Thank you to all sponsors and fans for your support and encouragement. Without you, not only would Evening Star Kennel been absent from the 2010 Yukon Quest, but this incredible sport and these wonderful dogs would become a thing of distant memory. I thank you from the bottom of my heart and I hope that you have enjoyed following this amazing event.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Tales from the Trail: Part 5

Out of Dawson City, we had a short jaunt down the river and through the outskirts of town before we started heading up to the top of King Solomon Dome.  I was a little nervous that the dogs might balk with such a heavily loaded sled and such a long climb, but they were happy and fresh after their long rest.  They never looked back to question me and I never stopped running, pedaling, and poling.  I quickly started taking off layers and opening the vent zippers on my bibs.  So much for the showers in Dawson (yes, I took 2 just because I could).  I got to see the sun come up over some of the most beautiful and little traveled mountains I have had the privilege of climbing.
After 2.5 hours, I stopped to give the dogs a snack.  I thought it looked like we were almost there and I wanted to give them a little pick-me-up before we made the last ascent.  This was were Jennifer Rafaelli, who had left Dawson less than 10 minutes behind us, passed.  After our snack stop, we began to climb again.  And climb. And climb.  And climb.  Finally we crested the top and started the rolling descent.  Charlotte was having a hard time stretching out on the descent and so I loaded her into the sled.  Whenever we reached another longer ascent I would put her back in the team.

We continued like this for a while until we dropped into an old mining district where there were old tailing piles and big trucks along the trail.  I was looking for a good place to camp when I caught up to Bart and Peter camping alongside the trail with their (may I say, pathetic) attempt at a fire.  I stopped just passed them and got the dogs all set for a 6 hour rest.

After getting my team taken care of, I visited with the boys and helped them get the fire going a little better.  They were planning to take off 3 hours ahead of me.  We discussed how to get on track with our timing so we could hopefully travel together again.  When it was approaching their time to leave, about 2:30 pm, Bart declared it too warm.  It was warm and sunny where we were camped, which is good for resting; not so good for running.  They stayed for an extra hour and a half and departed just over an hour ahead of me.

On the way to the Scroggie Creek Dog Drop, we went through the black hills.  I had heard these were just lots of rolling hills that could be frustrating as it was difficult for the dogs to get into a rhythm with the constantly changing terrain.  However, I must have confused that trail description for something else.  This was another long climb and steeper than the one during the day over King Solomon Dome.  The dogs did great and we had a fun ride down the other side. 

We leap-frogged with Jennifer Rafaeli several times on this run, and I passed her a several miles outside of Scroggie Creek while on a river.  The Northern Lights were the most incredible I had ever seen.  There were all shades of green, highlighted with red.  The was a hugh rope of green from horizon to horizon, arching over us.  It seemed so close.  If I were just a little taller, I could have touched it.  It was quite difficult for me to pay attention to the trail as all I wanted to do was turn off my light and look up.  Absolutely beautiful

When we left our camp with Bart and Peter, I had decided that I would drop Charlotte in Scroggie.  I knew that the next section would be hilly and didn't want the rest of the team to have to carry her.  I didn't think her injury too severe, so I put her back in the team.  By the time we got to Scroggie, Charlotte was 100% again and somehow healed on the run.  She never had another problem and finished with flying colors.  These dogs are amazing.

Scroggie was a great stop with a recently built cabin.  When I arrived, Bart and Peter were just finishing getting their dogs down for a rest.  I had had a really good run and felt like my dog team was back and had made up another 20 minutes on the boys.  I thought maybe if they would take another longish rest, I could catch up.

I headed out of Scroggie in the morning and ran until it was too warm to push on.  I camped alone on the side of the trail.  One good thing about camping alone is that it is easier to get some rest.  After bedding down the dogs, I got in my sleeping bag with Shilo for a 2 hour nap.  We headed out in the dark to run to Pelly Crossing.  This was another smooth run except for losing a bolt on my handle bar.

After arriving in the wee hours, I bedded down the dogs and fixed my handlebar.  I went inside to hear that Hans Gatt had won the race and shattered all kinds of records.  I ate my dinner and went to sleep on the hard concrete floor.  My cold was getting a little better, but this was where the terrible cough started. 

In there morning, I watched Peter and Bart head out of the checkpoint as I packed my sled and prepared for the next leg.  I saw several stray dogs come into the dog area and steal from drop bags and sleds.  Amazing how bold they were!  We headed out late morning.  Only 250 miles to go.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tales from the Trail: Part 4

In Eagle, I decided to give the dogs a long break of 12 hours.  After running 170 miles into the wind, some of the younger dogs were seriously questioning what we were doing.  We headed out of Eagle at 4 in the morning with Peter Fleck and his team close behind.  Finally off the river, we headed up the plowed road which quickly turned into snowmobile trail and started climbing American Summit.  There were are few sidehill glaciers along the way.  My dogs still were not very confident about the ice and looked for the best traction which happened to be on the downhill side of the glacier which just dropped off the side of the mountain.  With a sled packed for 150 miles and weighing more than me, I fought to keep the sled from dropping off the edge.  We made it almost all the way across when my runners lost their edge and the sled went down on its side, fortunately uphill.  Unfortunately, though, with just snow dusted ice below it, I struggled to get it upright.  I would have eventually wiggled it to better gripping snow to get it upright, but Peter was kind enough to help me and we were on our way again.

