Monday 29 October 2012

Welcome Winter

Over the summer I just forget how magical the kennel/woods are after a snowstorm. Not only does the snow create a beautiful canvas for us all to write the stories of our day with our feet, it makes a blanket that muffles out the noise making for a stillness that is all it's own. 

Welcome winter. I've missed you.

Sunday 28 October 2012

Tales of the Trail 2012 - Elim to White Mountain

That's the sound of a dog team imploding.


It was really windy in the checkpoint. The team was nestled against a snow berm, but it wasn't doing much to block the wind.

The dogs had come in very strong, but they didn't eat very well. I struggled with the wind as I went about chores and tried to get the dogs comfortable.

The same volunteer crew that worked the Cripple checkpoint was in Elim, which was a treat. Dave Monson and his party that we met on the trail to Koyuk also showed up while we were here.

David's children, Tekla and Chisana Monson, especially Tekla, have so many of their Mom's characteristics and body language that it is spooky. I never had the privilege of sharing a race trail with Susan Butcher, but I was an avid race fan during her heyday and met her many times as she hung around the race and worked it as a correspondent.

The Monson family's engaging presence and all the great Elim volunteers made the energy in the checkpoint very positive despite the miserable weather outside.

The warmth and laughter over the cribbage board was begging me to stay longer, but when you leave Elim you are, as a rule about 24 hours away from finishing, and the lure of Nome was definitely greater!!!

I finished up chores, readied the dogs to leave and layered on wind clothes, knowing that I was in for a storm over Little McKinley.

The dogs left badly. I was patient and hoped/expected that, like the trip over from Koyuk, they would find their 'groove' after a bit of time. Although this time they just got worse and worse instead of better.

The night was cold, windy, dark and lonely. I was frustrated and disappointed. I knew a 'crash' in the team had been looming but I had hoped the solid 12-hour break in Koyuk had fixed things. I replayed my race over and over in my head trying to figure out where I went wrong and what I could do to pick up the pieces now.

The winter had its share of challenges and I did feel that I didn't get the quality training I wanted but still, they had good miles and good experience on them. I also knew that the 7 in-season girls had seriously comprised the quality of rest the dogs had been getting in checkpoints and then the storm coming across Norton Sound had further tapped them....but none of that mattered -  I needed to find a way to get us all to Nome. I did my best to be cheerful and upbeat, but it was SERIOUS acting and they likely saw right through me.

The climb up Little McKinley was slow, but reasonably steady. The girls did a solid job of keeping on the trail despite some ferocious winds. Normally my guys really step up in storms, but this time they seemed to have just had enough of bad weather. They were steady, but with no spark.

The dogs picked up a bit when we came down the backside of the mountain but the run to Golovin Bay itself seemed longer than ever.

The dogs were happy to hit the village of Golovin, but didn't want to leave town. Now I was getting frustrated. They know better and normally are better. On the trip across the Bay they kept drifting off the trail. The Bay was windswept, so being on or off the trail didn't really matter as for ease of travel, but the drifting and constant correction of direction of travel was increasing all our frustration and destroying what scant enthusiasm we had left.

To make things worse, I was exhausted by now and was fighting to stay awake. When we finally got across the Bay and onto the river I was horrified when I looked at my watch and realized how long we had been on the trail. I knew the run had been bad, but this was riduculous.

I've had a couple 'bad' runs over to White Mountain over the years, but this dwarfed those. This was, actually, one of the worst legs of Iditarod I've ever had.

We pulled into White Mountain. I was beat - mentally and physically.

Friday 26 October 2012

A Graceful Retirement...

Many have been inquiring about how Crunchie is handling his retirement. Well, if you are picturing him walking around in a robe, with a cup of coffee in paw and a newspaper tucked under his arm - or for that matter lounging in a straw filled dog house, gnawing on a bone, watching his offspring - think again.

Brittany took some video of what happens everytime I'm out with a team.

Yeah, so much for enjoying his retirement!!!

Now, in all fairness, I'm told that he has done this even when he was training with the main string and on a day off.

The difference now is my guilt level. When I knew he would be running the next day I could ignore this look....'s harder now!!!

Yesterday I broke down and before heading out with the main string we hooked up all retirees, a few 'odds and ends' dogs, filling in the 'holes' with some Main String dogs!

Joining Crunch were fellow retirees Hector, Herman, and Barq with the Amazing Dasher Dog in lead.

