Sunday, January 20, 2013

Back to the Fun Stuff

No politics today, we're getting back to the more important things in life.  This pesky head cold that has plagued me for a week or so is finally starting to clear up, and my friend Trish Cordon had the day off work yesterday, so we ran dogs.

It wasn't just my illness that kept us off the trails, though.  The recent freezing rain we received turned the trails into sheets of ice, making them risky.  It's risky for the musher as sleds skid out of control, and risky for dogs as the freezing temperatures after the rain and ice fell made the ice abrasive and irregularities in the ice have sharp edges than can severely injure a dogs feet.

On Thursday, my friend Mike Green used his snowmachine a very nice trail groomer to tame the trails I wanted to use for the first few runs of the R&R.  His groomer is equipped with a steel blade that cuts the tops off of moguls and, in this case, those dangerous irregularities, to make the trail smoother, break up the ice and exposed the real snow underneath, and generally tame those otherwise potentially dangerous trails.

The down time early in the week wasn't entirely wasted.  I used some of that time to dig out a sled bag that came off of the basket sled the new traveling sled replaced, and mounted it on the newer sled.  I stocked it up with my camping gear, dog food cooker, axe, snowshoes - all of that stuff needed to spend a couple of nights out in the woods.  Since that is the stuff I ask the dogs to haul when were on a back country trip, it only seems logical that it's the stuff they should be hauling while we are training.

It gets the job done, but there are features about it I don't much care for.  For example, it has interior dividers to create separate 'compartments' that probably helped the original maker and owner organize his or her gear, but makes it harder for me to pack in a way that seems logical to me.  When I make my own bag for that sled, a project I probably should have done months ago, it won't have any fancy internal compartments.  On the other hand it has a couple of external pockets that have proved to be pretty handy, so that is something I very well might incorporate into my own set up.

In any event, yesterday was our day to take some dogs on a short training run.  It gave me a chance to test out the sled bag set up, gave Trish a chance to get out in the woods with a small team, gave the dogs a little bit of exercise to help them settle their busy little brains, but mostly, it was just a chance to get out in the woods and have some fun.

Hooking up two times, side by side, had some challenges, as some of the young dogs on my team wanted to visit some of the dogs on Trish's, but we got everything sorted out in pretty good fashion early on.

Trish Cordon waiting on her sled as I prepare to launch the team.  Trish's wheel dogs are her Maggie and my Nels.  My team dogs are Amazing Grace (mask) and Selene, and my wheel dogs Denali and Orion (head down).
Even with the excellent trail work that Mike did for us, it was a very fast trail and it took a lot of effort to keep the speed under control.  After the run Trish reported that she had to spend a LOT of time riding the drag mat to keep her dogs from overtaking mine.  Though she had only four, she is a petite woman and with an empty sled the dogs had NO problem hauling that light load, even up in the hills.

Here is an 8 minute video showing some of the highlights of our training run.

As some are no doubt aware, the 30th running of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race will be starting in Whitehorse in just a couple of weeks.  Last night Trish and I attended a fund-raiser for the race, the YQ Carhartt and Bunny Boot Ball.  It was a lot of fun, a very casual sort of affair with lots of time to visit with friends and some of the racers.  We enjoyed it a lot and I probably spent more money than I should have, but I enjoy helping out my favorite mushers and my favorite race.

That pretty much covers the most significant events of the R&R so far.  It's time for me to feed and water the dogs, so I can take a team out for a longer run later this afternoon.

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