Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A TRIBUTE TO THE MUSHING COMMUNITY

All of the racers are in, the finish Banquet is over, and a lot of those who visited Alaska to witness the Last Great Race are back home again, with memories to bring a smile to our faces as we go about our meager daily tasks. I know I do not go more than a few hours without a flicker of a thought or picture from my countless enchanted encounters with Alaska, and the mushing community. A lot of my heart is still with them. I have been thinking for weeks how I am going to describe those people who have become very dear to me. They have fed my spirit in a way that is life changing. The community is as large and diverse as the great state that calls it home. It includes the mushers, their families, the dog/athletes, the handlers, the sponsors, the volunteers, the Veterinarians, the forums, and the supporters (I was going to say fans, but that doesn’t do us justice) of sled dog racing. The first time I risked posting on an Iditarod forum, I felt immediately welcomed. I had lurked there for more than a year, and having never ‘chatted’ on line at all, I felt kind of dumb about how to enter that room of enthusiastic experts who unabashedly gushed about their passion for the Iditarod, and who held such a wealth of knowledge that I felt like a fledgling amongst a group of soaring Eagles! But flying is flying, and flap my wings, I did!

I didn't meet my roommates, Karen F., Pam V., and Mary C. until I got to Anchorage. But after our meeting in 'Idita-support forum' and decision to room together and share our dream vacation, our communication has been almost daily. I have come to love these women, and even though I was with them only a few days, their excitement and enthusiasm for Alaska, the dogs, the mushers, and the race was inspiring and exhilerating. And, it matched mine! I loved how unique each of our dreams and plans were, and paradoxically how they were similar. When we met, it was as if we had known each other for years. We immediately accepted and made light fun of each other's quirks. What a lovely introduction, and base camp for me to explore the world of the Iditarod from!

That entry into the world of arm-chair mushers was the beginning of an intriguing camaraderie that grew as I absorbed more knowledge of the sport from those on the forums and began reading books they recommended, and checked out sites on Alaska and sled dog racing. I explored musher’s web pages, and learned that many of them quickly answered e-mailed inquiries, and that some Iditarod participants, and many of their family members regularly posted on the forums! Every inquiry I made was met with a warm invitation to explore more, and even many “I look forward to meeting you when you come to Alaska”. After his amazing ‘seemed like a miracle’ win last year, an e-mail to congratulate Lance Mackey was quickly and personally answered by Lance, drawing me more closely into his world. I hadn’t thought, yet, that I would get THAT into it! However, I underestimated the friendliness and approachability of this great community. It may be that in that cold climate, hearts kindle a special kind of warmth and radiance, a need to keep the spirits up through those long dark nights. A number of Iditarod participants posted regularly, choosing their top-ten picks along with many of those that live in places that hardly ever see snow, and will always be arm-chair mushers and wannabes. In this sport, the variables are so great, that even years of race experience leaves one only speculating as to who might be the break-through star, or slowed by a storm. We all have an equal chance of winning that TTP hat! A passion for the sport is the only entry fee, and passion grows exponentially with participation and interaction with the sled dog racing community.

Eventually many of those who started out ‘just watching’ feel the need to be more ‘a part of’, and the world of volunteers beckons us to make booties, contribute time and money to sponsor mushers or dogs, sign up to help with dropped dogs, write ‘blog’ for the blind dog, Rivers, spend a week in a remote, frozen checkpoint to cook for mushers and Veterinarians, and a hundred other ideas to help with no expectation of compensation other than the joy of being part of the Iditarod spirit. I won’t pretend that all goes smoothly in the world where a small tireless group of paid ITC organizers try to herd thousands of volunteers into cooperative service to 95 mushers and nearly 2000 dogs over 1000 miles of land, air, and ice. Patience is tried, and nerves are frayed to the limit, tempers do flair, and there is always some hierarchical shuffling of egos. But, mostly what draws ALL those in the front lines and behind the scenes is an infectious contentedness of being there wedded with a spirit of adventure. To be drawn into the element of the sled dogs and those marvelous mentors who read their minds and their spirits, and blend with them to form a team, that is the lure of the Iditarod.

