Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Trip to the White Mountains

Last Tuesday and Wednesday, some friends of mine and I did a training trip to the White Mountains. The White Mountain Recreation Area is a little less than an hour from my house; not far at all. It is a popular spot for dog mushers, ski-jorers (skiing with the help of a dog), snow machiners, etc. This is where I usually go once I start trucking dogs on a regular basis, vs. going from my house, where I am confined by running small teams due to the trail and road crossings.

Trucking dogs has advantages and disadvantages. The dogs like a new spot, I can run larger teams, the dogs get used to traveling in the truck and they learn some patience. But it is very time consuming and a lot of work. All the equipment has to be organized and packed, the dogs have to be loaded, then there's the driving time, things have to be unloaded and assembled once at the destination, dogs unloaded etc etc etc, you get the picture.

Here, the dogs have been let out of the dog box and are put on the 'drop chains' which I set up along the sides of the truck. I've packed the sled and have started puting harnesses on the dogs.

These are my friends Sarah Love and Clint Warnke. Sarah is a veterinarian who has vetted many many races in the Lower 48 and Alaska (mainly the Iditarod). She failed to keep her witts about her and decided to get into the dog running bussiness. She and Clint have some really nice and talented dogs. Clint has a long background of running dogs and has trained dogs for Doug Swingley (Montana) and Sonny Linder (Alaska). Swingley and Linder are two of the best mushers in the history of the sport. Sarah and Clint recently bought a trailer for the dogs instead of using a truck. The dog boxes are on the inside (should have gotten a picture!).

We each ran 12-dog teams and planned to run 26 miles in, then turn around and come back to the parking lot (all the cabins were full, thus we had to return to base camp in the lot). We camped overnight, then did the same run the following day. I wanted to run as many dogs as possible, but also wanted to continue to try to get my previously injured dogs to catch up to everyone else. So I brought little Kiana along and bagged her for part of the run. She's not able to run 52 miles yet, but she could run two, 35 mile runs. So I bagged her for the first or last 10ish miles.
Here, you can see the drop bag that I use. It encloses the dog so that they can't jump out of the bag, thus they are kept safe and contained. The big metal hook is the snow hook. I carry two of these and use them to anchor the team when I stop (each hook is connected to a rope that runs to the base of the gangline from which the dogs are connected). The dogs are nut jobs, serious nut jobs. They don't like to stop. So I need good hooks to secure the team.

Kiana doesn't like being in the sled, hence the stink I that she gave me.

Here's the start of the run. It's about 1 pm and a beautiful day.

The White Mtn. National Recreation Area goes on as far as we can see. There's a 100 mile loop that goes through the Area, but I've never taken it due to low snow conditions. Some day.

Here's a great picture of the mountains in the distance and the full moon coming up, with the rose hue of the sunset behind me. No that's what I'm talkin' about!

(notice that Kiana is now in the team and has stopped giving me the stink eye).

After this picure, my lends froze open and that was that. So I put my camera back in my inside pocket. I thought I did, anyway. It turns out that I didn't get it into my pocket at all, it fell down my bibs and out my pant leg without me noticing. Now you have to understand something. It's a little cold out; about -20. Life is different at -20. You can't use your bare hands. You have many many layers on. You have a big hat, then your parka hood, plus a neck gater and a parka over all that. Then you have to unzip things and try to look down and find that little pocket on the inside of the bibs (I use that pocket because it's warmer for the camera). And you can't really feel anything because you have gloves on. Anyways, I lost the camera.
But! Sarah was quick on the draw and picked it up behind me. She then took advantage of the situation and took some pictures of her own. Notice the frosted lens.

A self portrait. Funny girl.

Another full moon through the trees shot (don't know why it's on it's side, I swear I rotated it).

Two beautiful shots of our view.

This is nearing the turn-around point. The run back to the truck was in the dark; hence the constant wearing of headlamps by mushers up here. We're constantly in the dark and refuse to let it slow us down. And the dogs love it!

The dogs did really well after both runs. Training with series of runs is really important, as distance races are just series of runs. Plus I needed to teach the 2-yr olds how to camp. They needed to learn that when I stop and set straw down, it is time to rest and quit being a wild maniac nut job. Stop and rest. Everyone did great both during the running phase and the camping phase.
Our first race is coming up very soon. The Copper Basin starts January 9th. This is a 300 mile, very challenging race, possibly harder than Iditarod. More on that later.


  1. Good luck and come out the other side feeling good.

  2. Well I am a fan of the race,and was checkking out all the mushers and what they are made of.
    You caught my eye as we share the same last name.good luck on your trail to the finish and always look ahead.Have fun with your dogs.


  3. Hey Tamara - it was great to meet you at the start of the Quest. Good racing during the DD and I also hope you have a blast.

    I know you are an asset to Aliy's team. I noticed your comment re: vet care. How can I reach you?


  4. Hi Linda, Aliy has my number. I'll be working normal hours starting in April ;)