Thursday, January 12, 2012

Time Flies...

The last couple of days have gone by in a bit of a blur.  Unfortunately, much of that blur has been set in the backdrop of town.  I got off work at the regular time (roughly 10 am) Tuesday for the long, slick drive into Fairbanks.  In town, I had a doctor's appointment before doing my grocery shopping.  I by-passed home to get to post office to pick up my mail.

Ted, my handler, had succeeded in starting the tractor and cleared enough snow from the driveway I was able to get my car in, but it was still a challenge.  While dog food was soaking I fired up the machine to work on snow clearing.  Even with good equipment it was a challenge, and there is still more work to be done with it though it's not immediately pressing.

At feeding time, I decided to try out new names on the dog formerly known as Thor.  He was playing around in his circle and I called out the first option, Gataan.  He never even glanced my direction.  Next I called "Aumaruq" (Ah-ma-rok).  He danced toward me, those long gangly legs going in all direction, bounced a time or two, and barked three times.  I gave it a few seconds (and a few pats on his head), and repeated the exercise, with almost exactly and same result.  Obviously Aumaruq made his decision, and Aumaruq it shall be.

With the dogs fed, I enjoyed supper at Two Rivers Lodge and great conversation with Abbie West.  Abbie is gearing up for this weekend's Copper Basin 300, as are most of the competitive long distance racing mushers in the area.  From the looks of the weather forecast and reports of up to two feet of new snow on the trail, the race will likely live up it's reputation as the toughest 300 miles in Alaska.

Yesterday was another day of errands down in the big city.  I had to stock up on dog-food, always an expensive proposition.  I had to make a bank deposit, deliver a mortgage payment for a friend, make a quick stop at one of the local warehouse stores, get my teeth sand-blasted in hopes of keeping those that remain firmly lodged in my head, buy gasoline, mail off some parcels, and finally returned home to feed the team long after the sun had set.

Now the weather is cooling, and we are expecting a deep cold snap to come rolling through just in time for the weekend.  I'm pretty sure I'll be able to run dogs today, and probably tomorrow.  Once the deep cold hits tomorrow night and into the weekend I'll be less likely to venture forth onto the trails.  I'm leaving the option open, however.  It is frequently warmer here at the house than in the valley floor and when I return to work it will be back to my normal two week on / two off schedule.  Some good runs over the weekend would set the stage for some longer runs when I return in February.

That February R&R is looking like LOTS of fun.  Early on I'll be picking up the new Hedlund puppies Animosh (currently Grand Marais) and Cetan (she-ton', currently Lutsen).  Introducing them to their new life in Alaska should be a heck of a lot of fun.

I'm still seeking a new dog handler, as Ted and his wife are moving into a new, larger home in the area.  I'm going to miss them a great deal.  His team is growing as are other familial responsibilities, and a 12 X 16 foot cabin is no longer large enough to meet their needs.  Ted has been a tremendous asset to the team and I recommend him highly for any endeavor he might attempt.  In the parlance of my youth back in the cattle country of western Colorado, Ted is the kind of guy who was generally described as "a damned good hand."

In the News:

The Knik 200 sled dog race offered as close a finish as one could ask in a dog race.  Lance Mackey crossed the finish line only moments ahead of Jake Berkowitz.  When they calculated the times it was determined that Jake won the race, with Lance coming in second.  Ray Redington Jr.'s team came in third.  

Southestern Alaska has been struggling to dig out from under near record breaking snowfall, and more is in the forecast.  National Guard troops have been dispatched to Cordova which is buried under 18 feet of snow.  City officials have even resorting to ordering more snow shovels from Canada.   Anchorage is right on track to set a new record for snow-fall.

National Guardsman helping to dig out Cordova (photo by Alaska National Guard)

Meanwhile, the Russian ice-breaking fuel tanker Renda, escorted by the USCG ice breaker Healey, is literally inching it's way toward Nome and there are reports of a 25 foot ice ridge blocking the harbor at Nome. 

So, that pretty much covers the events of the moment, aside from all the local car wrecks, murders and other mayhem that seems to define modern life in any given city.  Perhaps this evening or tomorrow I'll have some fun photographs or video to share from the Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs' adventures.  Meanwhile, I wish you the very best as you dig in, or dig out, for whatever may be coming next.

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