{Tsuga Siberians}

January 28, 2008 - “Quest Just Around The Corner”
 
Hi again.  Once again, I apologize that it's been so long since our last update...

So, Happy New Year!!

We began the New Year in Two Rivers, Alaska with our friends Bill and  Sandy McKee after having just finished the GinGin 200.  I've made  several attempts to write up the story of that race, but just haven't  finished, so I'll give the short version now...  The trail was great  and I'd seen some of it on the Taiga 300 last spring.  I was a bit  nervous going into it, as the field was super competitive.  But with  the team of veterans I had, and the training we've put on them this  year, things fell in to place pretty quickly.  The team was: Mugs,  Gila, Hawkeye, Wilson [those 4 did the leading], Jim, Gecko, Hood,  Logan, Ambler, and Romeo.

Mugs
(F)
5 yrs old

Gila
(F)
5 yrs old

Hawkeye
(M)
5 yrs old

Wilson
(M)
2 yrs old

Romeo
(M)
5 yrs old

Gecko
(M)
5 yrs old

Logan
(M)
2 yrs old

Hood
(M)
2 yrs old

Ambler
(M)
5 yrs old

Jim
(M)
9 yrs old

 The first leg of 50 miles went a little  slower than I thought it might, but it took very little out of the  team.  After a six hour rest at Maclaren Lodge, we set out on the 
long 110 mile loop in 11th place.  We passed many teams while they camped after about 50-55 miles on the Susitna River.  We pushed on to about the 60 mile point and then I stopped, made camp, feed the team and rested for just over two hours.  Only a couple of the teams we had passed came back by us while we were stopped and after getting 
back to Maclaren before dark that afternoon, I was pleased to see we were in 7th place.  During this mandatory 6-hour rest, after taking care of the team, I even got to watch the Patriots win their last regular season game to go 16-0!! It was kinda funny to be in the middle of a sleddog race, watching a big-screen TV miles from any powerlines or cable.  Thanks to Maclaren Lodge for their generator and satellite (and incredible hospitality)!!   After my 6 hours was 
up, we hit the trail again just about 10 minutes behind another musher.  With him just in front of us and at least two Seavey teams right behind us, I knew I had my work cut out for me on the last leg to hold position.  Well, to my surprise we caught, passed, and pulled away from the team in front and I only occasionally saw more than one 
headlamp back behind us.  We got back to Paxson Lodge in a very respectable 6th place with all ten dogs still pulling hard and ready for more!!  My confidence soared.  It was a great race and I got to hang with some of my mushing heros, including Lance Mackey, who won the men's division.  He remembered us from his visit to NH this fall 
and was extremely gracious and friendly to both Sue and I.  I really think we turned some heads at this race by our strong finish and how well our dogs performed and acted.


Logan

Jim

After the race we went up to Fairbanks and Two Rivers to visit, shop  for Quest dropbag stuff, and just enjoy being in Alaska.   Thanks so  much to Bill and Sandy for their hospitality, friendship, and help.   They were full of suggestions and helpful advice, as they have both  run Iditarod and numerous other mid-distance races.  Our stay was  pretty brief and clouded by the news from back in Whitehorse that  tragically, one of Moe and Jere's dogs had been eaten off his chain  by a wolf while we were away.  Their house-sitters just couldn't get out there in time and poor Bonzai didn't stand a chance.  We were  shaken by the event and somewhat scared to return.  I've always been  a fan of the wolf and the wilderness that they represent, but when  our beloved dogs are endangered, perspective changes a bit.  Well, a  neighbor shot that wolf several days later and it was a big (120lbs)  and beautiful animal.  Several other wolves continue to be in the  area and we've seen tracks within 50 feet of our kennel.  Even last  night I was out at 3am when Trip barked and I found wolf tracks just  down our trail.  We are in their territory and their home, but I  really hope they'll just keep passing by, leaving our dogs alone...   


The new base camp, home away from home!

Sue, Maible & Santa!

On the drive back to Whitehorse from AK, another disaster nearly  struck.  Somewhere in between Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay,  Yukon, we heard a loud clunk from the back of the truck and I  immediately pulled over to find that the lugs on the rear wheels on  the left side of the truck had sheared completely off and nothing but  gravity was holding the wheels on the truck!!  If I had continued to drive for even a few hundred more yards, they would have fallen off all together.  I got a ride to the nearest phone and set up a flatbed truck to come get us and the fully loaded dogtruck for the 180 miles back to Whitehorse.  It could have been much worse, but the $1500 tow and the $1000 repair bill was bad enough....
 


Chopping Meat

Packing Drop Bags

Sue samples seal-a-meal

Once finally settled back here at the cabin, we got on to preparing drop bags for Quest.  We have to ship all the food and supplies for me and the dogs to the 8 checkpoints along the 1000-mile trail.  No small undertaking!!!   Sue worked on cooking my food and packaging it in seal-a-meal bags while I alternated days of chopping/bagging 
ground chicken, ground beef, chicken skins, lamb fat, and kibble and running 14-dog strings 40-80 mile days.  January has flown by!!!  This past Saturday we turned all 37 bags in to the Quest and were very glad to have that headache over with.  This week we are enduring -40 to -50 temperatures and taking fairly short runs with the team of 
25-50 miles.


Red Ridge Trail

Stump & Lotus leading on McConnell Lake

We've also spent a little more time in town this month in order to catch the Patriots drive to the Super Bowl!!  There are not too many Pats fans up here, but we've found some Quest fans who put up with us at the Yukon Inn, where we've become temporary regulars.  We'll be taking in the Super Bowl there this Sunday just 
before leaving for Alaska on Monday.  Then we have the pre-Quest events of that week including a vet study the team is taking part in with bloodwork for the whole team, the mandatory Meet the Mushers on Wednesday, Rookie, Drivers' and Handlers' Meetings on Thursday and then the start of the Yukon Quest on Saturday!!!   Also that week at Bill and Sandy's we'll greet Sue's brother, Scott, who is going to travel with Sue and Moe as my handlers.  Our dear friend Peter Duncan is also going to make it to the start, all the way from Scotland.   Sue's Dad and Linda, her brother Gerry, and her Uncle Bob and cousin Gina are all coming to the half-way point at Dawson and following the 
second half of the race, too!!  

As of now, the Quest team will be:

Stump
(M)
5 yrs old

Gila
(F)
5 yrs old

Romeo
(M)
5 yrs old

Gecko
(M)
5 yrs old

Logan
(M)
2 yrs old

Merlin
(M)
2 yrs old

Lotus
(F)
2 yrs old
 
Eliza
(F)
2 yrs old

Mugs
(F)
5 yrs old

Wilson
(M)
2 yrs old

Jim
(M)
9 yrs old

Hawkeye
(M)
5 yrs old

Hood
(M)
2 yrs old

Reba
(F)
2 yrs old

Ambler
(M)
5 yrs old

Curly
(M)
6 yrs old

Curly and Eliza are the alternates who will also get vet-checked this Saturday.  Here we go.................  I can't wait to hit the trail!!!

Thanks so much to you all who have helped us realize this dream of  ours.  Now it's time to go get it done!!!

Thank you very much for your continued support and good wishes-  

Mike, Sue and TeamTsuga.


Running on Alligator Lake
 


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