Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Copper Basin 300 continued

The Copper Basin 300
continued from previous post.....

    When The Hump was in the rearview mirror, so to speak, I felt anxious to get to the next checkpoint. It was approximately 10 - 15 miles to Meiers Lake and I knew I had to talk to myself in order to cool my jets as there is just no fast way to get there. I was feeling incredibly inpatient and antsy.

   Soon, we were traveling along the Alaskan Pipeline. I marveled at the sight of it. I imagined all the men, so many years ago, who toiled day and night, clearing the wild land and to fabricate such a massive project. At first it was nice to be on the broad white band of trail. But, it wasn't long when the flat trail turned into big steep rolling hills. Over and over again we would rise to the top of a hill only to see another and another. It was demoralizing. The dogs picked up on my mood and my leaders, Learjet and Banjo decided to stop mid hill, look around at me, throw back their heads and howl. 



     This was not good, but I could not help but chuckle. I felt the same way. I wanted to howl as well, as I was feeling the same way.  Just like the dogs, I had had enough of this wicked roller coaster for one day. But, this attitude was getting  us nowhere fast. It took more time than usual to reach the checkpoint as my dear leaders stopped and howled on every single hill we had to climb from that point forward. When the team does this it is not good. As a musher you have to be able to read the dogs and figure out, are they just pulling one over on me or are they really finding difficulty going on. When this happens, the musher has to get off the runners and push the sled and run along still keeping a hand on the handlebar to the top of the hill. When you are dressed in many layers of arctic gear, running is not a good thing. Sweat is a major factor. When you no longer have to push the sled, the sweat cools and pulling the heat from your body. As I cooled down a chill set in.  I had to move to stay warm but this activity was expending precious energy I needed just to endure the distance.

    Getting to the checkpoint just seemed to take forever and it was dark again by the time I finally arrived. Dave and Patrick greeted me and helped park the team.

Gwenn Bogart and Patrick Mackey training in 
Willow, Alaska just prior to The Copper Basin 300.

  Once the team was feed and bedded down for a good rest,  I went inside the lodge to dry out and get something to eat. Since I had not been able to rest at the Chistochina checkpoint and had an only a couple of hours of rest on the 70 mile run, I was tired. Food and rest were in order. After eating a wonderful burger, I spread out my sleeping bag to get some well deserved rest. As with many checkpoints, Meiers Lake Lodge was noisy. The bar folks were happy and getting happier by the minute and there was no getting away from them. I lay on the floor in my sleeping bag and was grateful just to be resting even if the noise kept we awake. At least I was horizontal for a little while.

                                                                       ~  ~  ~  ~  ~

                                       There is more to the story....stay tuned for more posts....

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Copper Basin 300 ~ Alaska's Toughest 300 Mile Dog Sled Race

                                 The Copper Basin 300 
                   Alaska's Toughest 300 Mile Dog Sled Race
                                         January 2014

Gwenn during the first leg of The Copper Basin
with her team of 12 Alaskan Huskies. A deep, punchy trail made 
the first 50 miles hard going.

      The Copper Basin was my first 300 mile dog sled race and it was a huge learning experience for sure ! The previous winter, my goal to complete my two 300 mile races evaporated because for various reasons I ended up between kennels and missed some racing opportunities. I needed 750 qualifying miles. I got 200 miles with Jim Lanier's Northern Whites and gained valuable insights. 

     The Copper, as it is fondly referred to, has a reputation of being a very tough race. Many Iditarod mushers said, when they asked me what races I had entered, if you can complete The Copper, then you can do the Iditarod. Over and over, I heard these words. I wondered what was in store for me ! 

     My team of 12 dogs was ready. Training had gone well for the month prior and I knew we were as ready as we could be. Unfortunately, my main leader, Doc, had to stay home because of a mild shoulder injury. We would miss him, but I felt the team was still strong with some additional good leaders to call on when needed. Zema and Learjet would be my main leaders. Picsus and Banjo ran in swing and could be put into lead if needed. Rex and Osprey would be in wheel. Team dogs were Saint and Charlie, Colt and Cancun, Mac and Blackfoot. 