A bit more now, a tribute to those who give every moment of every day to the care, nurturing, training of those dogs, who learn from legends of the sport, but have to create their own legend, a bond as unique as spirit of each musher, each dog. It intrigued me most, how forthcoming and get-to-able the Iditarod mushers were. I was able to have fairly long conversations with Lance Mackey, Martin Buser, Vern Halter, Sam Detrour, Jessica Royer. It wasn’t just ‘lets be polite to the fans’ talk. There was eye contact, questions back to me, quick exchange of guesses of strategy, and always humorous stories that they never tire of telling. They were totally present, totally in the moment, forthcoming about their humanness, frailties, and with a unique blend of confidence and humility. I have heard that said of Lance a lot, but I found all of the mushers I spoke with to be friendly and approachable. The second day I was in Alaska I attended the vet check. Mushers were very busy talking with vets, getting dogs in and out of their trucks, and wanting to move on. However, most of them, and the Vets, seemed comfortable and at ease including all of the observers in conversations. In similar situations, I might stand back, not wanting to bother or get in the way, but I immediately felt at ease and invited into their world. That feeling was doubled at the banquet, where thousands gathered, and almost no one stayed in their seats longer than to gobble down the food. I had amazing conversations with so many people, that it was like a gathering of all the people I had ever knew in one place! Now this is odd for me. In my own town, I often feel shy in crowds, and struggle to keep conversation going. But here I was, second full day in Alaska, “Oh, there’s Rachel Sclodoris. Hi, Rachel, I’m Jeanie B, I talk to Boo on the forum all the time. Yeah, I wish she could be here, too. How are the dogs doing? Bet it will be awesome running with Joe Runyan. Lucky you. Ok, I’ll give her the message when I get back to my room.” Gee, I just had a conversation with the famous blind musher, never met her before, but it was perfectly comfortable. When I was snowed in at Finger Lakes, I had four days to observe interactions between checkpoint volunteers, mushers, vets, dogs, and observers, in less than pleasant circumstances. Once more, most observers were honored to be there, and gave mushers plenty of room to attend to their dogs and do their chores. Mushers, tired and busy, usually had a smile, and hug, and a complement for each dog, then if time allowed, a few minutes to graciously answer questions they must tire of being asked. You would never know it. They seemed to delight that we were interested in their team. Within the checkpoint camp, which included three tents and two small snow caves, there was an amiable spirit of getting chores done and enjoying being with people who love to talk dogs and strategy and prognostication. It did not seem like work. I so enjoyed talking with and learning from the volunteer Vets. All of them I spoke to were returnees except one, and she said she surely would come back. All credited taking this time from busy and lucrative practices to camp in harsh conditions to their amazement of and respect for the Alaskan Husky! They just love those dogs (take that, PETA!).

I can not ignore the dogs; without them there would be no mushing community. I thought I was prepared for how amazing they are, but I wasn’t. They are so lean and so muscular, and each one so very unique. I loved the lover/hugger ones, the quirky ones, the loud ones, the ‘I’ve done this a million times’ yawning ones, the shy ones, and the antsy ones. But especially, I loved the ones who loved to howl! One evening I sat in the dusk at Finger Lakes with a howling one who did not care to be loved or petted, and howled with him. He loved it, and we took turns and I loved it and we bonded in the moment in a million snowflakes in that great white open. I know he wanted his Daddy, and to be on the trail with his team, but for that moment, we had a howling good time. Several hours later, in the middle of the night when I went outside and looked at the slightly clearing sky, a few stars, and flicker of aurora, I heard him howl, and smiled, and in the far distance, I heard a wolf’s answering howl. Some may complain of being snowed in at Finger Lake. It won’t be me.

The respect between mushers, families, handlers, and volunteers appears to be quite genuine as well. Again, in the harsh environment and strenuous conditions under which keeping a kennel and training a team exist, the role of each of those (and others) is a necessary cog in the wheel, and is not taken for granted. There has to be those who stay home and tend the kennel while ‘boss’ is off enjoying the race. Maybe it is that acceptance that draws us all in, as a constant invitation to that world, that desire to be behind the sled with peacefully adventuresome shush of runners on snow with the breath of the dogs fogging the crystal cold morning air through the wilds of Alaska.

