Saturday, January 31, 2015

Feeling Lucky

Not all dog sled excitement involves dog sledding.  Today was a good example of that.

I had promised a friend of mine a dog sled ride for her birthday.  I picked her up at her house and we drove the hour to run dogs.  It was warm and snowless (or ice coated) in our other mushing locations so we went to the place that is nearly sled-able year round (well...okay...Nov-April) LOST TRAIL!

The moment we drove into the parking lot THE WHEEL came OFF the dog trailer!  I COULDN'T believe it! We had just driven 50+ miles and the wheel fell off in the parking lot.  I feel so incredibly lucky!  The strange part was, there was no indication from the trailer (no wobble or wiggle) that there was a problem.

Bearings complete gone!

Cell coverage is extremely patchy at the pass and you have to have NOT AT&T to get anything....guess what I have.  Yup, you guessed it AT&T...well not for much longer.  Luckily some skiers were there, had reception and allowed me to call Cobey.  Unfortunately, Cobey did not answer.  So I thanked them and my friend, Satoko and I, walked over to the ski lodge of Lost Trail Powder Mountain.  I had heard I could possibly get reception in their parking lot and then I could try Cobey again and send him pictures of the damage.  That was not the case, but the lost trail ski owners allowed me to use their "emergency" cell phone and I thought to call my mushing friend Nicki who lived 30 minutes from Lost Trail. 

She had sold me the trailer so she had no other trailer but did have lots of dog crates.  Nicki and her husband Bill said they would come to my rescue but it would take some time to get there and with the parts needed to repair the wheel.  But what do you know, we had the perfect thing to do to pass the time.  Run a dog team!

We got the dogs out of a tilted trailer, hooked them up and were off!

Satoko and the team!

It was foggy in the parking lot but absolutely beautiful blue bird skies just a quarter mile up.  The frost on the trees was amazingly beautiful!

I'd say she looks pretty happy!  How could you not behind this wonderful team!

Took a break to switch Flier into lead.  He was fired up to go!

The team did amazing!!!

Good puppas!  Pulling so hard! I only had to pedal up one short steep section! 

Taking a break in the sun after turning around

Okie!  Where's your head?!?

Tank is ready to go, so let's hit the trail!

When we returned to the truck, I kept the dogs in the gang line and fed them there like we do at home. Then we removed their harnesses and unhooked the sleds (leaving the snow hooks to hold the team) and let them relax along the gang line.  I thought, this is great "camping" practice for the team for when we get into distance races!

Look at these two silly girls (Jig & Whip) enjoying themselves! Ha!

Just relaxing like old pros!

Look at that good looking team!!!

Nicki and Bill showed up shortly after we returned and began to attempt to fix the wheel. None of the bearings they were advised to buy fit.  So we had to resort to plan B. Loading 9 dogs and 2 humans into a Chevy Silverado Extended Cab truck. Nicki had brought with her many MANY crates of different sizes.  We were able to fit two large and two medium sized crates in the back of the truck.  Buck and Buzz doubled in one large one, Whip and Jig in another.  This was a first time for them. And, they did great!  On the whole day, the whole team did great.  

Whip and Jig, after the ride home, ready to get out!

There was a whole lot of new for the dogs and they handled it like it was the routine! Tank and Okie got the other two crates.  Flier and Isis sat in the back seats of the cab. Satoko, Tensaw and I sat in the front.  I felt like I was in the musher version of a clown car.  It was hilarious! We fit all the gear where we could and Nicki kindly took my sleds in her truck. All that was left was a busted trailer (which will be fetched tomorrow).

Isis and Brandi

Flier on the other side.

Tensaw and Satoko!

Here is Brandi climbing in with a whole bunch of dogs!

Having a good time!

Silly panoramic that kind of messed up our faces but you get the drift...3 dogs, 2 humans in one truck with 6 more dogs in the bed of the truck.

Today was a successful day thanks to a great dog team and great friends to run dogs with and be rescued by.  I can not thank Nicki and Bill enough for coming to our aid when we needed them!  They are amazing!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Warm! Too warm!

Most people are enjoying the warm weather we've been having the last week.  We are not like most people! This weather has been making me (and the dogs) frustrated. Last Saturday I got a slow start in the morning on running dogs and it wasn't until 10 that the dogs were hooked up and we were headed down the drive. It felt warm but cool enough for an easy run.  That was until 2.5 miles in the sun came out from behind the clouds. I stopped and watered the dogs. Then we turned around and headed home.  Way shorter than we have been running lately. Along the way we stopped in a few shady spots to take a break.

The rest of the week we've been running at night to avoid the heat. This weekend we have "off" but next weekend we head to Priest Lake for another race!  We really like this race.  Friendly people, nice course, beautiful country. Can't wait.

The one positive of this weather is that the littlest musher has been joining me to feed dogs. That's a lot of fun.  He does all the food scooping, watering, and poop locating.  I really enjoy his company and seeing him interact with the dogs.  He claims his favorite dog is the crazy one, Paluk. She is sweet!