      The race start is held in Glennallen, Alaska. Glennallen is known for some of the states most extreme cold weather, which is one of the elements that gives The Copper it's reputation. The weather forecast for the race was showing moderate temperatures that would hold during the whole race, for which I was grateful. 

      My husband, David Bogart, offered to be my dog handler and I will tell you he was the BEST handler a musher could have. He was there at every checkpoint to catch my leaders with his happy face and the most encouraging comments. After being alone all through the long hours as day blended into night and night blended into day, it makes such a difference to have someone there who can give you some heartfelt words of encouragement. Patrick Mackey was always there to giving morsels of golden advice for the trial ahead and saying the team looked awesome. Amen, brothah !

Gwenn and Dave at The Copper getting ready
for the start. 

      The start of any sled dog race is crazy. The energy in the air from lots of ragged nerves, canine and human, makes it difficult to stay calm. The dogs really need calm from their musher to help them hold it together.  Knowing this, I found my demeanor change. The effort made on my part to remain calm not only worked well for the dogs but was great for me. Suddenly, there I was at the starting line and I felt calm and ready for the job at hand. Intellectually, I knew things would happen to us on the trail and I could handle it. I always had up to this point during training. This would be no different. Jason Mackey, who owns my team and was also running his Iditarod team, had given me lots of encouragement and his training preparation for me, I knew, was the best it could be. We were ready.

      The trail of the first leg was punchy. The dogs struggled as the going was deep and it took a lot out of them. I could see it was going to take longer to reach the first checkpoint at Chistochina than originally planned. Our starting position was near the end of the pack but there were still fast teams behind me. I was looking over my shoulder a lot to see faster teams coming up and needing to pass. At one point as I tried to pull over to let yet another team by, my sled got off the packed trail and ended up in the deep snow. The dogs floundered around, straining to get some sort of solid foot hold as I did too. I remember Jim Lanier coming along and upon recognizing me, butt up and head down, in the deep snow, he asked do you need help? All I could do is laugh at myself and the situation and he gave a chuckle too.  We got out, but lots of time had been wasted. 

Zema (left) and Learjet lead the team during
The Copper Basin 300

     The team was ready for a break when we pulled into the Chistochina checkpoint as I did too. I set about my checkpoint routine while the vets checked my dogs. Saint had pulled a pectoral muscle and needed to be dropped. The cabin at the checkpoint was a busy place with many people passing through and many loud conversations going on. Not a good place to get some shut eye. I had not hit the level of fatigue that would allow me to just pass out. 

     The second leg of the race was 70 miles long. I heard the trail was hard and fast which was good news after having traveled 50 miles of soft stuff. Stories of the hump, a benign term for a mountain we had to climb, had been circulating as well as stories of the water crossing. The water crossing did not worry me much as we had been through lots of water training and the dogs handled it in training just great. But this water crossing was epic. At the mushers meeting the night before the start, we had been told there was open water but not to worry as it was just inches deep. By the time I got there, the water had risen. The ice shelf was more than a foot thick. Upon our approach my team acted as if they were going to plunge right in but when the leaders saw the water moving they did a very fast exit stage left move. As quickly as possible,  I set the ice hook and ran up to pull the leaders into the water but in order to do that I had to release the hook. Back to the hook I went, released it and ran back to the leaders, who in a moment had knitted a complicated snarl into and through the lines of rest of the team. I knew there was no pretty way to get across so I just grabbed onto a line and pulled with all my might. 

    The water was much deeper than the inches we had been told. It was up to my thighs and the dogs tried to swim. Because they were all in such a tangle, they could not swim. They thrashed and their panic was palpable. I have to admit, I had some panic very close under my skin about to come out. I pulled like I had never pulled before. I knew I had to get this crossing done fast, our lives depended upon it. The sled floated like a cork and swung downstream as the current caught it. UGH !

