Friday, January 31, 2014

Look Who I Saw.

I had a very special treat while on patrol out of my new worksite. I had just topped a notoriously steep and rather formidable hill when I saw this fellow just sunning himself on a pipeline access road. I was surprised when I stopped the rig and opened the door.  When I've seen wolves in the past they have run off with blazing speed the instant they realized they had attracted my attention.  This guy just sauntered off as though it were no big deal at all.

This last photo gives an idea of how large this wolf is.  I wear a size-8 work boot. The combination of the size and depth of his print leaves me thinking he is at least as heavy as I, somewhere in the neighborhood of 180 lb. (81.6 kg).

While at work, each day saw the sun rising higher over the southern horizon, and some glorious sunsets, including this one. In this photo the sun was setting over Slope Mountain, behind the camp where I live while at work.

Sunset behind Slope Mountain and the MCCF Camp
Last night Trish and I saw a lot of interesting people.  We attended the start banquet for the 2014 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, which starts here in Fairbanks on Saturday morning. This year the race hosts the smallest field in it's history, but the competition will nonetheless be formidable. There is a nice mix of race veterans and rookies. 

The recent weather, a January heat-wave that brought thawing temperatures and rain, has made for interesting trail conditions.  The rain was enough to saturate the snow pack before the temperature again dropped below freezing.  As a result the trails is literally a sheet of ice, and rock hard underfoot.  With teams of 14 well-trained dogs the greatest challenge the mushers will face will be that of controlling the speed of their teams, keeping them slow enough to prevent injuries that too easily occur when a dog's foot slips on a slick surface or from the pounding that dog's feet and legs take when running on such a hard surface.

To give an idea of how much of a challenge this is, Trish and I are planning to run teams that are unusually small for us - I plan to run a team of only six dogs while Trish, who is much lighter than I, will run no more than 4. Even at that, controlling our sleds will be a considerable challenge.

The weather has forced Quest officials to make several changes in the race route.  Instead of starting on the Chena River, as is typical of this race, they will be starting on 2nd avenue in Downtown Fairbanks. That's because the thinned ice on the river may not be sufficient to support the weight of up to 3,000 spectators.  Once out of town, the teams will drop down onto the river to continue the traditional race trail through Two Rivers, over Rosebud Summit to the Mile 101 checkpoint, down Eagle Summit to Central and so forth. 

When the teams reach Eagle, they will not be climbing American summit, but instead to remain on the Yukon River to Dawson.  Conditions over American were so poor that the trail crew couldn't put in a trail at all.  At the other end of the race, the finish line has been moved from Whitehorse to Takhini Hot Springs, about 20 miles short of the traditional finish, due to lack of snow in the Yukon Territory.

Here is the start order for the 2014 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

1. Normand Casavant
2. Brent Sass
3. Matt Hall
4. Jerry Joinson
5. Dave Dalton
6. Ken Anderson
7. Mike Ellis
8. Allen Moore
9. Brian Wilmshurst
10. Cody Strathe
11. Mandy Nauman
12. Tony Angelo
13. Torsten Kohnert
14. Hugh Neff
15. Jean-Denis Britten
16. Curt Perano
17. John Schandelmeier
18. Hank DeBruin

I think that Allen Moore is likely to win this year's race, becoming a two-time champion. He handily won the Copper Basin 300 with his team, and his smaller dogs have an advantage in warm weather conditions. Hugh Neff will certainly be close to the front with 9 year old Walter in lead. Walter is reportedly slowing with age, but on these trails slower is safer, and safer is faster. 

Brent Sass, having learned from his team's performance in the hot conditions of last year, is running his smaller dogs and is also a contender for the top spot at the end of the run.  Ken Anderson is highly competitive and has done very well in this race in the past.

In all truth, any of the veterans signed up for this race could claim a high percentage of the purse. We here at the Stardancer Kennel will be following the race as closely as we can while continuing our own day-to-day efforts.

No comments:

Post a Comment