Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Have Sled, Will Travel

Fairbanks received a good size dump of snow almost a week ago, and my trails have just barely enough to switch to a sled. You need a good base of snow in order for the snow hook to take hold and the team can be stopped; especially when there are two road crossings like I have to deal with.

There are 2 great advantages to the sled over the 4-wheel. It's quiet, and the dogs have to work a bit more honestly. So instead of me just throttling along at 9 mph and the dogs either pulling, or coasting; they have to pull to get me up the hill. The dogs also love the sled (I guess that's a third advantage). I think they like the freedom of being able to find a groove a bit more than with the big, heavy 4-wheeler going exactly 9 mph all the time. They like to put on the power sometimes, then back off other times. One of the leaders will perk up her ears and everyone is right there with her; they have more fun with this sort of flexibility.

The disadvantage of the sled is that I can't take a 12 dog team out. I can control the team very easily with the 4 wheeler, thus at the road crossings I'm not worried. 12 dogs on a sled with low snow would be a disaster. So I've broken the 24 dogs into 3 teams of 8. Each team has at least one adult leader and at least one 2 yr-old leader. Then the rest of the dogs are evenly divied up based on age and size. An 8 dog team is still a bear to get out of the yard right now.... I work up a sweat, no matter how cold it is. The trail is very bumpy, narrow and windy and those little buggers are worked up into a frenzy when it's time to take off.

I've included a short video of the dogs running at the 25 mile turn around, just to show the sled and the scenery on a beautiful, crisp (around 20 below 0 deg F) day of training.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Two Year Olds.... and Snake

A little scheduling snaffoo allowed only one team to run today, so I thought I better run the 2 yr olds. They take more miles to get fit, compared to adults, so just need more miles on them before a race. This also means that my leaders were 2 year olds. I was hoping for minimal requirements for any decisions to be made up front, no loose dogs, and no other dog teams. Well, we had one loose dog, 2 dogs on leash that we had to pass, and a couple of gee/haw options. Venus and Grumpy did great.

It also snowed like craze today! Inches and inches. Most of the run was unbroken trail, much deeper snow than in the pictures. It was also going up hill. This was hard work for the dogs so I just took it slow.

Grumpy and Venus at a rest stop, half way through a long run (32 miles). The dogs popped the brake on the 4-wheel right after I took this and just about ran me over.

My swing dogs, Kaligan and Kora (both part of the K litter). Kaligan's hogging her side to get at some snow cones.

This is Snake and Kaltag. Snake is a brother of Beaver, Sadie and Pepsi (he's an adult, either 4 or 5 years old). I'm trying him out. He's a big strong dog and has a lot to say during stops.

Kaltag is ready to go!

Weasley and Kobuk.

Wizard (brother of Weasely) and Kiana (more K dogs).

Muggles (brother of Wizard and Weasley) and Diamond in wheel.

And we're off...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Training on the Pipeline

Thought I'd share a little Alaskan trivia by showing you what the pipeline looks like:

We're on the pipeline service road, and the pipeline must be buried over on the right. This runs along a ridge, about 1500' feet above the valley where we start. It's snowing just lightly and about 18 degrees - warm for Alaska and the dogs, perfect for the human.

Nikki feels good and is rolling around in the snow. That's a happy dog.

A short break for the dogs at the half-way point in the run. They're looking great and Venus is wondering why I'm stalling.

Judy Currier's dog Weasley. Now that's a good looking dog!

Here's a short video of us going back down to the valley on an old mining road. I'm trying to keep the 4-whell from going into a washed out gully while holding the camera. The dogs always know when the musher isn't paying attention; they keep looking back, wondering when I'm going to get back to work. This team has most of the 2 year olds, 8 of them. They look great and ran strong the entire run.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dog of the Day - Kora

Kora may be the smallest dog on the team; it's a close race for smallest shrimp with Venus. She may weigh 35 pounds..... after a big meal, a really big meal.

Kora is one of the 'K' litter that I bought from Dean Osmar; she is two years old. She has also turned out to be a fine leader. I put her up front with Reeses (also in the picture) and it is pure finesse. They are both light, athletic little dogs. A very nimble front end.

I was a little surprised to see Kora take to lead so easily. Her personality isn't a 'take charge' one. She's a bit submissive; a very gentle little dog. But when she's in lead, she never looks back, never questions anything, and never seems to get tired. Just goes forward constantly, with gusto.

She's made the A team so far due to her enthusiasm and her abilities as a leader and cheer leader. She may not be a powerful dog physically, but she will always help the team get up and go forward! She's also a fun dog to have on the team. Always smiling, always happy to be there, and very affectionate.