To you who are a part of that community, thank you for inviting me in. I will honor my acceptance.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

WINTERED IN AT FINGER LAKE






March 4, 2008
We packed early the next morning, and some of us packed up some of our excess baggage and mailed it back home. Be prepared to spend more for postage home than for the items sent! Then a quick breakfast, luggage on the bus, and off to K-2 Aviation for our flight to Finger Lake checkpoint. Once again we had a sunny morning and the plan was to fly out to the checkpoint about 10 am and fly back to Anchorage by 4:30 pm. The flight out was in a 4 passenger Otter prop plane with skis for take off and landing. The weather and visibility were great and we flew over wilderness areas with occasional tiny cabins from the homesteading era, craggy mountains in the distance, as we flew further into the interior. We landed in deep snow on Finger Lake. The last 10 minutes of the flight we saw a number of dog teams from the air, some mushing, others stopped along the Iditarod Trail. At the checkpoint, about 15 dog teams were in and resting. We visited with some, asked about trail impressions and how the dogs were doing so far, and got plenty of pictures. Elena and I had a long talk with Joe Garnie (pic below) who said he had gotten enough dog food, finally, but was tired himself and worried about sprained muscles and tiredness in dogs who were not used to 30 degree temperatures and punchy snow.














We tore ourselves away from the mushers long enough to go up to the Winter Lake Lodge for a gourmet lunch, included with our tour. It was a gourgeous and delicious grilled silver salmon on lentils, flavored to perfection with a nice glass of wine. What a heavenly setting, the cedar log lodge nestled among trees on a rise near the frozen lake,. The winter’s snow was piled to the eve troughs of the lodge, and completely covered some of the cabins. I have a picture of a tunnel to the Johnny house, and the view from sitting on the 'throne' below.
At about 2pm, the snow began to fall and the cloud ceiling dropped remarkably. By 3 pm it was announced that the planes could not safely return to get us. One of the planes on the lake tilted and got stuck in the snow trying to take off after one of it’s skis dropped into a deep snow hole. It took a bunch of men and snowmobiles to get it turned around and on the ice runway, and it was the last plane to take off.

I was having the time of my life finding one more awesome spot after another along the Iditarod Trail , within walking distance, to take pictures of the teams coming in or leaving, and trying to get the timing just right. It was fun, too, just finding a big snow drift to sit in, leaning back on my backpack and taking in the grandeur of nature and the teams shushing by out away from the checkpoint.
The whole set of Finger Lakes pics can be see at http://picasaweb.google.com/JeanieB50/FingerLakesIditarod2008

When we got to Finger Lakes, the leaders had already passed and were headed toward Rainy Pass. The trick was to stay out of the musher’s way, yet get close enough to listen, learn, and ask questions when appropriate (and to decide what was appropriate). After we learned we would be spending the night, a group of us went down to the checkpoint and stayed until after dark, watching the last musher's headlamp glistening across the lake on the way around the lake to the checkpoint. One of the last mushers in, around snowy dusk, was Sam Deltour, the rookie from Belgium running Mitch Seavey's puppy team (by the way, he's doing quite well according to IONEARTH). I struck up a conversation with him;and he was eager to share his excitement and upbeat experience on the trail so far. He said he had a media crew that was supposed to be following to film him, but they were delayed because of the storm, so he asked me if I would like to get his camera out of his sled and film him doing his chores. I felt dumb trying to figure out how to use his camera, but got some needed help from Sam. I learned a lot following him through his un-bootying, getting his cooker going, hauling water, heating HIS food in the water before THE DOGS' FOOD, checking and massaging feet legs, answering Vets' questions about a few dogs, and feeding. I filmed for about 15 minutes, I think. What a fun way to learn!