    The exiting ice shelf was slippery as slippery can get. I made it up and over by literally clinging with my fingernails onto the surface sheen, belly crawl.  Once I got my feet planted I could pull and haul the dogs and sled up over the ice shelf. The dogs were as relieved as I was at getting up on the other side. I could see it in their faces. The dogs were soaked. I was not as I had been wearing a wader of sorts that kept me dry. I was prepared, a god send indeed. The dogs needed my full attention immediately as the temperature was hovering near -10 below zero. As they stood shivering and shaking,  I pulled off their booties and got them moving again as quickly as possible so they could warm up. Hypothermia was in the forefront of my mind.

     We still had another 35-40 miles to travel to the next checkpoint, Meiers Lake, while the hump, somewhere out there, still loomed. From the stories, I knew it was something of a concern. The beauty of the trail that spread between the water crossing to the hump was spectacular. I was overjoyed to be traveling through this area in the daylight hours and am so happy that I was able to witness the grandeur of the landscape with my own eyes.  So far off any road, this beauty would only be witnessed from dog team or snow machine, seen only by few.

     The trail went through hemlock groves, over frozen swamps and lakes. I kept looking around at the peaks wondering if that was the hump only to experience the trail go by and was left to wonder in trepidation about the upcoming obstacle.  My first view of the hump was spectacular. We came to a hilltop over looking a huge- broad expanse of land, a wide valley that looked like it went on forever. That was the moment when I got my first glimpse of The Hump.  There, way up high, on the treeless summit, if I squinted my eyes just right, I could make out the tiny image of a team, making their way to the summit. 

   It was quite a climb from the floor of the valley to the summit but I have to say it was a surprise how well it went. The dogs did a great job and before we knew it we were on the other side, which was not a huge horrible descent, but an fairly easy ride.  I could imagine this could be a horrible place, if traveling through a storm or dreadfully cold temperatures. I considered myself lucky, again.

                                                                          ~ ~ ~

    There are other side bar stories I could tell now, but I think I will end this for now and write more later as this post is just getting way to loooonnnnggggg…… stay tuned for the rest of the story !

Thank you for reading and visiting my blog !!!



Winner of the Raffle for a Trip to Alaska for Two

We have a Winner 

Carol Lincoln of East Dorset, Vermont

Winner of the Alaska Trip for Two

Carol says "Winner winner, chicken dinner"

Congratulations !!

      Good job Hannah Perkins for being the seller of the winning ticket.

   We could not be happier for Carol and her big win. She will be off to Alaska on June 30th. 

Thank you for everyone who purchased raffle tickets. I wish everyone could have won because you all deserve it. It will be a trip of a lifetime.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Training and Racing
  Qualifying year for Iditarod 2015

Hello from Wasilla, Alaska ! 

This year, I am  training/racing a Mackey team. Yes, that’s right a Mackey team ! I have secured a fantastic team of 14 dogs from Jason Mackey and they are proving themselves each day we spend together clicking up the miles on our team odometer. I also have three additional dogs to add to the 14 Mackey dogs. Jim Lanier, 15 time Iditarod musher, who I worked with last winter, asked if I would take on his three yearlings to train for the winter, while he concentrates on his Iditarod team. Our goal is to peak the fitness at the third week of January in time for our first race, the Northern Lights 300 which starts January 24th at Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake, Alaska.The next qualifier is the Yukon Quest 300 which starts February 2 in Fairbanks, Alaska.

October is the month dry land training begins in earnest here in Alaska. The temperatures In the Wasilla/Willow area the temperatures have been hovering in the high 30‘s, low 40’s,  making it much to warm for healthy training.  Jason and his 24 year old mushing son Patrick, who wants to qualify for the Iditarod this year invited me to join them for a week training at Lance’s Comeback Kennel outside of Fairbanks. Lance had called Jason and said there was a thin layer of snow and the temperatures were in the 20’s. We loaded the trucks and headed north. It was a treat to see Lances kennel and rub elbows with him for a few days.

