Thursday, March 31, 2011

Our Thoughts, Exactly

Brandi found this article. I don't know how, you will have to ask her. Its a great news piece about the merits of running Siberians.

Siberian Stalwarts - Alaska Star


On Monday I took the team out afterwork. I hooked up the 5 (Okanogan, Paluk, Kona, Tensaw and Isis). The first turn out of the driveway is a dicey one with 5 dogs but during the previous five attempts the cart has stayed upright and I’ve managed to stay on. This time was a little different. Paluk decided to go to the left of the mailbox instead of right like the rest of the team and she snapped the mailbox post in half and out of the ground! It scared the bejimmies out of her (the team and I) and she popped out of harness and ran back to the dog yard. In the process, the cart flipped on its side and I hit my chin on the handlebars yet managed to get off still standing on my two feet. (I’m very thankful I wear a helmet…just in case that had been worse). After much work, I got the team turned around (Okie didn’t want to go back…she was ready to run). I was just going to give up for the night since nothing from the start was going too well. But Cobey had already wrangled up Paluk and put her back in the yard and said “well are you going?” So I thought, the dogs are fired up, I might as well. So the 4 and I took off. The run was pretty uneventful from there and all were glad we did so (except for Paluk, because she got left behind and was none too pleased about it).

Looks like this weekend’s project will be to dig a new mailbox hole….out of the path of this powerful dog team.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Red Lantern

This weekend was a lot of fun on and off the course. The team and I went down to Stanley Idaho for the 2nd annual Stanley Dogtown Rendezvous. Twenty-nine teams signed up. Four teams were signed up in the 8 mile (4 per day)/4-dog race that I was doing. My other three competitors were juniors. They weighed much less than me and had much faster dogs. Not that I cared, we’re not out there to win, we’re out there to meet other mushers (and dogs, according to Tensaw), enjoy the atmosphere/scenery and watch my beautiful dogs do what they do best, run.

Saturday the 4 dog teams started at 2pm which is much too late in the day for dog sledding in mid-March. It pushed the temperature limits of what my team could run in…especially Kona who has the thickest coat of the group. The course was FUN! Hilly, windy, and beautiful and definitely a technical course. It made me want a drag brake on my sled that much more (my spring project…among many).

Sunday we improved our time by a minute. The dogs were so much stronger Sunday but poor Saw is afraid of snowmobiles and there were many passing us on the trail; causing him to create many tangles. The dogs did GREAT though. I was so very proud of them. Unfortunately, for our team, there was no red lantern award. That isn’t a big deal, I mostly like the humor in that award, but for all intensive purposes, we “won” the Red Lantern!

For those who do not know, the red lantern award is given to the last place musher in each event. Many people confuse the Red Lantern Award with the widow’s lamp. The idea for the red lantern might have easily stemmed from the widow’s lamp but according to the Iditarod website they are not the same. The widow’s lamp is an Iditarod tradition carried over from the days of Alaska dog sled freighting. Lit when a dog team was on the trail, it helped lead the team in as well as inform others that a team was on the trail. The flame was only extinguished when the team(s) returned. The Iditarod lights its widow’s lamp at the beginning of the race and is extinguished after the last musher crosses the finish line. The Red Lantern Award, on the other hand, was first started at the 1953 Fur Rondy race as a joke and has stuck in the mushing world since.

Next year I’d like to run this race again but run the 20 mile/6-dog class. I’ll have to practice mushing on more technical trails before then though.

Love your puppas!

A side note: I would have pictures for you….had I remembered my camera battery. The other mushers I was with took pictures and I will post them when they get them to me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Eight Weeks Already?

Tensaw, Kona, Okanogan, Paluk and I (Brandi) will be traveling to Stanley, Idaho this weekend with a few other mushers from the Bitterroot Mushers to race in the second annual Stanley Sled Dog Rendezvous. My team of 4 and I will be competing in the 8 mile race (4 miles Saturday & 4 miles Sunday). This is my second race (of the season and mushing career) and first race away from home. I’m looking forward to it; it should be a fun weekend. Check back next week for results.

