Friday, March 18, 2011

Sled Wreck

"So, other than that assassination thing, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?"

I enjoyed a great day taking an 8-dog team out for a longer run than we've done previously this year.  Only one thing marred the experience.  That thing was the damned tree.  We were cruising down the hill going into a "gee" (right) turn.  One second everything was flowing just as it should and within the blink of an eye the sled stopped, and the dogs stopped, and I found myself draped across the basket of the sled.  That wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't still had the drive bow in my hand (sigh).

I swear to you, that damned birch tree came out of nowhere and jumped right out in front of me.  I didn't have time to even holler whoa and stomp the brake.

The dogs seem fine (I'm a bit concerned for Orion, but he seems to be doing OK), and I'm doing alright, but I'm afraid the sled didn't fare quite so well.  The brush bow may be stout enough to bounce the sled away from brush, but it isn't stout enough to bounce the sled away from a birch tree. 

Here are some pics of the damage:

The brush bow wasn't quite stout enough to endure this crash

The drive bow snapped at the top of the stanchion, you can see it to the left of the broken end of the drive bow

We didn't just bend the reinforcing bar across the front of the bed, it actually broke at the top of the hole
 By bending way over and grasping the top of the stanchion, right below where the drive bow broke, I was able manage the sled well enough to get the team home, though I rode the drag mat hard to keep their speed under control.

I did shoot some nice video prior to the wreck that I think you'd enjoy watching.  It was a beautiful day on a hard-packed, icy and fast trail.  The dogs were into it, and so was I.  Unfortunately, the battery on the DVR ran down before the big crash.

The description of the route in my training journal entry may be a bit confusing unless you are intimate with the trail system in Two Rivers, Alaska.  To help you see where we went I drew up a GPS map.  Just for grins, I placed an "X" to mark the spot of the crash.

Here is what I wrote in my training journal this afternoon.  Please excuse any obscenities you may encounter.

14 Miles.  Home to Two Rivers Rd trail to Swamp Trail to Little Chena Rd Extension to Wood Cutting Road, gee onto trail leading to Dozer Trail, haw onto "Moose Camp Trail", to Dozer Trail, gee on dozer trail to return back to the road, and back-tracked home.

Tunnel basket sled.  Temperature +14F at start.  Temperature +30 at finish.  Trail hardpacked, icy and very fast.

Max speed 13.7
Moving average 7.3

Just & Rose (lead)
Capella & Cassiopeia
Nels & Orion
Grace & Bea

Well, THAT was an adventure.  Pretty routine at hook up with Just and Rose both lining out nicely.  Nels looking back as is normal for him.  Grace yanked on lines just a little bit, but doesn't like the feel of cable filled gangline in her mouth so quickly gave it up.  Nice, clean launch and away we went. 

Grace scotched at Beau just a little, and then gave up on it and started running with focus. 

Nels seemed off his gait while trotting up the hill from the Swamp Trail, but smoothed out shortly.  Maybe a snowball in his right front foot?  When I stopped to check I didn't feel anything, but he settled right in with no further problems.  They went up and over the ridge on Little Chena Rd. extension with no problems at all, not so much as a "breather" stop. 

Coming down the steep hill toward the wood cutting road ran through a bunch of wood cutting debris, and had to stop to remove limbs and sticks out from under the brake.  That was a pain in the butt.

The team kept up a good pace all the way to the Moose Camp trail.  I took a "wrong turn" onto a pull out where teams had camped, probably during the Two Rivers 200.  Coming out of that side trail Just tried to double back.  I had to hook down and pull him the direction I wanted to go. 

Turned gee onto the Dozer trail, and as turning gee to the road to return home hit a tree.  A BIG tree.  Hit it hard enough that the brush bow didn't deflect it.  The sled stopped, the dogs stopped, and I finally stopped, half in the basket with the damned drive bow still in my hand.  SERIOUS damage to the sled, maybe a total loss.

Finally figured out a way to more or less control the wreckage to get home, and was hard on the drag to keep their speed down.  Orion came off his tug and had a weird wriggling thing going for a while.  He didn't come back into his tug at any point in the remainder of the run.  I don't know if he was tired or had a problem, as once we got to the yard he flopped down on his side, and had a brief gagging spell.  I've made a note in his vet record and will monitor him closely.

2 hours after the run he is behaving just like normal.  I can't find any sign of injury to him, but will let him be the "house dog" tonight so I can keep an eye and an ear on him.


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