To take advantage of our training time we decided to train our teams twice a day.  We started with six miles two times a day with a minimum of six hours in between sessions.
To start the training, the speeds are slow 7-9 mph. As the fitness improved we increased the speeds to 10 mph before increasing the distances. In the beginning the fitness training of the long distance Alaskan Sled Dog is a cycle that looks like this:

Day 1; 6 miles at 7-9 mph  (twice a day)
Day 2; same
Day 3; same
Day 4; day off

Day 5; 6 miles at 7-9 mph (occasionally increasing to 10 mph to test how they are handling the fitness) twice a day
Day 6; 6 miles 9-10 mph (always go slow 7-9 downhills) twice a day
Day 7; Bump up the distance to 7-8 miles but slow the speeds to 7-9 mph..

Day 8: 7-8 miles at 7-9 mph (twice a day)
Day 9; 7-8 miles at 7-9 mph (twice a day) occasionally increasing speed to 10 mph.
Day 10; 7-8 miles at 10 mph (7-9 mph downhills)
Day 11; Day off

Day 12; 10 miles at 7-9 mph (twice a day)
Day 13; 6-8 miles at 8-10 mph (twice a day)
Day 14; 8-9 miles at 8-10 mph (twice a day)
Day 15; Day off

Gradually, as the distances are increased, around 12 miles the training sessions can be once a day. 

General notes:

* For long distance training, generally keep speeds around 10 mph.
* Occasional short wind sprints are fun and good for the dogs.
  • Keep the team slow 7-8 mph downhill to help mitigate shoulder injuries.
  • A conservative training schedule is best. If you question your dogs fitness, keep it shorter and slower.

Eventually, my team will be training 3 days in a row with 40-75 miles a day at 8-10 mph 3 days in a row. Sometimes we will travel 6 hours, camp for 6 hours and then run another 6 hours. Generally, we train 3 days with a day off. Camping with the dogs is a key component to training as that is what races are all about.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Win a Trip to Alaska for Two

Win a Trip to Alaska for Two

$20.00 each or 5 for $90.00

June 30 - July 7, 2014

Raffle Tickets on Sale in Vermont at these locations;

                                                 The Wayside Country Store: 
                                                 Chem Clean: Arlington
                                                 The Reel Angler: Manchester
                                                  The Northshire Bookstore: Manchester
                                                  The Eagles Club: Manchester
                                                  HN Williams: Dorset
                                                  Machs Store : Pawlet
                                                  The Wells Store: Wells

If you want to pay by credit card go to my website, click here                                       

On the shopping page you will see Journey to Iditarod 2015 wristbands. Purchase wristbands in lieu of raffle tickets. You will receive a ticket with each wristband you purchase.

              PayPal does not allow the sale of raffle tickets as they consider it a form of gambling. 

       Please call Gwenn at 907-232-4166 or write if you have questions.    


Monday, April 1, 2013

The Sheep Mountain 200/300 Sled Dog Race: First Iditarod Qualifier !

Lunch Time at Lake Louise Lodge
Checkpoint #1

 French Fry is licking her chops in anticipation !

4th Place ~ Sheep Mountain 200/300 Sled Dog Race

The Sheep Mountain 200/300 Sled Dog Race was held over a three day period of time, starting on  Tuesday, March 26th at 6 a.m. My team of Northern Whites ran the 200 mile portion, completing the race in the afternoon of Wednesday March 27. This was my very first Iditarod qualifying race.

The day before the race, all the mushers arrived to put their "drop bags" into a truck that would deliver them to the first checkpoint at Lake Louise Lodge. A hearty meal was provided, followed by a mushers meeting. This meeting provided opportunity for the organizers to review rules and regulations and information about the trail. It was a short meeting as the race was to start at 6 am the following morning. Jim Lanier, who is allowing me to run his dogs, arrived to give me lots of support and to help Dave with his dog handler responsibilities.