Our group and 5 other stranded race followers are being put up in one large room of the WinterLake Lodge - about 20' x 15'. We have a wood stove in the corner, but no bath or running water. We have to walk quite a way to the outhouse through some snow tunnel/paths. Carl and Kristin, our wonderful hosts, report this is the first time ever a group has been stranded here, and they have owned it since 1973. Just my luck, huh? Kristin is a gourmet cook, trained at the CordonBleu in Paris and they have cabins here and a dog team, snow machines, and a helicopter available to guest who pay LOTS of money to stay here. I heard that guest pay up to $1000 per night to stay here, all inclusive, including flight out. So, we are basically staying here free, but we have to stay out of the way of the paying guests, and of course, few of the accomodtions they can enjoy. However, even though food is limited, and more supplies can't get in if we can't get out, Kristin is doing a superb job of feeding us.

We thought we would get out on Tuesday, but Tuesday morning was more socked in thatn Monday. Most of us are pleasant and enjoying the adventure, but, of course, there are always a few who are noisy grouches, complaining about everything. And, they are the ones sleeping on sofas, while the rest of us sleep on the floor. Monday night was a bit toasty and testy. The wood stove was too hot, and the snoring symphony was challenging to even the easy sleepers. I did not sleep much, and don't think anybody did. One lady, wanting to 'buy herself out of her misery' was on her cell phone before daybreak demanding loudly "a helicopter immediately because we are trapped in a blizzard". Geez, Louise! It takes all kinds. Hers was the only cell phone that worked up there, but I think there was the start of a campaign to see that it stopped working! That was pretty hard to sleep through.

During the night, we heard the last of the mushers leave the checkpoint, dogs eager and barking as they were being prepared to go. I smiled to hear the dogs howl into the night and cherish this opportunity to spend one more night here, sleep or no sleep. The morning was a winter wonderland, and several of us hiked down to a gorge behind the lodge on the Iditarod Trail. Andrea and Colin from New Zealand, and Tom, Cindy, and Harriet from Georgia, were as eager as I to enjoy this incredible opportunity, and we really made the best of it. We then visited with the checkers, volunteers, and Vets, and heard great stories of their adventures throughout the day. One musher, rookie Tom Roig, from Ohio, scratched here, so we have been visiting with him, too. He is sick, was sick even before the start, and very disappointed. He had to scratch on his other Iditarod try, too, and hates so to scratch again.

Now that all the mushers are through, there is cleanup to do, and I helped with gathering and bagging the garbage and used straw. I met Lisa Fredick's husband, David Little (Lisa wrote "Running with Champions" about her own Iditarod run and training with Jeff King - super book). I had lots of conversations with him about race strategy, difference in musher and dog personalities, and life in Alaska. He is a volunteer and does the doggie urine testing, and he loves to tell dog and Jeff King stories. I talked to him for about an hour before realizing who he was - several clues - 1)"has a home in Kodiak and cabin near Denali; 2) has dog named Houston; 3)his wife was out mushing when he tried to call her; and 4)Jeff King is my neighbor". I finally said, "Wait a minute, are you Lisa Fredrick's husband? and he seemed shocked that I would know that. Her book is one of my favorite musher books. He is very proud of her and quite supportive, though does not see himself as a musher. He was a wealth of interesting stories, and I loved it!

By Tuesday afternoon, it's still snowing, and we can't even see trees on the island in the middle of the lake. one plane from Iditarod Airforce flew in in treacherous weather but could only take one Vet out because of the deepness of the snow on the landing area. So, all checkers, Vets, the musher and his dogs, 14 dropped dogs, 14 guests, and 31 followers 'abandoned ones' are still stuck here. The second night we were getting used to it, and were tired enough to sleep through anything. I did not even notice the hard floor. Modesty was gone, and we stripped down a few more layers of clothes to be comfortable, and the comaraderie and making light of our plight helped. We continued to be amazed at the creative ways beans and rice could be served, and began to search out birch branches to chew on in lew of toothbrushes. (There was not a toothbrush, comb, or change of clothes among us!). Trips to the john (6 steps down through a slippery snow tunnel) became old hat, though some of us opted to pee on the Iditarod Trail (a bit closer, and who would know?). By then, it had snowed another several feet, on top of the 20+ feet already on the ground. Step off the trail, and you are up to your armpits, at least.

