I wanted to take a moment to fill blog readers in on what is happening with X.
After much discussion and thought we decided to fly X back to Canada for treatment.

Iditarod Trail vet and our friend, Dr. Veronica Devall will be overseeing his treatment at the Western Veterinary Specialist and Emergency Clinic. My Mom, brother Jim and sister in law, Melissa will be caring for X before and after his surgery. Richard will be picking him up later this month and returning him to NorthWapiti for the rest of his recovery.

X left at 7am this morning. It was hard putting him on the plane, but it was also a weight off of my shoulder to know that he is going into wonderful caring hands. I am confident that we are giving him the best chance possible for a full recovery.

There was a rather amusing moment in a very hectic day yesterday when I was filling out all of the 'pre flight' paperwork (which here must be done the day prior to travel). I filled out 'Pet's call name' and the woman looked at me with a sad look on her face and said "He doesn't have a name?". Seems she had mistaken my 'X' for a 'not applicable' comment!! "No, no" I said, "X is his name!!".

Anyway, think good thoughts for my boy. I know he will be on my mind throughout the weekend, especially when we cross 'Excelsior Creek', which he is named after, on Copper Basin trail!


Wednesday 6 January 2010

Some Politics

With apologies to all of you that do not live within the County of Athabasca, but time is of the essence in getting the word out on this!!

If you live within the County, I am pleading with you to contact your County Council BEFORE FRIDAY to ask them to vote down this proposed Dog Bylaw until one that can address the needs of all county residents can be drafted.
Or if you have come to the County in the past to visit our kennel and approved of what you saw, also feel free to contact the councilors and tell them so!

You can find their emails addresses and other contact information at http://www.athabascacounty.com/ (click on 'County Council').

Here is the letter I have sent to them -

My name is Karen Ramstead and I am a 12 year resident of the County of Athabasca. For those entire 12 years we have shared our home with in excess of 50 purebred Siberian Husky sled dogs.

I am currently up in Alaska with 24 of my dogs preparing for my 9th running of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog race but was recently made aware of a Dog Bylaw that the County is proposing. I have read through the Bylaw and have numerous concerns about the need for the Bylaw, the research and consultation that has gone into the proposal, and the consideration given myself and others that have been responsibility operating kennels in the County for years.

As the Bylaw stands I see that no consideration has been given to sled dog kennels, of which there at least 2 currently operating within the County. Most sled dogs are kept on stake out chains and housed under guidelines set forth by MUSH with PRIDE (www.mushwithpride.org), an international organization that sets standards and guidelines for responsibly housing for and caring for sled dogs. Many of the conditions proposed in the County Bylaw are in conflict with these researched and well thought out internationally accepted guidelines.

Our kennel has been recognized on a international level for it's dog care. Yearly we welcome visitors from all over North America and around the world that are interested in our dogs, our kennel situation and our dog care. To have a Bylaw officer with likely little experience with sled dogs now passing judgment and able to insist on changes to our set up seems rather ridiculous.

In addition, the requirement for kennels being a certain distance from property lines would require us to spend thousands of dollars and countless work re situating our dogs, even though we are surrounded by 'green land' on all sides that the dogs are close to.

I urge all to vote against this proposed Bylaw. If there are concerns on dog ownership in the County, by all means we need to address them, but lets to it in a responsible and well thought out way that addresses the needs of all of us that call Athabasca home.

If anyone would like to discuss this with me further, I can be reached in Alaska at 907 351 6197 or via email at northwapiti@xplornet.com

In closing I find it rather ironic that in my last blog (www.northwapiti.blogspot.com) before leaving for Alaska I wrote fondly about the friendliness of my community and how lucky I was to call it home - and at the very same time our County Councilors were basically stabbing me in the back by quietly pushing through this ridiculous and over controlling Bylaw.


Karen Ramstead
NorthWapiti Kennels

Tuesday 5 January 2010

I'm Keeping It In Perspective..

... There is good news today and that is that in the long run X will be fine. In the short term though, there is bad news. He is going to need surgery and alot of time off running.
Looks like he tore a tendon today during our run. It's unknown at this time whether it is partial or totally torn, but either way he will not be seeing a harness again this season.
After we got back from the vet today it was too late to research some surgery options, but I will do that tomorrow. Apparently no vet in Fairbanks can do it. Anchorage has a clinic that can, but it might make more sense to fly him home with Mark and Jenny later this month. We will see...

There was no traumatic injury, just probably a misstep or some such thing. It isn't unheard of in the sled dog world, but it isn't really common either.

X is pretty much his same happy self. He doesn't seem to be in much pain, but we have him on some painkillers just to make sure. He is eating, moving around (mostly on three legs) and wagging his tail.

