This past week, we packed up the entire SP Kennel crew (minus Wendy, the puppies and a few retired dogs) and headed south to the Denali Highway. This highway is not plowed in the winter, so Alaska Route 8, is actually a snow machine and dog team "highway" from November until April. It is 134 miles in length and connects Paxson to Cantwell (two booming Alaska bush communities with populations, 22 and 200, respectively.) We drove to the Paxson side since one of our favorite spots on the highway is only 42 miles from there - Maclaren River Lodge. Susie and Alan always have a camping spot for our dogs, a warm cabin, hot coffee and homemade meals. It's almost like we didn't leave home!
The dog training went well. We ran the first 42 mile leg in the dark and dealt with small snow drifts and 30 mph wind gusts. The dogs acted like pros and pulled us through every obstacle. Even the youngsters who hadn't seen much wind or white out conditions acted professionally.
The next leg was a challenge. Allen and Aliy took two 14 dog teams and broke trail for 28 miles. At times we traveled no more than 4 mph in deep, wind blown snow. These two teams would rotate lead every 30 minutes in order to keep the trail breaking enthusiasm going. It worked great! After a short break, we turned back and "cruised" back over our freshly broken trail. We were pretty happy to be the ones to benefit from this trail breaking endeavor! The same day, Ryne, took the younger dogs down this freshly broken trail. She and the dogs enjoyed the sunshine and gorgeous mountains scenery. Watch this video and you will see the love and joy that these SP Kennel dogs have for their mushers!
The final leg was the 42 mile run back to Paxson. We knew that the Gin Gin 200 Race had started just south of Paxson, but we were told that the route would bypass the highway for the first 8 miles. We were surprised when we passed every race team in the event the last 8 miles of our training run. We knew that the trail conditions were not favorable for a fast race, so we wished all the teams "Good Luck" as we passed.
The Denali Highway, winter or summer, is a magnificent Alaskan place!