Saturday, March 24, 2012

Spring Cleanup

It seems that Spring is here to stay, although we'll probably get some more snow. Our trails have been melted for about a week now. Last year we still had useable trails on March 28th.

Today two helpers were here undertaking the huge task of removing the winter straw from pens.
They did a great job and only have three pens left to tackle next Saturday. We leave the straw in the houses for a bit longer.

We also had our first wood tick today. It appears that Spring isn't kidding, it's here. Trees and bushes are budding, grass is growing, ground squirrels are tunneling, dogs are digging craters.

We also started hauling boulders today to fill the freshly dug and tunneled holes.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

80 degrees, March 21, the seventh day over 60

All snow, even in the valleys, has melted on our trails. It's 80 degrees at 6PM.
There are rumbles and underground shiftings in Clintonville, WI, about 130 miles away.
Is it weather related, they're wondering. Whatever it is, this is a crazy month of March.

Also, the trails which are usually deep mud at this time are almost completely dried out.
Ordinarily we couldn't run teams in April because of mud. Not so this year, but it's too warm!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Bank Sign, March 20

Iron Mountain, MI.... March 20, 2012 80 Degrees

Just doesn't look right, but it is.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

March Weather

On the 29th of February we received 20 inches of snow. We trudged through and groomed it all for trails. Last weekend we ran dogs on the trails, expecting it might the last time for the winter as the temps sored to mid 50's that day. We did not expect the week ahead in which we would continue a HEAT WAVE that, in one week, has completely obliterated trails. This is the first time in 18 years that we have not had a trail into April, at least the packed portion.

It is 5:44 AM and it is already 50 degrees on March 18th. We are expecting 79 degrees today.
Uh, this is Wisconsin, this is March, this is surreal.

The good part of it is that we have not had time to dig trenches for draining because they have made themselves. Except for some very shaded sections, almost all of the pens are snow free.

Melting does nothing for the straw though, so that project will be almost two months early this year. Global warming?? who knows. We do know it very out of the ordinary.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Aliy Zirkle, how we met

We first met Aliy after having read the book YUKON ALONE, by John Balzar. He depicted Aliy and her dogs in her first Yukon Quest. We were so interested after this book in meeting Aliy that we tracked her down, at the banquet of our first Iditarod, where she flashing her great smile . We asked her if she would take us on the Iditarod Trail with dogs on a trip at some point. She said, yes, we'll be in touch.b Imagine my excitement!! The following November we were able to travel to Two Rivers, AK, to Aliy's kennel and with Aliy and her sister, Kaz, and another gal, Eunice Thaeler, we spent a week of intensive learning every aspect of sled dogs and driving teams in the afternoons. There could be no sounder grounding in sled dogs than with Aliy. If you want to learn about sled dogs or go on a trip with sled dogs, be sure to contact Aliy and her husband, Allen Moore, for their spring adventures. It will be a highlight of your life.

At that time we had also made arrangements to pick up an older leader from Susan Butcher's kennel to take back to our kennel team. The phone rang at Aliy's and she looked at me quizzically as she handed the phone to me, "It's Susan Butcher for you," she said. Susan wanted to arrange a time for meeting and I said, "Well, we were planning a camping trip, but it's thirty below zero, I don't know if we'll go."

Susan Butcher said, "If I know Aliy, you'll be going on your trip." And, of course, we did and it was the highlight of a great week with Aliy and her dogs and a glimpse into the incredible woman who now has come in second in Iditarod. Susan paid Aliy a high compliment and we enjoyed the
amazing opportunity of going to Susan's kennel, the next day, with Aliy and Kaz. Why didn't I have a camera. Two legacies of mushing together. I took a quick ride with Susan in the predawn hours (still cold out here, she put more clothes on me, they were David's)... we had a great ride and I chose Liller as the dog to retire with me. It was the right choice. Liller had run Iditarod, and she was as tough headed and responsive as any dog I'd ever known before, a perfect gee haw command leader, as long as she liked you.

AND the joy of this continues... I had seen a retiring Quest leader in Aliy's yard... didn't know it at the time... but it was wonderful Skinny. His human, Jerry, had sadly died and Skinny had been injured, he wouldn't be racing any more Quests. I saw him (he looked like my first dog from Susan) and I said, "OH, I like that dog!" Aliy said, "Then we have to talk". Skinny did come home with me, he did go with us to Susan's kennel, Susan did agree he looked like Scuba and the rest is history. We bred Skinny and Liller and those are our current day racers, the pups. Skinny and Liller raced on numerous teams for our kennel as well.

We are currently rereading Balzar's book to refresh our memory. Skinny and Martin are both mentioned in the book, but we didn't know they would become our dogs the first time we read it.

What a trail that would take us down, meeting her, learning from her and now Susan's baton is passing to Aliy as the first woman since 1998 to lead for much of the race and then to place second. The media did not keep up well with Aliy in this race, but we did and
we are not surprised. Her dogs will return with her nexgt year and we'll be on board to cheer. We have much gratefulness to Aliy Zirkle and to Susan Butcher, comparable and top in their field.