The start of any dog race is a scene of total chaos. The dogs, all amped up, bark and leap, lunging in their harnesses.The cacophony is loud, very loud and as a rookie musher  the "all of it" worked on undoing me,  as nerves were already on edge. But, I kept my head clear and did not let it undo me and stayed calm within myself.  It is still dark here in Alaska at 6 am. Getting the team ready in the dark possess its own challenges but it is no different than working throughout the long dark winter days we have already been through. All the training in the dark pays off as races are no different.

Here we are at the start. Alpha is psyched, lunging and bouncing in his harness, while Verona is quietly 
getting her own game face on.

My headlamp (LED Lenser) is an necessary piece of equipment. This headlamp is powerful and cast's a long beam of light so that I can keep an eye on the front of the team and the trail in front of them. Verona and Alpha are in lead in this picture and they would continue to be my leaders for most of the race. They were awesome leaders.

From Sheep Mountain Lodge to Lake Louise Lodge, our first checkpoint was 60 miles, where we had our first mandatory 4 hour layover. This is to allow the dogs to have a rest and a well deserved meal. At 10 mph or less a team may make the 60 miles in 6+ hours. This is a very simple answer to how long it takes to travel 60 miles. There are variables to consider when trying to calculate running time, such as terrain, wind,  and temperatures. Mushers may not have any help while they take care of their teams. In order to feed the team, we heat water to melt the frozen meat(s) we have provided to ourselves in our drop sacks. (The race organizers transported our bags the previous day from Sheep Mountain Lodge to Lake Louise Lodge). By the time the meat has thawed and the team has been bedded down on straw, they are fed. Booties are removed and any lameness issues are attended to. Once the team has been completely taken care of it is time for a short rest for the musher. In this case the rest was about an hour. It was just enough time to eat a meal and put my feet up for a bit.  Getting the team ready to leave the checkpoint takes time, about an hour of time. That cuts into the musher rest time. When a non-musher type hears there are 4 hour mandatory rest stops they might think that this mushing thing is no big deal as there are so many rest stops. The fact of the matter is, the dogs get the rest, the mushers don't, not really.

Veteran Iditarod Musher, Jim Lanier giving me some sage advice
before I leave the Lake Louise checkpoint.

We departed out of Lake Louise Lodge checkpoint around 4 p.m. in second place.  This leg of the race from Lake Louise Lodge to Tolsana Lodge would be 55 miles figuring I would pull into Tolsana around 10. But I knew, realistically, it would be more like 11:00-1130 p.m. I pulled into Tolsana at 11:30. I had not had a very good run because of many tangles when the team got all balled up into big tangles requiring several stops to sort out lines. I had changed leaders mid-run which proved to be a big, huge mistake.  I wanted to give my tried and true leaders a break as they were showing signs that needed a change. One of the dogs I put in lead was a poor choice as he would just suddenly stop running and look around at those behind him. After the fourth time of Sorbet pulling this action, I replaced him with the original leader and all finally was going smoothly. This slowed me so much that by the time I got to Tolsana I had dropped into seventh place.

It was about twenty below zero at Tolsana at midnight. Dave and Jim were there to greet me and help get the team parked. Handlers may help you park your team and communicate where the water and drop sacks are located. It certainly is nice to see familiar faces waiting for you when you have been out in the dark, cold wilderness for so many long hours. I was able to get through my checkpoint routine  quickly which allowed me to get inside and rest for a longer period of time. I lay on the camping pad on the floor and Jim, very kindly put his coat over me so that I could rest better. So very kind, indeed and rest I did for about an hour and a half. 

Jim woke me up and thrust a cup of coffee in my hand. In my mind, I did not know how in the world I would be able to get going. The thoughts of getting the team ready and standing on the runners of the sled did not appeal to me at all. I really did not know how I was going to do it. It all seemed so overwhelming. But, Jim said, it will take a bit of time to get your motor going again. And he was absolutely right. The coffee kicked in and I was ready to get going. 

