Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yesterday's Trials

Did the Earth Move for You?

About 11:30 last night my guard shack at my place of employment started shaking uncontrollably. At first I thought it a gust of wind, but it was too persistent. Though it didn't last terribly long I guess I was the first to report a small earthquake. Centered about 14 miles south of the Yukon River, the quake hit 4.15 of the infamous Richter scale. Although not enough to break anything, I think it might have contributed so some difficulties at the house. More on that later.

Nothing is Easy on The First Day Back

I got off duty at 6 am, thanks to a co-worker who was rescheduled to ensure I'd be relieved on time. After a 3 week stretch away from home I was very grateful. The drive to town was uneventful, but weary. I ended up taking a brief nap in the parking lot of the grocery store so I could do my shopping without snoring. The drive out to Two Rivers from Fairbanks was routine, and I was delighted to see that Terry Snow had plowed out my driveway.

Shortly after my return to employment (I'd call it work but there really isn't a lot of work involved) we got a heavy snow fall in the area. It was newsworthy at the time for being a near record for this time of year. I had no idea just how much snow had fallen until I got home. It didn't take but a glance toward the dog yard to realize I'd need to do some shovel work before picking up the dogs from their boarding kennels. All of their houses were half buried, and I needed to clear the doorways of their houses so they could get in without dragging a ton of snow in with them.

That wasn't the worst of it, though. There was a huge berm in front of the house, just in front of my little car parked out front. Apparently the earthquake had triggered a sloughing of snow from the roof. It may also have contributed to the most costly damage. The awning installed over my straw cache and whelping pen collapsed.

I put my groceries away and took a decent nap before going to work in the yard. I shoveled out the doorway of all the houses, drug my sleds out from under the collapsed canopy, which is plenty solid and well supported, just ruined. I also put fresh straw in all the dog houses, because their bedding was looking a bit thin and it hasn't warmed up all that much at night.

I board my dogs in two different kennels, each getting about half the team. I drove over to Mike's place and picked up the gang from there. Then over to Lynn's for the dog's in her kennel. Of course taking each dog to his or her space required that I slog through nearly knee deep snow, with an excited dog on the end of a leash. It took three times the effort that it should have, just because I was wading through the stuff.

By the time the last dog was exploring the fresh straw and playing with her neighbor it was time to feed the masses. That required slogging through more snow, carrying two 5 gallon buckets of dog food and holding off hungry mutts long enough to scoop the chow into their bowls.

By the time I was finished I was pretty well exhausted. I nuked up a "heat and eat" bowl of shrimp gumbo, and checked out the Iditarod leader board. It seems the folks on the I'rod trail were having as much weather related trouble as I, if not more.

Race Update

Lance Mackey continues to steam right along in the face of the gale, and is expected to cross the finish line about mid-day today. Sebastian Schnuelle and John Baker have also faced the storm head on, and are currently waiting out their last mandatory 8-hour layover at White Mountain.

All of the other teams in the race were stalled by the weather, with a huge group of mushers stuck in Shaktoolik. Several mushers that had earlier left that checkpoint were forced to return by the weather. Now most of them have left, so we have a whole new race. Aaron Burmeister seems to be leading that group, followed by Mitch and Dallas Seavey - a father vs son race that should be fun to follow.

Jessie Royer, Ramie Smyth, Ed Iten and Aliy Zirkle have all improved their positions in this mass exodus.

As I reported yesterday (or the day before?), Lou Packer has scratched after have been rescued from dire straits. A gross necropsy of his two dead dogs hasn't determined their cause of death, so samples have been sent out for more detailed analysis. Brent Sass and Darst and their teams are reported as being safe in Unalakleet, awaiting transport back to Anchorage.

My Winter Prayer

I'm not a religious man, but I am a spiritual man. During winter there are many nights when I find myself warm and confortable in my house, with the dogs fed and tucked into their houses, when my thoughts turn to those out on the trails, especially when the weather is foul. On those occaissions, which are very common, I ask the Creator to watch after those who are out on the trails.

For now, it's time to water the dogs and prepare for a day filled with errands. There is much to do, and I'll write about them once the various tasks are completed.

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