Tiffany McLean, who lives north of Vancouver BC, is visiting the Stardancer Kennel for a few months so Tiffany can learn about dog mushing and sled dog care. She is our Canine Caretaker for a few months, and one of her goals is to learn how to drive a team. She took the first step in the process yesterday when I took her whip-sledding in the Pleasant Valley neighborhood. I put a team of 8 in front of the lead sled, my custom built Dave Klumb traveling sled. The basket sled works well up front because there is plenty of room for the tow line between the runners and under the basket. She was riding my old beater toboggan sled, which though quite old now is still in perfect dog-running condition.
Of course we had the usual confusions and challenges during hook up. Most of the dogs handle hook up really well, but young Orion is so wild in his enthusiasm that he sometimes becomes difficult to manage. We nonetheless got all 8 dogs onto the gang line and launched into a strong run where Tiffany got a crash course in sled handling.
Those neighborhood streets are hard packed, icy and very fast. They also make it difficult to control the sled, requiring just the right touch on the drag mat, and sometimes a bit of brake, to keep the sled behind the team. It's especially exciting on turns. Dogs almost speed up when taking a turn in the trail. Even a single sled can side slip impressively and a whip sled - well, that's why we call it a "whip" sled.
|Tiffany riding the whip sled down Pleasant Valley Road|
She truly is getting the "full immersion" experience up here. She had been in town only a few hours before she was recruited to help as a race handler for Yukon Quest 300 musher Jimmy Liebling, and on the trail found herself on Josh Cadzow's handling crew (something about broken down trucks that I didn't learn in detail). In any event, her first Alaskan experience was handling for a winning long distance race team driven by a young man I highly respect and working with a family I of bush dwellers who I greatly admire.
On the Quest Trail:
Out on the Yukon Quest trail, the front-runners have left Dawson about 18 hours ago and the race is heating up. The live tracker currently shows Allen Moore out of Scroggie Creek dog drop, where he apparently dropped one dog for a team of 12. Lance Mackey was out of Scroggie Creek about half an hour later. Lance also dropped a dog and now has only 9 on his gangline. Hugh Neff trailed Lance by an hour and he also dropped a dog at Scroggie Creek, leaving him with team of 11.
At this point they have crossed the worse of the terrain, so it is a race across miles and miles of little but miles and miles. It's still a long way to Whitehorse and anything can happen in a dog race, but there is little question that this one will offer us an exciting finish.