It was about 3:30-4 a.m. when I pulled out of Tolsana checkpoint. This leg of the trip would now back-track trail we had come in on. Our next stop would be at Eureka Lodge 65 miles away. Off into the night we ran crossing frozen lakes and sloughs, flat expanses and kicked up steep hills. It was a full moon without cloud cover. The northern lights danced a bit but the brightness of the full moon took away from the brightness of the lights. It is a really something to witness the wonder of these things from the runners of a sled being pulled by dog team. It harkens back to so much history and lifestyles led for centuries across this wild territory. 

It felt like such a long, long run to Eureka. The temperature dropped to 30 below zero as  dawn approached. As the dogs trotted along,  the moon sunk and the sun came up, ever so slowly, spreading its rays, creating the pink alpine glow on the surrounding mountain peaks. As tired as I was, I felt I could feel my heart swell with a joyfulness at being so lucky as to be witness to all of this beauty. It was these feelings and the anticipation of a big piece of banana creme pie and a cuppa mud waiting for me at the final checkpoint, Eureka Lodge.

It was a bright, sunny day at I made my way across the Nelchina Valley and up to Eureka Lodge. The miles passed by slowly and I felt like I would never make it to Eureka Lodge. The team was giving me that feeling as well, but we finally made it there. Again, Dave and Jim met me there with smiles and positive greetings informing me I was in fourth place. This new really got me excited as I had never even given it a thought that I would possibly be competitive. I was only thinking about completing the race. The checkpoint stop was really great for the dogs. The sun was warm which gave the dogs a nice rest. Once they ate they could fall asleep on the clean straw nests in the sunshine. Once the team had a good meal in their belles, I watched them, stand and circle to make a nest in the straw. Once each dog was nodding off to sleep, I made my way to the lodge for a well earned meal.

The final run to the finish was only 18 miles long. I had a great feeling within me now that I knew I would complete the distance. I opted for a healthy turkey burger instead of the banana creme pie. I had not eaten much of anything during the race, just a few snacks here and there. Mostly I drank water from my insulated thermos all the while running the trail. The turkey burger was like turbo charge food. I felt great the last leg of the race. The three mountain climbs were not as bad as my imagination had made them out to be and I was able to complete the leg in less than two hours.

I completed the race around 5 pm on Wednesday March 27th in 4th place. As the finish line came into view I had that heart swelling feeling again and made a mental note again, of how lucky I am so be alive and able to do what I love to do. 


Sunday, February 10, 2013

Camping with the Northern Whites

Camping with Northern Whites

  Back on the runners and being careful for what I wish for....I have been re-reading Gary Paulsen's Winterdance, The Fine Madness of Running the Iditarod. My memory of specific stories within are foggy. That is why I have started reading it again. I, also, thought I might be able to glean knowledge from it now, that I can read it with a new perspective. And a new perspective I have. No longer am I amazed at the pure chaos he encounters, now I can totally relate. He certainly has not over-stated the stories. They are spot on. Any way, I had said to my husband, Dave that I wanted to be mushing dogs, not reading about, it as I had not been on the runners in a careful what you wish for....

     Tuesday morning was met with temperatures in the 30's. Jim's plan had us running the teams four hours, then camp for four hours and then run again for four hours. We trucked the dogs to the Chugiak Mushers Club to run the wonderfully wide and  groomed trails there. With lots of little delays, we finally pulled our snow hooks to start the run at 12:30, lunchtime for many. It was a wonderful run, all around the edges of the Cook Inlet, along through wooded groves and around frozen lakes at the base of the Chugach Mountains. The sun was shining, a glorious day to be running dogs. It was lots of fun as we coursed our way along our 4 hour run. I loved it.

