Well, we made to the 'R' rating. Congratulations to us. I couldn't have done this without you all. I'd like to thank my parents for yelling at me every time I swore which made me want to do it more. I'd like to thank my friends far and wide who I like to swear about behind their backs. But mostly, I'd like to thank Sam, without whom I wouldn't feel the urge to swear at all. I love ya, baby! Now please stop swearing at me. And go wash your mouthes out with soap at once! Dirty bitches.
I covered the start of the Yukon Quest today and, yes, it was cold. We're still in the clutches of a bitter cold snap here in the Interior. I'm kind of over it now. I'm getting accustomed to sprinting to the outhouse, having dogs inside, having sore cheeks from daily frostnip as a result of doing dog chores outside and mostly, I'm getting used to saying things like 'Cold enough for ya?' to random strangers and having them narrow their eyes in disgust at me. The sky was clear and mushers to were all frosted up at the start. Twenty-four teams departed Fairbanks on the Chena River headed for Whitehorse, including three-time champ Lance Mackey, Ken my old mentor and boss who now hates me and won't talk to me, Julie Estey a close personal friend and Quest rookie...GO JESTEY!..., Frank Turner who has been a huge mentor to me and has started all but one of the 25 Yukon Quests, and many others from Alaska, Yukon, across Canada, the Lower 48 and Switzerland. Should be a good race though I'm pretty sure Lance is going to win again. Ken might challenge him and Brent Sass, though he's pretty new to the race, has great dogs and is full of gumption. Then there's Hugh Neff, who could also be a threat as he finished second a couple years ago. A lot of veterans aren't racing the Quest this year but have instead opted for the Iditarod and several are doing both. Anyway, it was nice to visit with all my old Quest friends and I look forward to hitting the trail tomorrow at 5 a.m., if only for a couple of days. It's better than nothing! I'll get my Quest fix and then buzz back to town for my race: the Knik-Goosebay 120.
I have some great news. Stay with me now people, I'm almost done and will finish this post with a whole heap of Quest photos.
First of all, in March I'm getting flown into Iniakuk Lake Wilderness Lodge , deep in the heart of the Brooks Mountain Range. It's a fly-in lodge that offers amazing summer and winter packages. So the owner is flying me and my dogs and my sleds and my handler (Sam) in for five days to give some tours to visitors who are staying at the lodge. I'm so excited! A chance to mush in the Brooks Range is something not many get to do. You're my new hero, John Gaedeke! (Except for you Gran).
The second bit of big news is that I've been offered a job doing sled dog guiding in Skagway, Alaska, for five months this summer. The money is great and I get to bring and run my own dogs. They pay for food and housing for me and the dogs and I earn a great salary plus tips. Guiding isn't something I want to do forever (except at Iniakuk, I'll do that forever) but for now it's a good way to earn money and keep my dogs in shape for the racing season. It's win, freakin' win, baby!
Okay, here are photos I shot today of the race start. I'll be out of touch for a few days but will post as soon as I get back. Thanks to Andrew Lesh for looking after my babies while I'm gone. You know, final thought here, seeing all this makes me excited to start my own Quest journey. Maybe next year? Stay tuned.
I went down the river a bit to shoot teams. As they passed they headed right into the sun which made for some cool photos what with the cold temps and all, the dogs were all steamy.
One blue eye, one brown.
A musher from New Hampshire had his team order sitting out for his handlers.
Down the trail goes Wasilla's Kelley Griffin.
Cor Guimond from Dawson City. This guy cracks me up.
Dogs on the river.
Headed to Whitehorse...see you in 10 days!