Although they had nothing to prove to anyone, they drove like dogs in their prime. Dasher hit every turn at full speed with one quiet command.

The smiles on their faces were only equaled by the smile in my heart. I love those guys so and it was a true treat to be riding behind them again.

Thanks for always being such a great leader D-Dog. 

And thanks for making me do this Crunch

Photo by Brittany
<3 <3 <3

Thursday 18 October 2012

Perryvale Cemetery

Despite having virtually ALL the girls in season right now, the dogs have been running really nicely. I took an 'all boy' team out today and although my leaders (Rocky and Todd) are far from 'polished' we managed to get everywhere we needed to go (with a bit of help from my 'third' lead dog - Brittany)!!!


With the way things are going it is time to bump their mileage up again. One of the trails that we use frequently at this time of year is the one that comes out by the Perryvale Cemetery. I love both the trail and the Cemetery, so I decided to check the trail out (you never know what has blown over, washed out or otherwise been made a mess of in the last 10 months) and start using it again.

Usually I check trails out with the ATV, but today decided that a trip on my bike would be a better option!!!

Since I didn't have a dog team, I stopped to visit some friends and otherwise poke around the cemetery.

I quite like cemeteries - and despite having visited some amazingly old and incredibly cool ones over the years, this one remains my favorite. You may think my reason odd, but what strikes me about this one is the sense of LIFE about it.

Where the cemetery that my very missed father is at allows no mementos (doesn't mean there aren't any - just that the groundskeepers can't see them ;) ), cleans up flowers immediately, and is always spotlessly clean.... this one is FILLED with all of the above.

I love the benches that are scattered about giving family and friends spots to spend time visiting and remembering.

This cemetery certainly has it share of 'old' (I know that is a 'relative' thing) graves...

....but mostly, at least to me, this is a place that is filled with love.

Spending time here always 'moves' me.

After my break I hit the trail again pedaling the 'old highway' ....

....over to our 'campground' ...

.....back across the river and home.

Other than a bit of a 'shocking' encounter with a(n) (illegal) electric fence that I will be chatting with a neighbour about (not that the electric fence is illegal, just his placement of said fence), it was a wonderful afternoon and I can run the dogs over some 'new' (for this year, at least) trail in the morning!!!

All good!

Monday 15 October 2012

Some'dog' To Watch Over Me....

One of the reasons for getting the new bike that I did was that I wanted to be able to ride it on the trails around the kennel.
The bike and I have been home from Jasper for 3 days, so it was overdue for a 'test ride'. I rounded up my ever faithful, always up for adventure (as long as it doesn't involve livestock) pal Bet and we headed out.

I didn't suggest to Cricket that she come along, 'cause well....Cricket do I say this politely......ummmm.....oh heck - CRICKET IS SLOW!!! And it's not like I really just 'didn't suggest' - Cricket has never been good at taking suggestions - or commands really - she is a girl with her own mind, for sure!! So the truth of it is Bet and I snuck out of the yard when the 'Polar Bear' wasn't looking!!!

My bike is as wonderful on our trails as I hoped. Bet and I were having a blast zipping back and forth through the 'Green Land' that is adjacent to our land. We eventually zipped back, connected with our main 'out trail' where it leaves our land and headed down to the river.

I did have to walk the bike down the big sand hill leading to the river, but everything else I was able to get my 'Karate Monkey' up, down or through!!!
As we dropped down onto the river itself I noticed a bunch of BIG canine tracks "Hope those are Cricket's" I thought.

At that EXACT moment I heard a large animal huffing and puffing behind me. I think I spun around and jumped out of my skin all at the same moment. Ever brave Bet darted down the edge of the river.

There on the trail was a LARGE, WHITE, FEROCIOUS BEAST....yup....Cricket.

"What are you doing here", I gasped. She looked at me reproachfully. Yup, we were caught.

She stomped into the river, splashed around and got a drink while throwing evil glances over her shoulder.

"Ummm....sorry Cricket. I didn't realize you wanted to come along."

Yeah, that sounded weak to even me!!!

Cricket splashed in the river a bit more, I pedaled in the shallow sections and Bet tippy toed around the edge of the water (she doesn't like getting her toes wet - she says it reminds her of having a bath) before heading back up the hill and onto the dog trails.

Bike and Border Collie tracks

Sled dogs and bikes now!!!!
We did swing by the bench overlooking the beaver pond for a bit of a break. The view isn't quite as peaceful with Cricket along...

"Ummm...Cricket....maybe you could move your head a bit to the left."

