My Stuff First
My days have a way of turning topsy turvy at times. My original plan was to go over to a friends place to mush dogs, but Bill was given a 'honey do' list. One of THOSE honey-do lists. We postponed our venture until later in the week when we'll have some company from out of town. Once I got that sorted out I made a quick dash to Pleasant Valley Store to pick up some coffee. I'm one of those guys who MUST have his morning coffee, and it MUST be good coffee. None of that pre-ground into a can stuff for me
By the time I got back from the store the snow had stopped completely, and there wasn't a cloud to be seen in the sky. The temperature was about 5 degrees above zero. In other words, it was a perfect afternoon for running a team of dogs.
So, back at home and ready to deal with tomorrow, I hooked up six dogs and headed out my back yard, north into the hills. Rather than do the whole Little Chena Ridge trail I took a left, cruising down to a pair of nice sized ponds that many of us in the area enjoy mushing over. I figured it would be a good chance to let the dogs run on water, albeit frozen water. Actually, I chose this route for the varied terrain it offers.
From the house we head north to the notorious Swamp Trail. Instead of climbing all the way to the top of the ridge we hook a left onto a trail that crosses behind the properties of several mushers in the area. That trail descends gradually to the two ponds. The trail goes the length of the first pond, and then circles the second one, making for an easy turn-around. One goes back down the ponds, a gradual climb back up to the ridge, then a steep descent back to the Swamp Trail and across the flats to return to the yard.
13.0 MPH max speed
7.0 MPH average speed
Home to Swamp Trail to Ponds and return.
Grace chewed and destroyed a tug line even before I could get her harnessed and hooked up. Orion did pretty well waiting to be hooked up. With about ½ inch of new snow and a very firm base I was able to control the speed on launch very easily. We made “first tracks” nearly the entire run, except for the loop around the ponds.
Upon launching Orion (then on the right) crowded over onto Seamus’ side of the gangline and would / could not fix it. He ended up running there until I finally found a decent place to hook down, as we were climbing the trail out of the swamp trail. This has been an issue before.
I’m pretending the Swamp Trail is better than it was before, though in all truth I doubt it is. We crash-banged over a fair number of tussocks and bounced off the edges of the trail pretty regularly. I never felt out of control, though. The trail from Little Chena Ridge back to the ponds is in pretty good shape, really. It’s a very narrow trail, winding between trees and while I wouldn’t want to have to pass a team in there, it’s a really fun section of trail to run.
The ponds are further out than I realized, easily four miles from the house. The dogs took the first one at a steady trot and having a smooth surface under my runners gave me a chance to capture a photo of the team at work.
Stardancer Team Running on (Frozen) Water
The portage between the two ponds is a bit rough. We we dropped down onto the second pond I was able to capture a short (10 second) video clip of the team.
After shooting the clip I saw a big team dropping down onto the pond ahead, and turning our direction. As the teams approached I called my team up into a lope and just before we met I cued Torus and Just to “gee over”. Even though the other musher’s team wanted to visit Torus and Just did a great job of leading my guys on, and even little Orion did a very nice job during the pass. I was quite pleased.
Orion is learning to poop on the run. He looked rather surprised and proud of himself the first time he did it, and the second time was easier for him than the first. I put Grace in wheel in hopes of training her to do the same, but she was sneaky, waiting until I called the team to stop for a brief rest before dumping a load in the snow.
Climbing up the ridge from the ponds was slow, but steady. The whole team put their bellies to the snow and drug us back up to the ridge. The steep descent back onto the Swamp Trail was OK, and the team trotted back home just as I would have expected.
All in all, I’d have to declare it a very good training run.
Back to the Quest
By the time I got home, snacked the working dogs and put them back in their places and then fed, watered and scooped after the team I fired up this box of wires to catch up on the action out on the Yukon Quest trail. I learned that all of the front-runners had already arrived at Slaven's Cabin (aka Slaven's Roadhouse) and most had already been there long enough to give their teams a very nice rest.
The leader-board shows Zach leaving, with 13 dogs at 5:55 pm (it's currently 7:05). Other front runners, currently at Slaven's include Hugh Neff, Lance Mackey, Hans Gatt, Gerry Willomitzer, Sonny Lindner, Brent Sass and Abbie West. Ken Anderson is expected to arrive any minute.
Hey, Abbie is running a really good race out there. It's really a lot of fun seeing her do so well.
That's it for now. Unless something dramatic changes I'll wait until morning to update again.