He will be sadly missed on the team this season, but he tells me this is just a blip in the amazing career he has stretching before him. My most 'X-cellent Dude' is a wise dog, so I choose to believe him.


Fancy Seeing You Here!

When I'm at home in Perryvale, it is rare for me to run into folks I know when running errands or away from the kennel.

I spend a fair amount of time away from home - and when I'm home I'm usually busy with dog stuff, so I don't have a big social circle in the Perryvale area.

Sure, Rhonda at the post office knows me, but she knows everyone. I once stood in the Store/Post office next to two women discussing the fact that 'Karen Ramstead - that woman' that runs the Iditarod lived in Perryvale. With hair sticking in 10 directions, holes in my sweatpants, and a dog hair covered sweatshirt on (hey, Perryvale is small, you hardly ever run into anyone in the post office) I declined to introduce myself.

Thanks to the newspaper and local radio station, lots of folks in the area know about us and what we are doing, but the only time they have actually maybe put a face to it is when I'm bundled up on the back of an ATV on a training run, so they really don't 'know' me to see me.

And then we come to Alaska!!!

We headed out for our first run here in Two Rivers on Sunday. About 7 miles into the run we did a head on pass with another team. "Hi Karen".
A few miles later we ran into not only another musher I know - but a dog I know too - friend Mike Ellis with former NW dog Boom in his team (I pulled to a stop next to Boom and said a quick 'hi'. He wagged his tail and briefly nuzzled my fingers, but then turned his nose back down the trail. He was working!!)
Moments later I pulled over to let a fast traveling team by. The musher stopped and said "Is that you Karen??" It was Tom Lesatz, a fellow Iditarod musher. We chatted for a moment or two before the dogs all started to fuss and it was time to get going again.

I miss home, but it is good to be back among friends!! (with no disrespect intended to that friends that I do have back in Perryvale, of course!)


Sunday 3 January 2010

Greetings From Two Rivers!!!

Well, we arrived in Two Rivers on Friday night.
The drive chasing that big blue moon up the Alaska Highway was completely uneventful! We saw a lot of wildlife - mostly moose, caribou, and elk - but for 2 moose near Delta, AK all of it was safely off the road!!
The border crossing was one of the fastest I've had in years! The only thing of issue to them was the straw in the dog boxes. The insisted on inspecting that, so Crunchie was nice enough to charm the US Customs Guard with tail wags and happy wiggles while she looked for 'noxious weeds' in his bedding. There were none - I'm far more concerned with seed heads and such being around my dogs then she will ever be about them getting into her country!

There were a few little challenges to the drive because of our timing over New Year's Eve and New Years Day - but thanks to some planning and generosity by our friends Lee and Tim we had a place to sleep each night, diesel for the truck and food in our bellies!!!
Actually, we have been 'regulars' at Fast Freddies in Tok for the last number of years, but they were closed January 1st, so we tried out a new (to us) restaurant in Tok - the Grouchy Grizzly (I know, how appropriate for Mark to eat there!) - it was fantastic. Lots of great home cooked food (including fabulous homemade biscuits and a nice little salad bar) - so much in fact, none of us were able to clean our plates!!

I realize that I might have forgotten to mention that our niece, Jenny (Mark's older brother's middle child!) is along for the this trip. We were surprised and quite delighted when she mentioned she would be interested in handling for us for the drive up and the Copper Basin. We are enjoying her company (even though she spent most of the trip buried in the back seat of the truck with her headphones on trying to block out her uncle's slight strange music choices on the satellite radio!!) and she is proving to be a very good worker!!

Yesterday was spent getting the truck unpack, dogs completely settled in, a trip to Fairbanks for groceries, some visiting (I will at some point have to get a picture of my 'hennaed' hand by Georganne on the blog. Amazing the things I sometimes get myself talked into - but it does look cool - and no fear Mom, it will only last 3 weeks or so!!), etc, etc.

It looks like Muzzy's Place is going to be a great fit for us this winter!! Jan's place is great and she has lots of room for us and the dogs.

I sadly have not taken one picture - but you all know that will change!

Today we are going to explore the trails a bit on snowmachines and then head out on a run. Can't wait!!

The dogs can see me working on the computer from their yard and I hear a bit of fussing out there now. I think they are telling me to get off the 'flashy box' and to get them fed!! Goodness knows I best not brush them off!!!

In closing I have this great quote I found on New Years resolutions!!

"Every new year people make resolutions to change aspects of themselves they believe are negative. A majority of people revert back to how they were before and feel like failures. This year I challenge you to a new resolution. I challenge you to just be yourself."
-Aisha Elderwyn

Happy New Year!

Saturday 2 January 2010

Alaska here we come ! (by Richard)

Trigger was not amused when I suggested maybe we could try and enter
next year's races.
Dew just thought I was a mad !