Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Frosty Cabin

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

It was about midnight by the time we got back to the Kennel from the GinGin 200 Mile Sled Dog Race. We gave all the dogs another big, hot meal then tucked them into their cozy, straw filled doghouses for a good long sleep.

Thus, it was in the wee hours of the morning that I finally got back to my cabin, dead tired and looking forward to a cozy, warm, long sleep of my own.

Well, "It's never easy!" around here and I had a little surprise waiting for me. As you will see in this outtake, I had a night of yet another new Alaskan experience, followed by a morning to remember!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fish Snacks

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

My good friend Greg came up from Seattle last week, mostly to check out all the action at SP Kennel but also partly, I think, to make sure I wasn't crazy.

It was a perfect week for him to be here, because we started him out with Kennel chores like feeding the dogs and cleaning the yard, and ended up with the Solstice Race which gave him a pretty complete perspective on sled dog racing.

In between, of course, there were lots of other experiences like riding in a sled on a training run, talking with Allen about sled design and fabrication, hooking up teams and just plain dealing with the cold, dark Alaskan climate.

One highlight of his visit was our project to uncover a few hundred salmon that Allen and Aliy had bought earlier in the fall and buried under a tarp to freeze them. Our task was to dig up the salmon -- now under a foot or so of snow as well -- then pile them in the truck and help Allen cut them up into fish snacks for the dogs.

I've compiled this video of the experience -- pretty much from start to finish -- and am delighted to share it with you as yet another "behind the scenes" look at one of the more, um, glamorous jobs in dog mushing.

Kudos to Greg for surviving the week, not only in good form but in good spirits. You, my friend, are always welcome to join me on any of my crazy expeditions!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

First Run With Allen

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

I am delighted to report that the schedule finally worked out for me to make my first run with Allen! We hope you enjoy riding along with us:

Monday, December 08, 2008

For Tatfish (and my new camera)...

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

While I've been pleasantly surprised, frankly, at how well my photo gear has held up under the demanding conditions here in the Interior Alaskan winter, I have to admit that it has been a bit of a struggle from time to time.

So, while I was in Fairbanks the other day I shopped for a camera that is more "purpose built" for the cold, snow, etc., than my existing gear. I found one by Olympus called the "Stylus 1030 SW" -- the "SW" stands for "Shock and Water Proof" -- and it is supposed to operate in temperatures down to -10 degrees. Hoping for the best, I bought it and determined to put it to the test right away.

As Aliy and Allen were getting ready to head out on a training run yesterday, I noticed a small rock in the Kennel's exit chute. With the claim of "shock and water proof" in mind, I propped my new camera down on the snow in front of it, hoping to get some footage from an unusual perspective. Actually, I was still just hoping for the best.

By now you know that the dogs are pretty excited to get going just before a run, some of them to the extent that we have to hook them up at the very last second or they will make a tangled mess out of the team. This is particularly true for Tatfish. For reasons that you will see, this little video is dedicated to Tatfish and my new camera, both of whom deserve better than they get!

Special thanks to Jonathan Coulton -- who somehow always has just the song I need! -- for the use of "Why Don't You Take Care Of Me?"


Sunday, December 07, 2008

Driving A Big Rig

Note: This is an excerpt from my contributions to the SP Kennel Dog Log

As I've mentioned before, there hasn't been much snow in the area yet, so the brakes on the sleds don't have much to dig into. As a consequence, it is hard for Aliy and Allen to control big dog teams.

The problem, of course, is that there are so many dogs to train at the Kennel and they all need to be run -- as you know from the "Training Schedule" video -- almost every day. As a result, I have been going out on training runs with Aliy, riding on a second sled that is literally tied to the back of her so that we can have more control -- double brakes, double weight -- and can run more dogs at one time.

For this run Aliy said, "We need to drive a big rig today... 18 dogs!" So, we harnessed up a huge team -- even larger than a full 16-dog Iditarod team! -- and headed out on a four hour, 40+ mile run. With two sleds -- each carrying two large bags of dog food -- and two humans, the total load added up to about 700 pounds. As you will see, these powerful Alaskan Huskies pulled this "big rig" like it was nothing!

About five miles out from the Kennel we passed by the entire town of Two Rivers where Aliy offers a bit of a guided tour. I'm sorry that the audio is so poor, but the speed of the dogs creates such a wind effect that it overwhelms the tiny microphone on my camera. I've added a few sub-titles to help you understand what Aliy is saying. (Note: I'm trying some experiments to fix this problem, but if anybody has a solution for it I would really like to know about it. Please leave me a comment!)

A little further into our run, Aliy put me in the lead sled where I was able to give you a bit of a true "musher's-eye view" then turn around -- with my back to the wind! -- to film Aliy looking forward for a change.

I hope you enjoy "Driving A Big Rig" with us!