Cobey and Keegan were planning to join us but we realized someone had to be home this weekend with the puppies. The puppies turned 8 weeks old this week and their new owners will be coming to get them. I sure am going to miss their over abundance of energy and joy every time I go out to see them. I know we will be seeing more of Thor (Male 2) as we have been sledding with his new family this season and plan to more next season. We have decided to keep Guinea Pig (Male 3), to round our team out to 6 next season (Blue is officially retiring). No one claimed Guinea Pig (aka GP) which we predicted because of his lack of “typical” Siberian appearance. He has an intelligent, friendly look in his eyes, is extremely energetic and appears, so far, to have the build of his mother, Paluk. These are all great attributes for a sled dog and think he will do very well in our team.

GP’s name may change. I realized it may not be the best name for a sled dog. We already have trouble with the leaders when we call Tensaw by his nickname, Saw. Okanogan hesitates because she thinks I’m telling her to “haw.” We don’t need further confusion with “gee” by calling out GP’s name. Maybe we’ll start calling him Pig for short but I have a feeling Cobey will not stand for that.

Love your puppas!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

First Night Run

If there is one thing that would keep me from running the 300-1000 mile races, it is the dark (well and the expenses). I like to believe I could handle the lack of sleep and hard toil of the trail/elements. I’ll take a step out on a limb here, though, and admit this on our blog: I am afraid of the dark. So Wednesday evening’s run up Nez Perce with Nicki was a big step for me. After work I took the “mainstring” Tensaw, Kona, Okanogan and Paluk and met Nicki at the trailhead. Since I wanted to give the team, Tensaw in particular, practice with passing we left first. I had to run the team by hers to get to the trail and they did amazingly, especially Tensaw. All four passes (2 from behind, 2 at the trucks) went unbelievably well. Our little sled dog, Tensaw, is all grown up and mature! When all was said and done, Tensaw got lots of love. Mostly verbal, though, because he still stinks of skunk.

But back on the trail…we were maybe 1.5 miles up the trail when Nicki’s team (of 6 Alaskan huskies) caught and passed us. With a team in front of them my four sped up but eventually lost sight of the Alaskans. We (and by ‘we’ I mean the dogs; they did so well!) ran out 2.5 miles. It was very peaceful out and I heard no unnerving animal sounds this time. All I heard was the swoosh of the sled runners, the breathing of the dogs, the crunch of the snow under their paws, and the water in the creek next to the road. We were within a mile of the truck before Nicki’s team passed us again. I was expecting her to pass us earlier and was getting a little worried. It just turns out our team of Siberians were simply running very well. The trail was fast. It was an all around great run!

I took some video. It was with a regular camera and a headlamp so it isn't the best...but still kind of cool.

Love you puppas!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Last few runs

It has been some time since my last post. Sorry. Saturday Feb 19th we ran Nez Perce (again….can you tell this is the best trail to run around these parts?). We went nearly 6 miles and once again, they all did so well. They sure love to get out and run. You should see Tensaw freak out in line waiting to run.

On the way out I heard sounds in the woods but by the time I peeled back the layers around my head I heard nothing but the swoosh of sled runners on snow and I figured we must have hit a squeaky patch of snow. On the way back down, though, I heard an eerie screaming sound in the same area. I later learned that mountain lions can sound like a screaming woman or child. I spoke with another musher who had been up there that morning and she told me she spied lion tracks on the road, not far from where I heard the sounds. I’ll need to start practicing my ninja moves with the snow hook.

Sunday we tried a new trail/road closer to our home, up Sawmill creek. Cobey ran the team this time while the young and the old pulled Keegan and I up the road a half mile. Upon Cobey’s return he was happy to report it was a pretty good road, though I still question its braking capacity due to a thin snow pack. Glad, though, that there is an option not as far away as Nez Perce to train the team on snow.

Then last Saturday (Feb 26th) I took a friend’s son out on the sled at Nez Perce. He had a lot of fun, especially when he got to drive the team. “Now I can say I drove a dog sled!” he exclaimed. He and Tensaw also forged a special bond when the boy slipped next to Saw and the husky immediately took the opportunity to lick his face silly. They were practically inseparable after that. Each took a liking to each other.

Until the next post….I will be working the stench of skunk out of my clothes and skin. All I can say is, owning huskies is an adventure….and it doesn’t always smell like roses.

Love your puppas!