{Tsuga Siberians}
November 18th, 2008 - "Getting Settled"

"Our" Dog Yard

Hi everybody! It’s been a couple of weeks since we got here and we and the dogs are getting pretty settled here in Two Rivers. Our cabin is cozy with the propane heater, although it definitely feels weird to not be stoking a woodstove. This will be the first winter since I lived in a college dorm that I haven’t been joined at the hip with a woodstove. Life in general is pretty cushy with running water, electricity, full kitchenette, cell service (603 631-3030),
post office just down the road (PO Box 16050 Two Rivers, AK 99716), Two Rivers Lodge just around the corner, and Fairbanks being less than 20 miles away. Fairbanks is a pretty big town and serves as a regional center for all of central and northern Alaska, and has every kind of service we could need. The folks at Cold Spot Feeds, the world’s biggest mushing store, said “welcome back” when we pulled in. We’ve already had the chance to visit with our friends and fellow Quest mushers, Phil Joy (and Kumi), Brent Sass, and Lance Mackey. We’ve also spent a bunch of time cutting up hundreds of pounds of frozen meat for the dogs’ snacks and dinners. It’s been a little easier, and way neater, using Bill’s meat band-saw rather than the ax method I used last winter. All in all, we are very happy with this winter’s accommodations.

Trip taking a roll in the snow after a run.
Merlin & Stump

One of the best things about staying here is the direct trail access. From here, we can reach literally hundreds of miles of trail, including the Quest trail, itself. It’s going to be a challenge to find our way around without going a lot farther than we expected to, but our range is already expanding rapidly and the dogs are now going in one day what took us all week not long ago. We have been alternating between running big (16-dog) teams with the atv and smaller (6 to 8-dog) teams with the sleds, depending on the day’s goal for training. Yesterday we got a couple more inches of snow and that has tipped the scales towards running with sleds. There are still a bunch of roots and the occasional rock to watch out for, and in a couple of the swamps we have to be really careful to control speed going through the frozen tussocks, but the difference between sliding along quietly on sled and bouncing around on a very cold atv is dramatic. Training with an atv is like work. Sledding is the joy of running a dog team. With a cold snap coming in (lows of -25, highs of -10), it makes it even harder to want to take the atv back out. Standing on a sled, your body is in constant motion adjusting to terrain and trail, meaning it’s easier to stay warm. Sitting on the atv is more like a torture chamber with a brutal wind chill and back wrenching devices. We could still use some more snow, but I’ll be riding my new CB Sled as much as possible from here on out…

The Trail Home
16 Good Dogs!
Home Sweet Home

As far as racing this year, the Quest is the main event and the reason we are here. It starts on February 14th and almost everything we do between now and then is designed to prepare me and the dogs for 1000 miles of the Yukon Quest. We will be doing a few early season races for getting the dogs and us out in a competitive setting. There area couple of local races right here in Two Rivers, but that being said, the first bigger race of the year is the Sheep Mountain 150 on the second weekend of December. It will not be a very competitive event for us. It is a speed race and we will not alter our “slow and steady” training style to prepare for it. Instead, we will use it to test a few of the dogs who didn’t make the team last year by getting them out in a race setting to see how they do. Our goal for that one will be to have three legs of similar time since there is ample rest and three even legs of 50 miles. After that, we hope to run the GinGin 200 again and would very much like to make the Copper Basin 300 in mid-January. We’ll see how things work out and hope for the best…

So that’s most of the news fit to print from here for now.

Thanks for checking in!


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