Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm headin' down the Denali Hiiiiighwaaaay

Running dogs on the Denali Highway earlier this week was fantastic!! Tamara and I took off early Tuesday morning and got to Cantwell four hours later as the roads were bad and it was snowing like mad. We set up camp about 15 miles down the Denali Highway, which is not plowed in the winter. It makes the perfect spot to get some long runs in without worrying about trail conditions. Plus, it is absolutely beautiful. Mountains all around, the roads runs along the Nenana River for a while, caribou everywhere...superb. I did back-to-back 30-mile runs and the dogs were fantastic. Bull and Capiche were amazing in lead. I would hook Bully up first and he we sit and hold the line out perfectly. Capiche was really great when we met other dog teams out there and had to pass. Four-time Iditarod champion Jeff King was out there training as was Iditarod contender Ramey Smith and Quest favourite Dave Dalton. Hazel and Hitchcock go completely mad before a run, they are definitely my most energy-packed dogs. They both got a little tired at the end of the first run, but they're young and have learn to save some energy for the second half of the run. Sister, Happy and Sally were my strong and steady dogs. Sister was having some issues with snowballs between the pads of her feet so she wore booties on the second day. The yearlings, Sneaky Pete and Parker, were great. Parker got a little tired but never stopped pulling. They didn't know when to settle down and rest, but they're young and will learn. Strider paced quite a bit but I think he was just tired, not injured. I had Tamara (who is a vet) look him over and he seems to be in tiptop shape. I was really proud of the whole team. I slept in the truck and resisted urge to start it up when I got cold in the night because I have to get used to camping out too. Bully and Sneaky Pete slept with me in the truck and kept me warm. Anyway, enough rambling. Sam and I are going back there tomorrow. We'll bring a heated tent called an Arctic oven for Sam but I'm going to try and sleep outside with the dogs. I'm going to bump up their miles slightly. I was supposed to race a 20-miler on Sunday, but it got postponed because there's not enough snow. There's plenty on the Denali so off I go again.

I left early on the second morning to run the dark. I like running at night but I do getting a scared sometimes...don't tell anyone.

Ok, that blur is me dancing around the fire. I set up the camera on my dog food cooker and opened the shutter, ran to the fire and danced around. Tamara thought (thinks) I'm nuts.

My dogmobile.

Running like champs. I passed Ramey Smith and he said later at camp that my team looked good. I take that as a huge compliment.

I am the fire starter.

To the untrained eye, this might just look like a blurry photo. We in the biz call this motion blur. Ok, so it's a blurry picture, but I really like it because you see the truck, dogs, mountains, trees and those red squiggles are Tamara leaders which have red lights on their collars to warn snowmachiners. The white squiggle is Tamara's headlamp. I pretty much leave my headlamp on all the time, as it's only light for three hours.

Caribou on the trail.

Tamara lighting her cooker. She used 15 bottles of Heet (fuel) to my four.

Driving out Wednesday, the sun came out for a brief time.


Anonymous said...

Why do you use heet for cooking fuel? Just curious.

AKbushbaby said...

Heet is an alcohol-based fuel and not as volatile as gasoline therefore burns longer.

Anonymous said...

Seems like pretty expensive way to buy methanol... Just buy a gallon of denatured alcohol (methanol) at a hardware store. It is used for thinning shellac. Much cheaper!

AKbushbaby said...

Thank you kind stranger. I will. I was looking to buy something in bulk but since I just started camping out, wasn't in too much of a hurry. The time has come, though, so thanks!

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

If I was still in squarebanks, my wife and I would be bugging you for sled rides. We'd even do kennel duties for a weekend to get a few rides. Your pics are great!

Hmmmm, never used methanol for lighting fires in cold temps... it should work fine though. You might want to decant the gallon or so into smaller containers, perhaps used heet bottles? Do you remember when heet came in metal bottles with bloody short spouts?

dogsled_stacie said...

Don't worry, I get scared in the dark too! Ok, not "scared" per say, more like I start to freak myself out. Once I was totally convinced a pack of wolves was stalking me and my little 5-dog team. Not that I saw any indication of said wolves, my imagination just got going in overdrive... oy...

Anyways, love the photos! And hearing about how GREAT your team is doing.

(esp. if Ramey Smyth says so!!!) :)

dogsled_stacie said...
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