Well, a lot has happened since the last blog, mostly due to our ongoing challenge of dealing with the weather. After our last post the weather really took a turn for the worst, than rain returned and stole all the snow away from the lower elevations near the kennel and up high the warm temperatures made the deep snow too soggy to safely run the dogs. Fortunately, though, this whether only lasted for a few days.
We made the most of the bad weather. After running lots of log runs – both for distance and time, since all the trail breaking we were doing at times took hours longer than a normal run would – we took the dogs out on the wheeler and had them pull us on the beach for a quick 20-mile jaunt.
The next day, many other local mushers loaded up their dogs and headed north, which was kind of ironic because that was right when the weather started to change for the better. We got about three inches of snow, followed by another inch the next night. We wanted to give the new snow a chance to settle on the local trails so we packed the dogs up and ran them off the truck at Skilak, but to keep things lively for them and run the whole kennel at once, we ran two 14-dog teams side-by-side.
I apologize in advance for no picture of this amazing event, but usually running the dogs off the truck is like throwing a surprise birthday party for yourself: it’s not very exciting. We had gone there intending to run one long string of dogs which I’ve already posted photos of, so we left the camera at home, but on the drive there we thought it might be safer to run two small teams together since then we wouldn’t have to worry about dogs cresteing hills we couldn’t see over, a situation which always scares us since a speedy car could hit them before we ever saw it coming.
Anyway, hooking them up like that was a lot of fun for them. Maybe it was because running four-deep-across was more like running in a pack, but even after 40 miles they were still barking and howling to go. It was a great morale booster for them.
The next day we went back to our usual lower elevation trails: Clam Gulch and Falls Creek, and since everyone else was gone, we could look forward to having them to ourselves. No one, or their handlers, getting out first and scratching all the snow away with their dragmats.
We were able to get in many back-to-back long runs, by going in from down low and then connecting into our upper elevation trail networks. And the best part was the 3 inches of snow that fell down low was closer to 6 inches up high, so we could work on speed for the beginning of training, get a hardcore cardio and strength workout for the middle by breaking trail, and then come home downhill, easy and quick so the dogs could end happy.
And the best part is the weather even cooperated further by getting cooler. We were able to have the dogs run hard in temperatures of zero to 10 degrees, which also kept them happy. Mushers who went north found themselves facing temperatures near minus 40, which no dogs or people like to be in.
About the time they decided to come back to the peninsula, the new snow we had down low had mostly been run smooth and hard like concrete. We had gone over it enough to be bored with these trails too, so this weekend we drove up high to get in some different scenery. We have a musher friend who lives in Homer, and they are working on putting in a trail to Caribou Lake from their end, so we have started working toward getting in a trail to the lake from our end. If completed, we could go on long runs – possibly up to 150-200 miles depending on the routes we take – with multiple camping stops along the way.
Working toward this goal we ran the dogs toward Homer, we crossed Deep Creek went up and down a few peaks and then dropped back into the creek valley to cut back to the lake for a long day with lots of trail breaking up high.
The snow at Caribou Lake was beautiful and it was great to again this season be the first team to lay dogs tracks in the virgin powder. The dogs drove hard since being on new trail always excites them. There was only one down side and I’ll let you look at this picture to figure out what it is.
I (Joseph) broke one of my runners about 7 miles into the run, so for the remainder of the run I had to balance on one runner while crossing frozen sloughs with drops of several feet, navigating icy corners, and helping the dogs break trail up high. By the end of the day I felt worse than my runner looked, as I had spills more than a couple times.
Still it was a great day. We started at first light as the sky was just turning blue, and we ended with the sun going down, the sky nearly completely lavender and Redoubt Volcano revealing some impressive views. The guys, bushed after a hard day’s work were happy to sleep in their boxes on the way home, except for the lucky few, usally leaders, who we let ride home in the cab of the truck. They always get into a big pile and sleep on each other.
Also, on the way home we got a little treat though. We saw a young bull moose grazing on the side of the road. While we never want to see moose while out with the dogs, it is always enjoyable to see them at other times, so we pulled over and took some pictures. Here is one of the best ones. Until next week.