{Tsuga Siberians}

December 23rd, 2009 - “Merry Christmas”

Howdy all, and a very happy holiday season to you.

I guess I’d like to get rid of the bad news first. Not long after our last entry here, where I alluded to Kobuk’s failing health, he passed away. He is the first of the dogs that we have bred to leave us. His big, goofy smiles and always-happy attitude will be sorely missed around here. Rest in peace, buddy. We miss you.

Ok, on to happier news. Training has been going great!! There are a couple of dogs in the kennel that already have as many miles at this point in the season as they had going in to the Quest last year! This is a major advancement for us. We’ve taken what we’ve learned in the past and feel that not only are we getting more miles on the team this year, but that we are also getting better miles. We’ve changed how we are structuring our runs and are spending more time doing longer and tougher, but “easier” (more relaxed) runs. The team is so experienced now that very little seems to stress them anymore. I really couldn’t be happier with how they are performing so far this season.

Snowfall has bee a little marginal here in Two Rivers and we were due for a change of scenery, so last week I loaded up 14 of the race dogs and took Brent Sass up on his offer to come out to the abandoned town of Eureka to train. He uses the training camp there that the late Susan Butcher used to train from. There is not much else around and his operation at the camp is 100% focused on mushing. Our friends Cody and Paige were there with their 30-ish dogs. They are just breaking in to distance mushing and Cody is growing a sled-building business, Dog-Paddle Design. Lance Mackey and his handler Braxton and Newton Marshall the Jamaican musher were also staying there last week. With nearly 200 dogs in camp and 10 mushers and handlers all running dogs at all hours and all distances, it was quite a week of full-immersion mushing. Speaking of full-immersion, one of the highlights of the week was when Brent, Lance, Braxton, Newton, and I all left camp with 10-12 dog teams at the same time on a 50-ish mile loop with the Hutlinana hot springs along the way. It’s about 25 miles from nowhere, but Brent has a wall-tent set up with a woodstove right at the springs, so after we all took care of our dogs, we took a soak in the natural hotsprings at the edge of the stream. It was dark when we were there so there aren’t any pictures, but a bunch of ugly, naked mushers with frosted hair doesn’t make the best pictures anyway. It does however make for some interesting conversation! Besides that soak at -15, I have this memory of gliding along in the train of all of us leaving camp together. We were passing and re-passing each other to train the dogs and at one point my team was comfortably cruising along behind Lance’s team with him glancing over his shoulder at my guys. While I am honored to count Lance as a friend, I am still sometimes star-struck with his amazing accomplishments as a musher. It was a pretty cool week running on the trails of, and with, champions. Thanks to Brent and his crew of Kyla, Flo, and Josh for putting us up!

While I’m busy thanking folks, I’d really like to thank those of you who have sent a dog sponsorship this year. We’ll get the site updated soon to show who you are. I can’t tell you the difference your help makes in our ability to do what we do. Thank you.

Also along those lines, look for a new format blog on this site soon. I want to be able to update more readily to keep you all in the loop. Soon…

All this training is obviously geared toward the Yukon Quest for us, but we will also be running the Copper Basin 300, starting January 9th. I’m also considering running the GinGin 200 next week, now that they have changed the course. I still hate that it’s only a ten dog race and there are separate men’s and women’s divisions, but I know the trail will be good as it can be and John and Zoya do a nice job putting on a race. It starts on the 28th, so we might be racing really soon. I guess that means I better go get busy chopping some meat for trail snacks!

So, thanks for checking in with us. We wish you all the peace, joy, and love you can handle this season. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from TeamTsuga!!

Training puppies!

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