I'm sorry I haven't posted recently. It was truly a brutal week at work not just for me, but pretty much line-wide. A leak at Pump Station 1 forced a shut-down of the entire pipeline, placing it in a cold restart situation. A lot of work had to be done at many different locations to deal with the heavy, viscous cold oil.
But, I'm home and things are going well. It's been very cold since I returned home on Tuesday, so other than day to day care of the team I've focused on indoor activities. Thursday I fired up the dog truck and drove over to Dave Klumb's shop above the Goldstream Valley to pick up a sled I had submitted for repair. It's one from Mike Green for which I traded a broken down four-wheeler. It needed some serious repair work to put back in service, but Dave did a wonderful job on it for a very reasonable price.
I've also ordered a new, historically authentic basket sled from Dave. With a six foot bed, all lashed together in the historical manner, and NO PLASTIC other than runner shoes, it should be a very nice representation of the type of basket sled used for traveling in Alaska in the early 20th century. Dave says I can expect it to be ready toward the end of February. Once I have it I'll shoot some photographs to share.
Yesterday (Thursday) I replaced a florescent fixture in my bathroom, only the darned thing wouldn't work. After finally plugging it into an extension cord I was able to isolate that problem to a worn out switch. Then, after less than half an hour the ballast on the new fixture burned itself up. I've about had my fill of problems with florescent lighting, so I'm now planning to replace the entire fixture (again) with something using LED flood lamps. It may not be as 'neat' an installation as the longer florescent tubes, but I'm hoping it will be less troublesome.
Both of the bulbs on the floodlight that illuminates the kennel burned out, so I had to dig out the big ladder and replace them (with compact florescent bulbs, only because LED bulbs would have cost nearly $70 USD each), so I did spend some time percariously perched near the top of a 30 foot ladder in -30 degree (F) temperatures. Sheesh, I must have gone half out of my mind.
Today the weather finally broke and it has warmed up considerably - although "warm" is perhaps a relative term. Last nights low temperature was -33 degrees, but by noon it had warmed to a nearly balmy -10. Since I'm going to be busy doing other things tomorrow, I decided I would give all 9 of my working dogs a stretch-out run today, to assess their level of conditioning before hooking up teams for longer mileage. Of course it was also a chance to test out the "new" repaired sled. I rigged the sled with a pair of snowhooks and a snubline, and was ready to start hooking up dogs around 1 pm.
Highlights - Rose ran in lead beside Just (who just a little bitty thing in comparison to that big half-Hedlund girl) and performed wonderfully up front. Amazing Grace was running in single lead when we encountered a musher running a big string of dogs on a very narrow trail. Though she hesitated and wanted to visit, she kept moving and kept a tight tugline throughout the encounter. All of the two-year olds behaved reasonably (well, for the most part) and worked really well throughout their runs, and of course the older "veterans" gave me a very solid performance today. I'll post the entry in my training journal at the end of this blog post.
Looking ahead a little bit, tomorrow the Two Rivers Dog Musher's Association is hosting our annual Hamburger Run. I don't think my team is ready for a 35 mile run, and the club is hurting for volunteers to make the event happen, so I'll likely spend the day helping out with that. Tomorrow night the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race is hosting a "Purse Party" at the ADMA Dog Musher's Hall near town. There is going to be live music by Hobo Jim and plenty of Alaskan Amber available, so I think I'll try to get down there and help support the Quest.
Next week my handler, Ted and I are going to focus on training our teams to safely cross Chena Hot Springs Road. Once the dogs have learned how to do that reliably it will open up a LOT more training trails to us over much easier terrain, so we can get in some longer runs in an area where we are more likely to have passing opportunities, which are needed to help train both teams to pass others smoothly. I also want to try to get in some longer runs with the team to help with their physical conditioning.
So, that's the plan and if stick around and follow the blog you can learn how well (or how poorly) we are able to stick to it.