Wednesday morning brought no relief, and we were getting testy about not being able to find out race progress. There was a computer in the lodge, but it was accessible by paying guests only, so the weathered in radio team from KMBQ got the updates and brought them in 2 or 3 times a day. We then carried them down to the checkpoint, because THEY even had trouble getting updates! To me, that was THE MOST frustrating thing about being weathered in. Of course, I missed my opportunity to fly out to Rainy Pass, but those folks got trapped there, too, so I am fine with MY experience. Wednesday we got news that it may be Friday before we got out. By now, many people had missed their flights home, and because of spring break, airlines were overbooked and they may have to wait until next week to get out of Alaska. The front that 'attacked' us was called a 'pineapple express', a wet system that blows up from Hawaii and carries warmer temps and lots of moisture. Usually in the interior, it's too cold to snow like this, but the temps were in the 20's and perfect recipient of all that moisture. Wednesday afternoon there was slight clearing, and the planes took of to try to get us. We were notified, got ready, were piling onto snow machines to ride out to the landing strip, when we were told the wings were icing and all but one of the planes turned back. Five people got out Wednesday, my not among them. Our tour guide made sure that the grouchy ones got out first, so Wednesday night was really pleasant and we enjoyed playing games and joking about our experience 'bonding'. It was a fun time. We thought about having a major party, but the cheapest wine there was $40 a bottle. We decided a 'sip' of good wine would do it, so we just enjoyed the departure of the whiners. About 10 pm one of the staff informed us the sky was clearing and the Northern Lights were out. We had just gotten into bed, but all jumped up and dressed and went out to view the light display. They were not very colorful that night, but the movement of the lights, and the stars in the wilderness were beautiful. I woke up at 4am for a 'nature call', went out on my own, but the lights were gone and it was somewhat cloudy again. There was one of the dropped dogs who absolutely LOVED to howl. He didn't take to hugs and scratches much, but I found he loved for me to sit with him and howl with him, and I took great joy in that, as well. Standing out in the early, early morning, I heard him howl below me, and smiled, breathed in the cool air, and then way in the distance, I heard a wolf's answering howl. I thought I was imagining things, but then I heard it again, and again. What a gift!!! I am so greatful I am able to listen and be and enjoy. WHAT A GIFT!!!

Thursday morning came, and clearing, and a message that the planes were on their way, again. Again, we all trudged out to the landing strip, along with Vet's leading the dropped dogs to be flown back to Anchorage. We got to the strip, and once again, the planes iced up and had to turn around. This was the 1st time I felt discouraged. I was grungy, my teeth had fur thicker than dog's hair, and my hair was 4 days beyond hat-hair. I can only imagine how grungy the Iditarod mushers get!

We went back to the lodge, had some cereal for breakfast, and finally, at about 10:30, we were told to grab our stuff, the planes were landing. Those pilots are amazing. I have a great respect for them, making those decisions constantly about the ability to get to a spot vs. the risk to life and limb of self and passengers. Finger Lake was a great experience, but I was happy to fly back to Anchorage!

With the grunge finally washed off of me,
JeanieB
,

TALKEETNA

Sunday, after watching the first 60 teams depart, we left for Talkeetna. We got to that little town, the one Northern Exposure was modeled after, at about 4:30. Our motel, using the term loosely, was a narrow hallway with 10’ X 10’ rooms of the of the bar/restaurant. In the hallway from the rooms into the bar was a large sofa, home of the resident black Lab. There was a sign indentifying him as the owner of the bar.

Several of us took a walking tour of the rest of Talkeetna, making a stop at each bar. The natives were friendly and welcoming and a lot of fun. We met Gerald Sousa’s wife and her friends, coming back from the start and celebrating with her friends. We joined them for a few drinks, and she offered to drive us to their “SunDog Kennels” the next morning. Our schedule was pretty full, and it looked like a late night of partying would not lend itself to getting up early to go, so we passed on that opportunity. After our ‘bar tour’, we gathered back at “Latitude 62”, our bar/motel, and joined other tour members for a jovial evening of flowing Alaska Amber and Duck Farts. (There were no little umbrellas in Talkeetna. Sorry, Dilli and Undertakers - private joke for old 'Cabelas' family members). A few had hangovers in the morning, but the fun was worth it. We had some great pizzas at a tiny restaurant. The whole day was a real Alaskan cultural experience.