Ah...that's better!!!!

The valley is almost ready for too!!!!

Friday 12 October 2012

Mystery of the Beams Solved - Bet

Ok everybodies, hold the phone!  We don't need UFO researchers and stuffs and things, we figured it out already.

There was one last picture stuck in the camera, and that pretty much clued us in as to what was going on.

Yep, it's one of those pesky Star Trek peoples again.  Eesh, they just beam in all over the place, no respect for property rights.

I told the Musher we needed to call the exterminator, but she looked really close and saw he's a red shirt... they usually die off on their own pretty quickly, so no need to waste any money.

- Bet

ATVs, equines, canines, and .....aliens??????

As I haven't been sitting still much over the last few weeks, I haven't had a chance to change out the memory card on the Game Cam for awhile. So today when I passed by with the team, I stopped and swapped cards.

Lots of interesting happenings in our woods the last few weeks...


Yup, that's me on Cookie in lead with Gabi and Cello behind!
ATVs ....

Yup, that's me too! Bet is likely running in front!

No fear, she wouldn't have been on her own. One of us was likely a few steps behind her.


Huskies and Handlers...

Brittany and Wonder

Coolies, Huskies, and Handlers....

X, Bet and Brittany!

Really - he is right there in the center of the photo. See???

First time the Game Cam has caught the team (or part of it!), even though we run by it most days, we move TOO QUICK!!!


Yeah, don't ask, I have no clue what the 'beams' are - but PLEASE do not send the pictures to any UFO research groups....I just got rid of the Bigfoot guys!!!!!!



Great Escape!!!!!

Things have been quiet on Facebook the last few days because Mark and I snuck off for a few days. With the dogs and other responsiblities, that is not something that often happens (I think the last time was Cuba in '06) but it seemed important and with Brittany back at the kennel, we could make it work.

The last two years Mark has been working away at becoming a Power Engineer in addition to his two other trades (Instrumentation Technician and Electrician). He has put in huge amounts of study time both at work and home and while I was off in Australia he passed his test for his 3 class certificate.
The extra ticket got him a nice little bonus at work and he, very kindly, offered to buy me a new bike with it.
In addition he got himself a bike (very basic compared to what I wanted!! =) ) and suggested a few days biking in Jasper National Park.

Juggling my schedule, Mark's schedule and our chosen resort's schedule was a bit of a challenge - but it is wonderful what you can accomplish when you are motivated!!!

So, I got home Monday from Utah, unpacked, did a stack of laundry, cooked Thanksgiving dinner and after running dogs on Tuesday morning....

...threw bikes and suitcases into the SUV and it was off to Jasper!!

The weather was a bit discouraging on the drive out but things had cleared by the time we got to the cabins (which were pretty cosy!!) ...

With the beautiful weather, we decided to sneak a 'quick' ride in before dinner.

Okay, 'quick' wasn't the reality. In fact, at one point I could hear the Dateline guy doing the "and they headed off for what they expected to be a short, easy cycle....but soon things went wrong. Very wrong."

Suffice to say the trail was.....ummmm....challenging....but the view from the top was SPECTACULAR!!!

Patricia Lake

A lovely view of the Jasper townsite!

We wandered around on the top of the mountain a bit but couldn't sort out exactly where the trail headed down, so with the sun starting to set and a million 'lost in the woods' stories running through my head I suggested we turn around (yes, those that know me well know that was a BIG concession on my part!).

Safely back at the cabin we were treated to a beautiful evening sunset over Patricia Lake!

The next day dawned cold and windy with even a bit of snow but we would not be deterred!!! We bundled up and headed off.

On the bank of the Athabasca River - yup, same Athabasca River that flows through the town of Athabasca!!!

Our ride had a bit of everything on it.

Maligne River

Including a 'no bike zone' - but we didn't figure that out till after we were well into it. SIGNS - PARK PEOPLE - SIGNS!!!

The views along Maligne Canyon were spectacular...

....but it was a LOT of work to get a bike there....

Our final day in the Park started with a beautiful sunrise which I watched from the lake dock...

And a spectacular bull elk..

...we did a shorter ride....

...before heading home.

So, we successfully avoided everything that might want to eat us in the woods...

Actually, we did see a couple wolves on an island on the Athabasca River.

No bears - but a few black bear tracks!!!!


...and had a great 'recharge' before my 'busy season' hit full swing.

Looks like we got it in just in the nick of time, as this was the scene at the kennel this morning!!!