Monday, April 21, 2008

Wayne Hall to Run the 2009 Yukon Quest

I've never met Wayne Hall in person, but I'm excited to see him run the 2009 Yukon Quest. Wayne is one of a handful of individuals still using their dogs to run traplines and travel across Alaska's winter landscape. Wayne, his wife Scarlett, and their son Garf run traps and operate a tour business in the Interior. When it comes to working sled dogs, these folks know their stuff.

A few years back Wayne entered the Yukon Quest and finished with all his solid working dogs still standing tall in harness. That was the first time anyone had completed the Toughest Race on Earth without dropping a dog. Wayne ran it once more and improved his standing. He's taken the last few years off from the Yukon Quest to build a more competitive team.

As anyone who followed my Kusko 300 adventure knows, entering distance sled dog races requires a tremendous amount of resources. I e-mailed the Halls and asked if I could put a link to their website in hopes of drumming up some sponsorships, they agreed. Wayne and his family have put together a neat sponsorship format. They'd be thankful for any level of sponsorship. Depending on the amount you sponsor they would send you pictures, dog bios, a newsletter, and more. If you'd like to be a part of the Toughest Race on Earth without the -60 temperatures, I can't think of a better opportunity.

Check out their website, you'll enjoy it.

7 Months

7 months~ Time is flying by. I still get the occasional question, "You're pregnant?" Maybe this shirt is a bit more flattering to my tummy. The baby feels like it's in position. I've been getting kicked in the ribs a lot lately. It's so strong. Kyle, Jacob and Alethia love feeling my belly. Jake even talks to the baby. One night he said, "Hi Baby! Do you want me to hold you?" Then he kissed my tummy. The baby started kicking. Alethia gives my tummy a hug at least once a day. Alethia mentioned that I would have to start sitting further from the table because my tummy is growing. In the beginning she said, "You are going to get fat and fat and fat and fat and then me and daddy will have to help you get out of bed." From the mouths of babes. The kids and I will fly to Anchorage the last week in May to wait for the arrival of our little angel. Kyle will meet us there later. We are all very excited. I wonder who it's going to look like.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lucky's Hot Date

Think I forgot to mention that Lucky is currently in Two Rivers, Alaska outside of Fairbanks being wooed by Torus. Visited my friend Swanny in February and saw his excellent leader Torus. Before I was done scratching Torus' ear I said, "Let's breed him with Lucky." We talked it over a little and decided to give it a go. Torus is an old Yukon Quest leader with the calm demeanor and rugged build I like. He doesn't have Lucky's long legs, but is actually a bit taller then Lucky at the shoulder according to Swanny. He has a big stout body. If Lucky is able to throw pups like Torus with another 4 inches of leg, we should have some outstanding working dogs in our future. Both Lucky and Torus are trail hardened working dogs able to both physically and mentally handle any trail imaginable. Both are dogs worth reproducing. Brought Lucky up to Fairbanks last week. Swanny was so generous as to offer to whelp the pups up there as well. I don't mind doing it myself, but he is closer to veterinary care and with the house to build it's one less thing on my mind. You can read more about Swanny and his dogs at . Sure he'll have more info about Lucky and her anticipated litter as things progess.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Long Lost Kuskoswim Pictures

Ryan put a bunch of Kusko pictures on a CD for me a couple weeks ago and I finally remembered to bring them home. It was interesting looking at the pictures and letting the memories come back. I've stayed focused on the tough end to our race, but it wasn't all that bad. Most of it was a lot of fun. Great experience. You can find a number of entries on my big Kusko 300 experience in the January archives.

Ryan, Eric, and I in our sharp Ocean Beauty hats. We got many compliments on those hats. This was just a little after arriving in Aniak. The dogs had just completed back to back 75 mile runs, eaten well, and were taking their rest. Dogs looked great and I was having the time of my life. I was really doing it after all the hard work. Those two men in the picture had a lot to do with me being there. It was nice seeing familiar faces in the checkpoint.
Coming off our mandatory 6 hour rest in Aniak headed to Pike Lake. The dogs all looked great, you can see Lucy trying to lope. Spirits were still very high at this point.
The team after the terrible run to Pike Lake and back to Aniak. Some tired pups in that bunch. Lucy just worked so hard getting us through that slop. She was beat. We rested 4 hours once back in Aniak, but should have stayed 8 or 10.

Here we are taking off out of Kalskag inbound. Gave the dogs a big 8 hour rest and they naturally fealt great. About 30 minutes after this photo was taken, Hagar began limping and was loaded in the basket. He hasn't pulled a sled since. Another 4 hours after that the team crashed. Five dogs had pulled the sled with big Hagar inside for 40 miles. They just ran out of steam. We slowly made the last 5 miles to Tuluksak where we waited on the weather and eventually scratched and flew home.