We never gave it a thought that the next few days we would encounter much more than the tour had planned in the way of Alaskan experience!

Up, Up, and Away,
JeanieB

JEANIE B BECOMES A MUSHER!!!!!!!!!










My lead dogs, Silo and Sweet Pea, and the sled i drove!
JEANIE B’S FIRST MUSHING EXPERIENCE

In the morning, before the race, we went to Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Dog Kennels and home. Vern gave a great presentation on preparing for and experiencing the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest. Vern won the Yukon Quest, and ran in 14 Iditarods. His talk was inspiring; he has a lot of energy and passion. We also got to see Cliff Robinson and his family, nervously making last minute preparations for his Iditarod start today. He was getting jittery and nervous and did a lot of pacing. We got to see his packed sled and his dog line-up, and had lunch with all of them. Cliff could not find his Vet log, and was having a furious searching experience. I suppose he must have found it, as he took off as planned at the restart.

But, the highlight of the day was my first dog sled ride! I got to do the driving , as they had a runner extension on the back and 2 handlebows. The musher/guide was on the front one, behind the basket, and I was on the back ones. My musher, Justin, was doing most of the driving, of course, but he gave more of the option to me as we went along-----when to shift weight to one side to the other (like on a motorcycle, or sailboat), when and how to use the drag brake and how much and when to let up. I even did some kicking going up the hills. I only flew off once, and I remembered to hang on and jump back on the runners fairly quickly. Elena was riding in the sled. It was great fun, and so peaceful, shushing down forest paths, trees loaded with snow. We mushed about 6 miles. When we got back to the kennel, I helped unharness the dogs and put them back to their boxes. My two lead dogs (above) were Silo and Sweet Pea. They were both small black and white dogs, and very lovable and exhuberant. It was a bit difficult, but I even enjoyed that part. The dogs are so strong that you hold them up so their front legs are off the ground, and walk them back on their back legs so that you have better control. Oh, I hope its not the last time I get to do that-----Exhilaration!

As I read this, it does not come close to describing how totally alive and blessed I was to have this experience of a lifetime. I get teary just writing this. The whole trip has been a blast, but this was my ultimate, lifelong highlight. Though it lasted only about 20 minutes, I will always remember the feel of being on the back of that sled, and the quiet shussshhhhh of the runners through the snow, and the dogs breath in the cool morning air, and the forest gliding by in silence. There are no words to describe how blessed I felt to get the chance to do what I have dreamed of for years! I sailed along of an invigorated cloud for days afterward. In fact, I still am!

Now I can truly say, and know what it feels like,
Mush on,
JeanieB

THE RESTART AT WILLOW

Sunday, March 2

On Sunday afternoon we enjoyed the restart in the bright sunshine and almost warm temperatures in Willow. Five of us from the tour found a great spot close to the start where we could take good close-up shots of the musher’s and dogs taking off. The restart is staged on a frozen Lake in Willow. The crowds were amazing and varied, many of them in groups tailgating Alaska style. Parents pulled their kids on sleds, partiers pulled their kegs on sleds. Some families set up tent shanties for ice fishing several feet from the spectator fence. There were campfires, grills, and lawn chairs. Other people were on snowmobiles, loaded down with camping gear, heading farther down the trail to camp and watch the mushers pass. Over to the side of the lake, small planes were taking off and landing. I enjoyed the restart, but there wasn’t as much chance to view the mushers before the race as at the ceremonial start. Maybe my senses were already overloaded as a result of my exciting morning (next post)!

At the restart, things are spread out a lot more than at the ceremonial start, and the area where the mushers were was totally off limits to the public, so there was less 'up close and personal' experiences. However, the excitement of seeing the teams take off, knowing this is for real, and they have a thousand miles ahead of them, made it fun to try to read the expressions on their faces as they took off down the trail. Our tour group stayed at the start for several hours, then headed toward the small town of Talkeetna for the night.