Love your puppas!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Darby Dog Derby

This weekend was the Darby Dog Derby where we got to race on our "home course." I chose Flier and Tank to lead the team of the four Saw puppies: Whip, Jig, Buck and Buzz. 

Day one was sunny and beautiful. A wonderfully groomed trail, thanks to Lost Trail Powder Mountain. The team ran fast and I was so pleased with them. One hour and 27 minutes for 14 miles. The fastest time we've run yet. I think they could have gone faster if I'd have paced them better, too. 

Day two (of which all these pictures are from), was a different kind of trail. Over night it had snowed 6-8 inches and when we arrived at the trailhead, was still snowing hard. The groomers had their hands full at the ski hill and were unable to reach our trail in time.

 The skijorers decided not to run as it was impossible to skate ski in the deep snow. The 8-dog teams decided to run the whole course but the 6-dog teams decided on a shortened course of 6 miles. 

We ran well, though strength in pulling is not our forte. We lost some time on the next team but had a fairly good run.

The day one course was a loop, so no head on passes. This go around it was a different story. We had to head on pass each team. We had a extremely bad pass with the first team and I decided to hold my leaders out on each pass and teach them the proper etiquette. The second team came and Flier was super focused on the dogs. I couldn't get his attention. Each pass got better and by the 6th pass Flier could careless about the dogs. This is a good sign but we have a lot of work to go!

The heavy snowing miraculously stopped during our race and then began again right after. By the time the 8-dog teams came in and mushers were leaving, most rigs had to have some serious shoveling and pushing done to get out. It was quite a swing in conditions but we had fun and I think most competitors felt the same way. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Two steps forward, one step back

This past weekend was filled with dog sledding.  Like most our weekends in the winter months.  Saturday I met the other members of the mushing club at the Lost Trail Gibbons Pass Road (where our upcoming race is held) to run the 6 dog course.  I ran with 8 of the dogs Tank, Flier, Okie, Isis, Buck, Buzz, Whip and Jig.  I couldn’t decide yet whom would be racing but I had decided I wouldn’t be racing Tensaw or Paluk so Sonya took them with Sepp.  Sonya, again, will be running 3 ByDog Siberians with her dog Sepp in the 4 dog category at the Darby Dog Derby.

The run went well.  The course was BEAUTIFUL!  We had a rather rough pass with one skier (of the many we came across). For whatever reason, Tank was terrified of this one guy and WOULDN’T pass him.  So I had to put Okie in lead with Flier to get by him.  Once we were up the trail, I switched him back.  

I am considering putting Flier and Tank in lead for the race (they are SO fast but not as reliable to keep a team out of trouble as Okie).  They were flying! The 14 mile run went very smoothly and the course is beautiful.  

Sunday was a different matter.  I pride myself in having good dogs and making friends on the trail so it was a rather disappointing run Sunday.  I took my friend Veronica to Skalkaho with the team.  Again, I had Flier and Tank in lead with Okie and Paluk, two very solid and experienced lead dogs, in swing. Our first few passes; a family (coincidentally friends of ours) and snowmobiles, went very smoothly.  Soon we came upon a skier rounding a corner, I figured we’d be fine until I saw the little dog following her.  Very little dog. I immediately was very nervous about the situation, the worst reaction.  I gave them a firm “on by.” And at first it appeared they would leave it alone. But when he dog decided to run away, the chase was on. Flier got to the dog and pounced on it.  The dog started screaming and the skier dove on him giving Flier a few elbows all the while.  I quickly hooked down the team, apologized as best I could and lined my team out.  Of course it’s always easy to analyze a situation after the fact and it’s important to do so, but I wish I was quicker on my feet and had these thoughts when first confronted with the situation.  (1) I should have stopped my team at first sight of the small dog knowing full well I had inexperienced leaders up front and run up to hold my team out. (2) I should have taken the time to talk with the skiers to smooth out the situation afterwards and check that their dog was okay but they were as eager to get away from us as their dog was. These things are definitely lessons learned.  I was very surprised by Flier’s reaction to the dog (especially when he got to it). He would have been the last dog I would ever think would do such a thing and I feel terrible.

I was very happy with Okie and Paluk who kept a bad situation from being worse. The puppies as well were very excited about the little dog but because Okie and Paluk held their ground being the good lead dogs they are, it kept any other dogs from being able to go to the dog.  Good girls!

On the off chance the skiers I encountered Sunday are reading this. I apologize.  I have learned from this experience and will work to improve my team and my handling of these situations. I hope your dog is okay and please do not hold this against mushers. Most encounters with dog teams go smoothly and happily.

Other than that failed pass, the team had a good run.  We went 6.5 miles and had a good time.  

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Stomach bug

We had our SECOND bout, within 1 month's time, with the stomach bug. Because of that the team hasn't run since Saturday. We finally ran tonight. It was glorious. Tank and Okie had a great showing in lead. The team was focused. We ran at a solid steady pace the whole 10 mile run with an average pace of 10 mph. 

My superstar leaders! Okie and Tank. 

Paluk and Flier in swing. 

Jig and Whip next in the team. 

Their brothers Buck and Buzz right behind them. 

And Isis and Tensaw in wheel!

Great run puppas! Saturday...back in snow!