Here are a few pictures of the "trail" Monday. Ryan and Eric did well finding their way home.

It was fun looking through the pictures. The whole thing really left a bad taste in my mouth. Although it was a great experience, I failed. I'm not accustomed to failure. Many said it was the toughest mushing they'd seen, but I prefer not making excuses. Wasn't hoping for some big top 10 finish, just wanted to complete the race in time for the banquet. At the end of the day, my dogs could handle the trail, they just ran out of gas. Would have done many things better, but the biggest difference maker would have been more dogs. In particular, more leaders. That kind of mushing really takes a tole on the lead dogs. Having a crew of leaders to share the burden can make a big difference. Plan is to keep building my dog team and take them back to Bethel when we're ready. Things will be different next time.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Nushagak Spring

Day time temps have been in the high 30's/low 40's, snow is melting, and it's spring time on the Nushagak River.

Jake turned 3 at the end of March. He had a couple different small parties and got some nice presents. He was very pleased to have a party and enjoyed all the attention. Jake's a very cute little guy and very much a Momma's boy. Because he's alergic to everything under the sun, we stuck a candle in a piece of watermelon. Never a happier boy did you see than Jake singing, "Happy Birthday To Me!" with his watermelon cake.

Johanna looks every bit the pregnant lady. I'll try getting a picture of her and her belly on the blog. A friend of ours just had a baby and Johanna's sister is pregnant so it's nothing but babies everywhere we look. She'll be heading to Anchorage to give birth. We have a hospital in Dillingham and many children are born there every year. However, in my short life in this coastal outpost I've seen too many cases when something wasn't going right and momma with baby inside are rushed to Anchorage for better care. This is Jo's third baby and we pretty much know what to expect so she would probably be fine delivering here. One of the reasons Johanna has always given birth in Anchorage is because her sister, brother in law, and our niece live there. They've got a nice house with extra rooms. They love having Jo and the kids there and it turns a potentially stressful time into a bit of a vacation. Jo and her sister are very close. Her brother in law appreciates Jo's cooking above all. Johanna knows her way around a kitchen.

Besides all that, I've got to build a house this summer and it will be easier on everyone if Johanna is waiting out the end of her pregnancy in Anchorage. We bought our land last summer, put in a driveway, and built a 16x40 pole shed. The lion's share of building materials have been nice and dry in the pole shed all winter. So besides working, I'll be taking time off and trying to build a house. Won't be home much. I was there for Jake and Alethia's births and am planning to be there for this one as well. We'll have to time it just right though.

The mushing season is over for all intensive purposes. Alaska final sled dog races are wrapping up. The dogs are just hanging out mostly. Snow is getting very soft and mushy. A team could run early in the morning when it's still cool, but that's about it. We may still get a little cold snap, but it would be a short one. This was an intense mushing season for me. Entering the Kusko 300 forced me to learn more and become a better musher. The dogs and I grew together. My efforts to promote mushing as a healthy lifestyle also seem to be paying off. Hagar, Chester, and Felix have moved out the road to Aleknagik becoming a small recreational team for a lady I met this winter. Once Hagar is fully healed, I can't think of a better (or even prettier) three dog team. Keenan and Libby Herrmann are pretty gung ho about building their dog team. A musher in Bethel is giving them two great dogs free of charge to help build their team. Just two days ago a lady told me she began ski-joring this winter with her lab and loved it. She may be looking at getting another dog just for that purpose in the future. I had hoped a side affect of running the Kusko would be to locally build some excitement about mushing. Maybe it's working. Next year will be a puppy/training year. I'll have a rock solid 7 dog team and a bunch of pups to train. Seven good dogs is enough to haul wood and peform what ever duties I must ask of them. Puppies will be both sprint and working dogs. They'll be trained differently to perform their duties correctly. Training young dogs is a lot of fun requiring an ounce of knowledge and a ton of patience.

Before long the geese and ducks will return, Herring fisherman will head West to Togiak, and our sleepy little town will come alive with fisherman from all over the world in search of the Silver Hord. Eventually they will leave us again and families will fill their freezers with berries and moose. Then snow and cold return and we are back where we began. Such are the simple rythms of our simple lives. We do the best we can with what we have. Wars may wage on foreign shores, the country prepares for the most important election of a generation, and American families suffer the cost of a failed economy yet our lives change little. We continue to plan for our busy boutiful summer months and enjoy the long spring days here on the shores of the Nushagak River.