Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wes and Wendy's Weather - Final Edition

Wes and dog team on the Atigun River
Wendy and I are recently back from a camping trip along the Atigun river in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Aliy and Allen were there a few weeks ago, having braved temperatures of 40 Below. Out trip was just the opposite.  We struggled with the heat; with daytime temperatures getting up to 50 degrees. It was really nice for humans but very difficult for the dogs and sleds. In these temperatures, the trail turned into glare ice and gravel. Breaks were required every few hundred yards for the dogs to cool down. The dogs spent most of the time resting in the sun rather than running up and down trails. It was Wendy and my first time above the Artic Circle and was a "once in a lifetime" trip for us. A big Thank You to Judy and Devon Currier who invited us along on their annual Arctic Caribou hunting trip, and making it possible to go!  We are so glad that Allen and Aliy had enough confidence in the development of our dog and sled skills to let us take their dogs on this camping trip. It was an experience we'll never forget!

Malibu the Watchdog
  One incident of note was the preparation of the canine accommodation. We strung out cables with necklines between two willow scrubs just behind our tent so that we could be close to our dogs and keep an eye on them. This was my first time doing this but it went well and pretty soon all the dogs were lying out on the snow snoozing in the sun. I had heard that you are supposed to dig small holes for the dogs so they can curl up out of the wind. I proceeded to grab a shovel and dig out nice comfortable holes for the dogs. My efforts were met with looks of disgust and disdain. Tony was so appalled by my handiwork that he pulled himself as far away as his neckline would allow and looked as if someone had just tried to take his temperature. Pretty much all of the dogs snubbed my holes and treated them like personal outhouses. 

Hank relaxing on his blanket
 It's fascinating to see the different personalities of all the dogs. We've gotten to know them quite well-- drama queen Olivia, shy Kipper, model Honda, huggable Mac, kissy Cutter, groaning Elsa (she literally groans when you rub her ears!), dancing Happy, and of course our personal favorite, Hank.  In October, Aliy gave us the task of turning  four year old Hank into a "PET" dog. He had a wrist injury from last season that never quite cleared up. Aliy decided it was best for him to retire from sled dog racing and not risk making it worse.  Hank has come a long way in the 6 months we have had him. He is fully housebroken, and sleeps on his blanket beside the bed.  He would love to sleep on the couch if he was allowed, and enjoys his rare visits to the foot of the bed when he gets invited up.  Hank is a quiet dog, and very docile; getting along with all his kennel mates very well. He does love to run free outside, and has some difficulty coming back when he is called. He loves his treats though, and can usually be lured in by the promise of a treat and nap time on the people bed. We have successfully turned him into a house dog, and he is now looking for a "Forever" home with a gentle human who would like a calm canine companion that tends to hog the bed!

Wendy enjoying the view of Brooks Mt. Range
Looking back, it seems just a few weeks ago that we started our first edition of Wes and Wendy's Weather. For those of you who may recall, Wendy and I arrived at SP Kennel from Washington DC last October not knowing the difference between a Tug Line and a Main Line. Our objectives for the year were to:  
  • learn how to survive an Alaskan winter
  • learn how to run a dog team
  • help a musher have a successful season
  • see as much of Alaska as possible
  • make acquaintances that we can call friends for the rest of our lives
I think everyone can agree that we hooked up with the right kennel to make this happen. It makes us so proud that this Kennel has had such a successful year and that the many hours we spent on sleds and in the dog yard helped make this happen.

Arctic Oven Tents at Campsite on Atigun River
 So what is next for Wendy and Wes? Well, we are planning on spending the summer seeing as much of Alaska as we can in our little truck camper. During the summer, Wendy and I will be looking for jobs that we can start in the fall. We are hoping to head back overseas to resume our International Development work. We don't know where we will end up but some options are Haiti, Nepal, and Myanmar.

Wherever we end up, we will still take some of our vacations in Alaska and hope to be able to hook back up with SP Kennel and see our amazing human and canine friends again. Thanks to everyone who has followed our posts and next year we will join you in searching our Inbox for the latest SPKennelDogLog updates.
---Wes and Wendy

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Aliy Cam" Wrap up

During Iditarod 2012, Aliy was contending to win. Yet, she still wanted to share the amazing Iditarod Trail with family, friends and fans. Hopefully, the 2012 "Aliy Cam" showed the SP Kennel Red Team as they truly were ...

... an incredibly hard working, dedicated union of dogs and human. This bond between dog and human is hard to describe and sometimes hard to understand. Dog is truly man's best friend, but the dedication and determination that these SP Kennel dogs have towards their musher is "over the top". We at SP Kennel, appreciate this dedication and hold it close to our hearts. Not just any individual could do what the Red Team did. They are a special breed of athletic, competitive spirits that simply never give up and want to compete.

The Iditarod Trail was a great adventure for our Alaskan Huskys as well as our musher. We hope you enjoyed a glimpse of it with 2012 "Aliy Cam"!