It was a long climb up and up.  And even though we were finally off the river, we still had a headwind.  The trail was well packed but the shoulders were very soft.  I had to be careful not to doze off or lose focus or one runner would drop of the hard pack and I would be sucked into the snowbank requiring a lot of choice words and elbow grease to get back on the trail.  Peter followed us most of the way up the mountain giving his leaders a little mental break.  Once he passed us and we took a snack break, I caught glimpses of them on some of the long descending switchbacks.

Fifty miles from Eagle where we were to get on the Forty Mile River for 50 more miles, Wayne Hall is kind enough to set up a wall tent for Quest mushers to use.  The tent has a small wood stove to warm it.  I nearly missed it but arrived to find Bart and his team there but no Peter.

After bedding down and feeding the dogs, I joined Bart in the tent to warm up, rest, and feed myself.  Bart had arrived 2 hours before me and thus left 2 hours before me.  Peter missed the turn and ended up camping alone on the river.  I headed out at dark for the 50 miles on the Forty Mile River to the old 40 mile town site and cabin.  The run was uneventful except that we crossed into Canada.

We arrived at the old 40 Mile cabin in the wee hours of the morning where I fed and bedded down the dogs are got some sleep myself.  I woke up feeling under the weather but decided to ignore this fact as I pushed on to Dawson.  This 50ish mile run was back on the Yukon River and seemed to take forever.  I was ready to be in Dawson City, where I could shower and sleep in a bed, and the dogs were ready for a long rest.

Just as we were nearing the end of the run (or so I thought), we ran into some knee deep overflow coming off the river.  How do I know it was knee deep?  Because, again, like the first night out of Two Rivers, I got to spend some time standing in it trying to get the dogs to go through it.  At least it was light out this time and I realized what was happening before they got too tangled.  We made it through after some work on all our parts and I decided that since we were off the main body of the river we must be almost there and I would wait to wring out my boot liners until I got there.  This ended up being a bad call as it was another 30 minutes or so before we got to Dawson.  After 15 minutes, I stopped to squeeze out the liners and they wouldn't come out of the boots.  They had already frozen in place.

After standing in water inside my 10 pound (apiece) boots, I was most definitely not in my cheeriest mood of the race when we arrived in Dawson.  I got checked in, asked Anita if they had some dry boots in camp, and headed across the Yukon to our campsite.  What a relief to get out of my boots and get the dogs bedded down for a long rest.

We had a vet check as soon as we arrived and I dropped Boggle from the team so he could go right to the truck.  I was certain that I did not want him to continue as his attitude was taking away from the team overall.  The dogs ate and ate and curled up to sleep in the straw inside the tent that Brooke and Anita built for them.  Then I got to go to the hotel with Brooke and Anita where I got to shower and put on clean clothes.  Brooke also informed me that my dirty clothes were too stinky and had to go out to the truck for the night.  I just had to laugh.

Having been so bundled up for the last 6 days, it was a wonderful relief to get out of the layers and a bit shocking to look in the mirror and see new bulges here and there from all the heaving I was having to do with a heavily loaded sled.  We managed to find a late dinner and then I got to sleep for 8 hours straight.  Brooke and Anita were kind enough to head back to the dog lot at 3am to feed and walk the dogs and make sure everyone was still tucked in for the night.  I woke up the next morning with a cold and in the most physical pain of the race.  Apparently, 8 hours was too long for me to stay in bed.  I was so sore and stiff.

We spent the day taking care of the dogs, doing laundry, making sled repairs and alterations, and prepping for my 6 am departure on Sunday, February 14, Valentine's Day, as someone more attuned to such things pointed out to me.  After a busy day of chores, I finally got to bed at midnight where I went through all my mental lists over and over until the alarm went off at 3 am.  I think I slept less than an hour.  So much for getting rested on my 36 hour layover. 

The three of us headed to the dog lot to feed, harness, and bootie the dogs, pack the sled, and make all the last minute preparations.  I had to pack for 200 miles or 4 runs and 3 camps.  I was carrying close to 150 pounds of dog food for this stretch.  Plus a bale of straw.  It was a heavy load.  I also decided to drop Miss Cleo at this point as she was still having a hard time recovering from the big that she had gotten on the way to Dawson.  Brooke told me she just needed 12 hours more than I had and was eating, drinking, and bouncing around shortly after we left.

We hooked up and headed out of the campground.  I signed out and we headed back onto the river and out into the most remote portion of the trail.  And up to the highest point on the trail, King Solomon Dome.