{Tsuga Siberians}

October 28th, 2007 - “We're Here!”

Hi everybody!!
Sorry it’s taken so long to get our first post from the Yukon up, but it’s been that kind of month. I’ll try to fill you in on the high points-

A month ago we were finishing packing and spending the weekend at the Northern New England Sleddog Trade Fair in New Hampshire. We brought along our sleds to show for our sled builder and sponsor, Husky Creek Sleds. We got to meet Lance Mackey and spend some really fun time talking with him. We got my new sledbag that Amy Dugan had just finished for us. It’s a real beauty and will definitely be making the trip for the Quest in February. Most importantly, we got a great send-off from all our super friends in the sleddog world in New England. Some of the goodbyes were downright sad as we’ll really be missing our dear friends, but we left with a wonderful feeling of support and encouragement from the folks who share our passion of mushing. I’m sure a good many of them wished they were coming with us. My Aunt Sandy, Uncle Leon and their youngest son Ryan also surprised us by showing up at the trade fair. They set the whole idea of sleddogs in my head at a pretty young age with their Siberian husky Micah, and a trip to Leon’s sister’s home to visit her sprintdog kennel. I was about 8 years old (I’m guessing) and it made an impression that has changed my life. It was great to see them as we set off on an adventure they are somewhat responsible for…

Our last night in NH was spent at home with some longtime friends who live near us in Rumney. We had pizza by the campfire while we listened to the Pats kicking butt on the radio. Our friends mean a whole lot to us and we’ll really miss them this winter. Thanks guys, we love ya and can’t wait to share a campfire again in the spring. Tuesday morning came all too early as we finished with loading the truck, closing the house, and hit the road with everything we think we’ll need for 6 months in the Yukon and Alaska with our 27 dogs. It’s a little daunting, but here we go. We couldn’t have done it without all the help we got and I need to pay special thanks to Mitch, Kevin, Gerry, Phil and Sandra, the Pugas, and Bob and Rhonda.

The trip out the driveway proved my worst fear of the truck and trailer being helplessly overloaded. We were heavy! The first day was set up to be an easy one and we only went as far as my Mom’s in NY on day one, Sue’s birthday, October 2nd. Maybe we were just getting better at goodbyes or maybe it was Mom’s great strength and faith in us that made for a comfortable “see ya soon,” with Mom Wednesday morning. We had another pretty easy day just going to my Uncle Doug’s place in western NY, where we had a nice visit with Doug, Jeanette, Ian, and Carol and Barb. The strength of the love of family is a wonderful thing!! After enduring a very hot and therefore stressful day in the truck we got to Sue’s Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Pam’s mid afternoon on Thursday. We had another great stay there although we couldn’t box the dogs that night because of the heat and became quite a spectacle in the suburban neighborhood. Many thanks to Bob, Pam, and Gina for sharing their home, and lawn, with us.


After several nights staying with family, we left Illinois with no real plans for the rest of the trip except to get to Moe and Jere’s safely. We drove some pretty long days and stayed in Grand Forks, then Saskatoon, and by Sunday we were in Dawson Creek at Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway. Monday, we crossed the Canadian Rockies with snow on the hills and the road and pulled in to the Northern Rockies Lodge at Muncho Lake, British Columbia after a great day of viewing the beautiful mountains and tons of wildlife including sheep, caribou, eagle, bison, deer, and coyote. Uncle Bob and Aunt Pam know the owner of this lodge and had arranged for us to stay there. We had a totally relaxing night and really enjoyed this beautiful place. Tuesday, our 8th day on the road, we finished the drive of roughly 4000 miles from home to Annie Lake Road, about 25 miles south of Whitehorse, Yukon. This will be our base for the winter at the home of our good friends Moe, Jere, Finn and Maible. They welcomed us with open arms and we started making this place OUR temporary home.


The first week saw us clearing our dogyard, building 26 dog houses (Zirkle sleeps in the cabin and didn’t get a doghouse), getting straw for the dogs, trying to order dogfood and meat supplement, cutting firewood, going to town to get food and supplies, and generally settling in. The dogs took a solid week to get comfortable and we are probably taking a little longer! Acclimating to staying in Canada, living without electricity or running water, the remoteness, and the very high prices for all goods and services is taking us a little time, but we’re getting it. We’ve been making weekly trips to town to shop, do laundry, and go swimming at the Canada Games Center in Whitehorse. With the US dollar doing so poorly and gas prices so high, we picked a pretty tough time to visit Canada. We did get in to town for a Yukon Quest party shortly after we got here and had the chance to meet some of the other mushers who will be running this year and/or have run the race in the past. It was pretty cool to have Yukon Quest icon Frank Turner come up to me and say “Your Mike from NH, right?” He offered any help he could give as we prepare for the race and I hope to get up to visit with him and see his kennel sometime soon. We also met a local outdoor sports writer and photographer who has already been out to the kennel to interview us and take some pictures for a forthcoming article in the local paper, The Whitehorse Star.

And now for the important news, about the dogs... We have a couple of injuries to report and I’ll get the bad news out of the way first. Kobuk hurt his back somehow on the road trip up here. We don’t know just what happened, but he’s not going to be in harness any time soon. We’re glad he’s not hurting anymore, but he’s still not quite right and we fear he may not run in harness again. He’s awfully sad as we leave every morning with training teams. On one of our first runs here, Curly either broke or seriously bruised a toe and hasn’t run since. He’s finally back to putting weight on it and the swelling is gone, but it will take a big effort on his part to catch back up with the team once we start running him again.


Curly


Kobuk

As for the rest of the dogs, they are doing great!! Our training distances have been increasing steadily since we got here. This week we’ll do a 30-mile loop up in to the mountains. Jere and I checked the trail the other day on atv’s and it’s going to be a pretty fun run with a big climb and lots of snow up at the higher elevations. We could see groups of sheep up high and caribou and wolf tracks on the trail. I’m really looking forward to starting the longer runs with the dogs and getting out into this huge country. So far, Stump, Maple and Squiggle have been doing most of the leading but always bringing along a puppy or less experienced leader. Only a few dogs haven’t run lead since we’ve been here. We’re training 23 dogs right now. (The Quest starts with 14.) The strength and confidence of the dogs is already growing with each new experience. When everything else seems tough and foreign, we just go run the dogs and get back to what we know. Our first big race will be the Sheep Mt. 150 in Alaska in mid-December. Sue may do a few local weekend races that start here in late November. Until then, we’ll be training the dogs (and ourselves) to be as ready as we can be to race to our full potential.


Thanks to you all who have helped us get here or sent us luck and good wishes. We feel the love and thank you for it!!

More soon. Take care.
All our best- Mike, Sue and Tsuga Siberians.

Here’s our winter contact info:
Email- same, but we’ll only be able to check every week or so.
Address- c/o Jeremie Matrishon Box 11284 Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada Y1A 6N5
Phone- 867 668 7834



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