Mush on,
JeanieB

BACK FROM FINGER LAKES DETOUR

Wednesday, March 5
I am finally back after a major detour on my Iditarod dream. Gatekeeper let you know that I got ‘weathered’ in at Finger Lakes checkpoint, about 100 miles (?) from Anchorage, as the crow flies, and 198 miles down the Iditarod trail. Since I missed a lot of days, I will fill in with stories about experiences that are old news now, as far as the Race goes. Sorry for the delay, but this trip is being done by Alaska time! What I will do now is post separate experiences, so you can pick and choose what you want to read.

I wrote all these as I went along, on bits and pieces of paper that I could find, including some on paper towels and toilet paper at Finger Lakes (no kidding!)

Catching up on sleep,
JeanieB

Thursday, March 6, 2008

JeanieB has been stuck at Finger Lake with her tour group. The day trip on Monday has turned into a real Alaska adventure! I imagine she's having the time of her life. I have not heard from her. Let's hope that she gets out. I can't wait to hear about her trip first hand.
I spent a long night in the communications room on Tuesday. Went to bed at 6:00 yesterday morning, and then got a phone call at 8:30 from our stuck in Rainy Pass roommie. She was supposed to fly out home to NJ yesterday, and now needs to rearrange her flight. She wanted me to return her car so that she will not be charged late fees. So wide awake, and back in the dog yard. With the planes grounded, we did not get any dogs in until noon. I'm on my way back out to the dog drop now.
I am attaching a link to the photos taken at the Anchorage Dog Drop Tuesday. We did have a brief lift of the weather and got a few in. Notably, Lance's Hobo came in. All the dogs were in good shape, mostly sore joints or muscles. One girl in heat. and a couple that just were tired enough not to keep up with their teammates.

http://s179.photobucket.com/albums/w291/cujnhoop/2008%20Iditarod%20I/?albumview=slideshow


http://s179.photobucket.com/albums/w291/cujnhoop/Anchorage%20dog%20drop/



Gatekeeper

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Ceremonial Start is Tomorrow

This is what I came for! Tomorrow morning there will be approximately 95 teams of 12 dogs each lined up for blocks up and down 4th street, and on adjoining side streets. The first teams to run will have there dog trucks in the back of the line, so when the dogs and mushers go, the handlers can turn the trucks around and head out of town 11 miles to pick up the dogs are the end of the ceremonial run.

Tonight when we came home, workers were beginning to dump truckload after truckload of snow all the way up 4th Street. I am 1 street down from all of that. There are hundreds of people out there dumping and scooping and putting up crowd barriers, ect. in preparation. They will be working all night. All along the city there are dog trucks parked in parking lots, driveways, side streets, with dogs tied out to the side with there dog bowls for feedings. I am sitting here writing this and can hear the dump trucks and the snow plows working. By 5 am, mushers will begin lining up, getting everything ready, checking and double checking dogs, harnesses, supplies, and nerves, all the while being friendly as possible to all of us idiots who want to borrow a little part of their adventure.

My tour will be leaving Anchorage right after the Ceremonial Start to go to Wasilla to be nearer Sunday's 'Real Start'. So, I have to pack all my bags tonight (again) and have them ready to be picked up and transported to the next leg of my trip. Since I want to be out in the street bright and early, I will get it all ready tonight. This will probably be my last post for a while. I don't know Internet availability in Wasilla or Talkeetna, and besides that the next few days are more packed full than the last few. I will update when possible.

One more tidbit. It hasn't been too cold here until today, but it was cold, foggy, and snowy all day today, and I could feel the temperature dropping. It is supposed to drop more in the next few days, the days I will be outside most of the time. Glad I brought all those layers! They are going on tomorrow. Maybe that way I won't have so much to pack!

Till further down the trail
JeanieB

Some picture of our Adventures

I haven't been successful at getting my pics on here yet, but check out June's (SunHusky's) at
http://backstage-iditarod.blogspot.com/

If you scroll down to 'vet check' pics on Feb. 27th, you will find one of me and my Buds in front of Lance Mackey's dog truck.