     Camping with the dogs is quite involved. It is a practice of sorts for race activities, along with giving the dogs a well deserved break. We pulled into our camping spot at 4:30 in the afternoon. I planted one of my snow hooks, firmly into the hard pack snow of the trial, stomping it in firmly with several good hard kicks. Taking the second snow hook to the front of the team, I hooked the carabiniere into the front end of the gang line to secure the lead end in place. This keeps the gang line tight so the dogs stay put. On the way back to the sled, all the dog booties are removed, collected and put into a bag to save for laundering and regrouping for later runs, and tug lines are unhitched from the dogs harnesses. 

    Then it is time to feed the dogs with pre-mixed baited water (frozen ground chicken melted in warm water and put into a garbage bag lined, small cooler, placed inside the sled bag) One ladle full of water and a ladle full of high-octane kibble in a bowl for every dog. You can imagine the noise that comes from the team as they are frantic for water and calories.  Once this is done, the dishes were collected and places off to the side to freeze, so they don't stick together once the are re-nested. With the dogs fed, it was time to spread out the straw for the dogs to nestle into for a good rest. They know exactly what the straw means and eagerly help spread it out, circling to make their nap-nest. For the veteran dogs, it takes very little time to settle. For the young rookie dogs, they think it is time to play with the straw or each other..more training...I yell at them....."knock it off".....

Feeding time

Nap Time

   During the camping rest day turned to night. We donned our headlights to start packing up our sleds. At one point, we heard some noise nearby, in the dark woods. The dogs went nuts, barking wildly with eyes focused and ears pricked all in one direction. Suddenly, in the cone-lit beam of my headlamp, I spotted a moose, its eyes reflected back at me, an alien-like green, which spooked me. It was the  first time I have had an "encounter" of sorts, with a moose. I had a pit of fear in my belly when we pulled our hooks to continue our evening run. I wondered where the giant animal had gone. Fortunately, the moose had moved on as we did not meet it again.

     At 7:45 pm, we started to re-bootie the team for a an on-time 8:30 pm departure for another 4 hour run. The night time running brings a whole new set of sensations and feelings. Jim runs his teams much faster than Ray and this makes it all very different for me. The trees go by much faster, the turns of the trail become sharper and the speed seems, at some points like a swirling surreal dream.  When you don't know the trails, all your attentions are on managing sled riding skills, keeping the sled on the trail and managing the running speed, all awhile keeping your eyes on the dogs. Better than any amusement ride in the world !

     Phew ! Finally12:30 am, we arrived back at the truck to end the run. After the days activities, it feels like no small feat (no pun intended) to remove the, 4 X 12 booties, remove harnesses and load each dog into its box on the truck. Six of the dogs in my team had to be loaded into the top, higher tier of the dog boxes. This required me to lift the dog up, over my head. The dogs had to crawl, claw and  push off my shoulders and head with their feet, to get themselves into the high-up resting spot.  After loading the equipment and sleds we drove the 15 minutes back to Jim's. We let the dogs spend the night on the truck and would unload them in the morning. I stayed at Jim's where I spent an utterly sleepless night, that is if you call 4 hours of "rest" a night. My body ached and every time I closed my eyes, I felt like I was riding on the runners, swishing through the curvy dark, snowy trails. I could not sleep. 

     At 7 a.m. the scent of coffee met my nose so it was up and at em’.  I felt like I had been on an all night drinking binge. I thought about my day and wondered how I would manage the tasks I would face. There was nothing of any danger, it is just I was so darn tired. I could not allow myself to think about being on the comfy sofa, resting, watching the evening news, as I felt like I had to take it all moment by moment to make it through the day.

  I will put an end to this saga now. Suffice it to say, I made it through the day of many physical chores which included cutting up six 50 pound flats of course ground chicken into small snack size pieces using the band saw. Cutting was very slow as the blade was so dull. I sure wish these "big-time" mushers would give us schleppers the proper tools to do the task. It seemed to go on  FOREVER. I ended the task short of completion. To tired, I was making mistakes and was aware that I was in danger of cutting myself. 

I made it home, feeling to exhausted and tired. My neck muscles decided to attack me. Thank goodness the prescription strength dosage of Advil made it all o.k. in the morning.