My first dog from Scuba came as a result of reading MUSHING MAGAZINE and Skinny from
Balzar's book. We highly recommend reading , ha ha !! :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Congratulations to Aliy and Dallas, a Racing Pair!

What a great race, Aliy, second place, Iditarod and Dallas Seavey, first place. You certainly kept us interested out here in cyber
Great dogs, great drivers! Enjoy your accomplishments and catch up on some rest, for
a rematch next year!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Go, Aliy!!

The final showdown is about to take place on Iditarod Trail... Aliy and Dallas are neck and neck, both at rest in Elim at this moment, per GPS, with the delay in reporting I suspect they're both out of there. It's 46 miles to White Mtn where they take the mandatory 8 hour rest.
This IS the grandest Iditarod we've watched and we LOVE that Aliy has been the frontrunner most of the way. Go, Aliy and great dogs!!!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Aliy out of Ruby

Dogs looking strong, Aliy is out of Ruby, the only team out of Ruby. This means her dogs are doing well (as that's how she runs, listens to the dogs). It also means that the mushers resting for 8 hours in Ruby are getting that mandatory out of the way. Will Aliy take hers in Galena? Possibly, probably? They of course can pass her there, as she rests, but her dogs were able to go and she kept going.
It is a treat to see her leading, checkpoint after checkpoint, and showing how mighty she and her team are. Of course, we also know that there's still a lot of circumstance in a race like this... as she knows, buffalo, moose, etc. We're not forgetting the other great mushers running the race, just showing our loyalty to Aliy for the job well done already.

Thunderstorms and 70? next week, please be kidding

Why go South? it's been warm all winter. We 've done a great job of getting runs and we have hopeful snow this morning, about 3 inches. However, tomorrow will be 53 degrees and it only gets worse for the whole week coming up... up to 60 several days possible and thunderstorms.
What a crazy winter. We are going to try to run a team early tomorrow morning but it will have to be early, the snow will be too punchy for dog feet after 10AM.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Aliy's Iditarod to date

Aliy Zirkle just left Takotna after her 24 hour mandatory rest there. It is a great place to go but this week seemed packed. Since Aliy had arrived first I see she got a nice quieter spot for her dogs to sleep. She left Nutmeg behind, a perennial favorite who has done herself proud over the years, so Aliy now has 15 strong dogs .

Aliy's bib is 14 so she had to add 104 minutes to her 24 hour mandatory, allowing her to leave Takotna at 1:16 AM. Although Mitch Seavey had arrived quite well behind her, with the bib adjustments he left first out of Takotna 24's, just three minutes ahead of her.

There are two more mandatory rests out there... one 8 hour on the Yukon River and one 8 hour mandatory in White Mountain.

The race is ON and Aliy is looking GREAT.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Recipe for Impassable Trails

Start with 20 inches of snow in one day. Pack the trails as best we can. Temperature of 57 degrees. Walk (fall through) the packed trails (humans, dogs, deer, turkeys). Rain, rain, rain.
Combine all of the above: impassable muscle tearing trails (humans, dogs, deer, turkeys).

A BIG MESS. We still have people wanting to drive sleds, so will we have a red lantern for the season? stay tuned, send cold air and snow.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Stretching Winter

We had great help putting the trails in, by Tim, after the 20 inch storm. Today Katie and Jeanne took three runs... the dogs' heads had to get around some new routes and in the process gave Jimmy who was handling some good exercise. Jeanne photographing also lost her footing in the process, but we had a nice day and the trails were beautiful, dogs HAPPY.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Photo Fun

Lengthening icicles are an experiment in color:

Iditarod Fever

As always, whether we're in Alaska or on our computer at home in Wisconsin, we catch the Iditarod fever and follow it from start to finish. The ceremonial start is in Anchorage today, the mushers have riders in their sleds and travel about 12 miles to let the crowds view their teams.
Then they box up and drive to Willow for the restart (or real start) on Sunday. Then they're off across Willow lake and into the wilds of Alaska for the next nine to 17 days or so, meeting all of the challenges of the trail. If you want to watch , for sure check Aliy Zirkle's blog, for updates and always check which has additional viewing advantages for subscribers, but some freebie info as well. Check the social media sites for various Idita-fan sites. It will be a very competitive race. Large snows in Alaska have made the trails very snow covered and I'm sure there will be challenges of many types along the 1049 (or so) miles. We give our special good wishes to Aliy Zirkle and Ryne Olson from SPKennel.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


20 inches of wet, heavy snow, whew. Finally, it stopped. Three of us tried the Skandic on the trails and three of us buried it, almost... we got out, but it's crazy out there. At this moment it would appear that our bar trail is buried for the winter. Weather next week to be in the high 40's so that will add a new dimension to this mountain of tough to manage snow.

The good thing: all of the pens are chopped out, the houses all have fresh straw and the dogs are able to get out and about , running. They do have to make new running trails, but that they enjoy.