Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year

Today, on the eve of the New Year, I’m finishing up my last full day of this tour of duty at my workplace.  While others are out celebrating with parties, fireworks, bonfires and all the trimmings I am still near the base of the White Mountains, protecting the pipeline from the ravages of crime, terrorism and disease for just a few more hours.  That's not to say I can't enjoy some colorful lights, though.

Sunset over my workplace, December 27th, 3:45 PM

I’ll be getting off duty at about 8:30 in the morning, New Year Day to start an abbreviated R&R.  As I’ve noted in past years, our company switches our work schedule around each year so that each of us can be scheduled to be off duty during the major winter holidays every other year.  To make the switch, instead of working two weeks on and two off, I’ll be getting 1 week off, then I’ll work one week, and then settle back into to the normal two and two schedule.  That is happening almost immediately this year just because it’s the way the calendar falls.

I plan to spend as much of this first week of 2013 on the trail as I can manage.  We haven’t been able to do a lot of mushing thus far this winter, and I’m hoping to at least get a start at making up for lost time.

I started last year with a list of hopes and aspirations for the future, and I’d like to make a tradition of that.  First, let’s take a look at what I wanted to accomplish, and then I’ll try to define some goals to be accomplished over the next 12 months.  You can see last year’s aspirations at

Last year I wrote of my plans to bring in some new blood with an eye toward establishing my own breeding program.  I had intended to bring in 3 new puppies, but ended up with four.  Animosh and Chetan are now enjoying their yearling season running with the team.  Friday, from a mostly unrelated family of Hedlund Huskies may well make a good mate for one or the other of the Hedlund girls.  I also received Vladimir, a puppy from a breeding between Brent Sass’ famous leader Silver and Kyle Belleque’s bitch Juliet.  That brings the number of dogs in the kennel up to 19, and I have no intention of adding to that number this year.  We’ll just have to see how well I can stick to that intention.

Although I haven’t been able to get in a lot of runs so far this winter, Ani, Chetan and Vladimir have been on the trail at every opportunity, and all three are doing really well for such young dogs.  I’ll know more of what they have to offer around March or so, as this season starts winding down.

Last year at this time I was hustling to find a new dog handler, as Ted and Clare were moving into their new home.  Through the course of the year, I ended up with two.  Tiffany McLean from near Vancouver B.C. handled for me through March, when she had to return home.  Then I recruited Jeff Garlough.  It looks like Jeff is going to be around for a while.  He and his own dog team have settled into the Stardancer routine very nicely.

Last year I wrote of some kennel improvements I wanted to make, and the 2012 kennel improvement project turned out to be considerably larger than I had originally planned.  I ended up expanding and redesigning the entire north side of the yard, creating a line of pens that puts a wall of chain-link between anything lurking in the woods and the dog yard.  As planned, the new kennel layout includes a pen isolated along the eastern border in which ill or injured dogs, or females in season can be housed away from the hubbub of the general kennel population.

I built the new equipment shed I had planned, so now have my tractor and smaller motorized equipment under cover and as a bonus I was able to build a vermin resistant dog food storage building, making it possible for me to buy kibble in considerably larger quantities, enjoying some great savings.

Unfortunately, all of the living history events in Alaska last year were scheduled for times while I had to be at work.  I wasn’t able to do a single living history event all year long, and I missed that considerably.

My health and conditioning seem to be holding up well.  I had considerably fewer minor injuries than in the past, which I attribute to my weight loss and better physical condition.  My employment and financial situations appear to be stable at the moment, though I find it difficult to be confident about the near future.  Much of my future financial state depends on factors over which I have no control.

This brings me to the part why I try to define goals and aspirations for 2013.

I plan to spend as much of the remainder of this winter as I can out on the trail with the dogs.  We’ve gotten a slow start this year and though I can’t necessarily make up for that lost time, I can nonetheless make progress.  It’s especially important to me to make sure that Animosh, Chetan and Vladimir get plenty of “hook ups” and runs.  If snow and trail conditions hold up, I may be able to start expanding our range in February or March.

I’m not planning any major changes to the dog yard for this year, as I’m happy with the results of last year’s renovation.  There are some smaller projects that will help make maintenance a bit more efficient, but none of those will require more than a few hours of work.  I might take a notion to replace some ratty old carpet in my house with laminate flooring, but even that isn’t a particularly huge project. 

With a reliable handler on the property and no major projects needed, I may be able to spend more time afield this summer, in my canoe and with a fishing rod in my hand.  My ability to attend historical rendezvous or other living history events depends entirely upon when they are scheduled, and at the moment I have no idea so I’ll just be patient before making any historical reenactment plans.

In 2012 fall training was delayed because of a change in my company’s training schedule.  Now that that change is in place I’m confident I’ll be able to get an earlier start with four-wheeler training in 2013, which will make it easier to look forward to some longer camping trips out in the back-country next winter.  I’ve applied for some special moose permit drawings, and if I’m successful I may enjoy a November moose hunt in the area near my home.

Barring the unforeseen circumstances that are almost inevitable, I think 2013 is going to be a pretty laid-back year overall.  I’ll be able to focus on enjoying my Alaskan life-style, and a fellow just can’t ask for much more than that.


  1. It's always good to read/hear of someone who is happy with getting on with life. Good stuff, Swanny! And happy New Year :-)

  2. Are you still planning on the Serum Run?