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" The Blueberry Hills

In this video, Aliy and the Red Team are on the coast, running over the Blueberry Hills between Unalakleet and Shaktoolik, overlooking the frozen Norton Sound. Aliy was first into Unalakleet, but out second behind Dallas Seavey. As you can see, the dogs look fantastic as they keep their heads down and power on!
Note: All good things must come to an end... This is the final video in the 2012 Iditarod "Aliy Cam" series! (Everybody howl now!)

Monday, April 16, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" The Yukon Part Two

Sunrise on the Yukon River is a pretty special sight. This video shows how crisp the morning was as the sled bag is frosty white and so is Biscuit's back (in wheel on the right.)
Aliy hadn't been taking videos, so as she begins to talk to the camera many of the dogs look back and wonder, "Who the heck is she talking to now?" She notices this immediately and that's the reason for the many "Come on dogs!" that you hear. She needs to reassure the dogs that she is still focused and part of the team even though she "talking to someone else".

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" The Yukon Part One

The race strategy for the Red Team was to travel the Iditarod trail in equal runs after leaving the Takotna Checkpoint. That way the dogs and Aliy could settle into a comfortable and consistent run/rest schedule.

This however, required the team to camp along the trail instead of using the checkpoints. Aliy has always been comfortable camping with her team whether it is 30 degrees above zero or 30 below. So, the team passed through Ophir Checkpoint, camped, then passed through Cripple Checkpoint, camped, then passed through Ruby Checkpoint on route to Galena Checkpoint.

This video finds the team traveling down the mighty Yukon River after leaving Ruby.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" Mushing toward Cripple

There are times on Iditarod when the Alaska wilderness in completely breathtaking.

This is one of them.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" Ramblings of a Musher

From the start in Willow, there was always a lot of fresh snow on the 2012 Iditarod trail. The gamble that a team in first place makes, is that it must break trail through all of this fresh snow and use a lot of "dog energy" doing so. Then, the rest of the teams have somewhat of a "beaten path" to follow and perhaps use less "dog energy". But, if you are not in the lead.... well, quite simply.... you are not in the lead. So, when Aliy left Nikolai following her race schedule, it also happened to be in lead.

In this video, the dogs in lead (Quito and Beemer) are often stepping into snow drifts that were 6 inches deep. The wheel dogs (Viper and Bonita) had 14 dogs in front of them packing down a trail and you can still see how deep their paws sink in the snow.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" Mushing through the Dalzell Gorge

Third in the 2012 series is a video starting at the top of Rainy Pass and ending five miles from the Rohn Checkpoint. It's a wild ride by dog sled. Hope you enjoy!

There a few scenes in this episode that show how challenging it truly was for Aliy to hold the camera, drive the sled and video.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" Rainy Pass

The second day of Iditarod is always breath taking as dog teams mush through the Alaska Range Mountains. Aliy and the Red Team left the Rainy Pass Checkpoint on Puntilla Lake at 3:28 PM on a snowy afternoon. This video shows the climb up through the mountains to the Rainy Pass summit.

The video does not do justice to the steep angle which the the team is actually climbing. It is also deceiving because the dogs keep up an amazingly fast pace as they climb towards the summit. You can see how they finally slow down to a slow "trudge" as they are only feet from the actual summit.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Iditarod 2012: "Aliy Cam" Iditarod Enthusiasm

This video is the first of the 2012 "Aliy Cam" series. She was able to record several sections of the Iditarod that she hadn't recorded before. This first video is just the start (so to speak).

If anyone can tell what the sign says "Aliy Zirkle ???????????" in the video, we would love to know. These folks were nearly 50 miles from the start, so they probably set up this "Aliy Fan Bonfire" pretty early in the day.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Great Fans!

We have some of the best dog sponsors and fans in the world.

Thank you to everyone for the cards, gifts, smiley faces and general greetings to the SP Kennel mushers and dogs. It is only now, after a long racing season, that we have begun to see how much support and DOG LOVE was out there rooting for us during the race.

The SP Kennel Iditarod Wrap up is this week. Look out for several "Aliy Cam" Iditarod videos and a seasonal summary. (2012 Iditarod Trail Notes will still take some time however.)

Once again ..... THANKS for being there for us!!

One of many Congrats Cards for the SP Kennel Dogs.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Springtime is threatening, but....

SP Kennel has been a buzz since returing from the North Slope. Even though, Aliy and Allen seem to be winding down from the long season; Ryne, Wes and Wendy still have "mushing on their minds".

Ryne and a good friend are headed for an overnight camping trip with several dog teams this weekend. Then Wes and Wendy are headed north on a mushing adventure with some good friends of SP Kennel. It seems that no one wants to hang up the harnesses yet.

Mismo is 8 months old are ready to rumble!

It's April 7th and we are still dog mushing....

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

North Slope Mushing Adventure Trip Summary

Allen, Aliy, the dogs and four "hardy souls" just finished their week long Mushing Adventure Trip. The conditions were perfect for dog mushing - with plenty of snow and ice - but with those conditions came some brutally cold temperatures. All of us managed to stay "warm" despite the fact that night time temperatures were down to 40 below at times. (Needless to say, the dogs are happy to be back in Two Rivers lazing in the sun on their dog houses at 20 ABOVE now!)

The Aliy Cam still worked despite the cold, so we were able to capture some of the adventure.