Wednesday, November 30, 2005


Yippeeeeee! I got my sled out for the first time since the West Yellowstone race almost exactly a year ago. I was surprised to see new runner plastic on it, but I had forgotten that I was unable to use it all last winter (I was on the ATV instead), and it had only been out for that one race.

This morning dawned unexpectedly sunny as the forecast was calling for a few more inches of snow today. It was horrible windy, though, and everything was badly drifted. The kennel gates drifted shut in a matter of minutes as I worked my way through the dogyard doing chores. Luckily, the snow was fairly easy to kick aside or forcefully open the gate through, but it got increasingly difficult as the day went on.

A trip to the compost pile with the day's gathering of organic waste material finally convinced me to get out the snowshoes. I spent some time tromping back and forth to the poop pile. Of course, it was drifted over as soon as I turned around, but I was at least packing a bit of a firm base underneath. Then I snowshoed out of the yard to pack a trail for the dogs to run on. I thought I might have to do the full mile across the fields, but I was able to find a route over to a packed trail in less than half that distance. I went over it several times to make sure I had a surface that the dogs would want to travel on. My legs are very sore tonight.

Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I was done packing a trail, along comes Mike on his snowmobile. Well, at least I had a trail to point him to. He went off to investigate a route that we would like to use but had not seen yet. When he came back, his snowmobile was reading 16 miles. Snowmobiles always read a little far because the track slips a bit depending on terrain and snow conditions and the throttle habits of the driver, so the actual distance may be 14 or 15 miles. We will try to get a second reading with his other snowmobile tomorrow.

While Mike was snowmobiling, I was hooking up dogs for my first sled run of the year. I put reliable old Fresca and Luna in lead since I had skijored with each of them, so they knew the way to the trail. Behind them I hooked up Blueberry, just because she has been so eager and disappointed not to go every day, and Charge, who is my biggest dog. I thought I might need his power since I was only taking four dogs. That's right, just four. Although the snow conditions are excellent, I did not want to tempt fate in case they got some notion to follow our old ATV route instead of the new trail across the field. I knew I could stop and hold four dogs okay.

The run went smoothly with nary a problem. The snow was soft and deep, but there was just enough of a packed base for the dogs to make steady forward progress and even lope in spots. We only went about four miles. It sure feels great to be back on a sled, and I know the dogs feel the same.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lots of Snow

Whoops, has it been this long since my last post? I had a very nice Thanksgiving. I cooked a full turkey dinner at home. One of the blessings of having a house instead of a travel trailer to live in. The ATV thawed out and has been stored somewhat out of the snow for the rest of the season.

After a week of warm, sunny weather, the snows have started to fall again. It has been snowing and snowing and snowing, day after day. I am happy. The crusty, icy stuff is now covered, so I feel much safer on the skis. Of course, the snow didn't stop there but continued so that everything is well buried and even the skis sink pretty deep. Mike has retrieved his two snowmobiles from the garage in Three Forks, but he seems none-too-eager to actually take them out in the cold and blowing snow. I might have to break out a trail with snowshoes.

Monday, November 21, 2005

More Skijoring

Today I took out Olive, my five year old superstar Siberian Husky leader. Olive is a small girl, but she pulled really well today. Anyone would think she was experienced at this sort of thing. My bruised thigh from yesterday bothered me all night in spite of my wonderful pillowtop bed. Thank heavens I did not fall on it today. I only took a tumble straight forward onto my knees when the skis slowed down on some clumps of dirt. Olive was a little angel and merely kept tension on the line without hammering at it. I think I will be taking Olive out again, just for fun! Her one drawback is that I cannot help her, or she will quit pulling. However, she had no trouble pulling me on the flat, lightly crusted trails I am using.

When I got back with Olive, I decided to take a short run with Current. She has been doing so well as a leader, and she is also very sweet and affectionate with me. Somehow I thought this would translate into a good skijoring buddy. Wrong. She was nervous and freaked out - a normal part of her personality that I had somehow forgotten - and she alternately pulled like mad in a variety of directions or lay down and refused to budge. Finally, I took my skis off and took her by the collar and walked her away from the property and out into the fields. Once we got far enough away, she was willing to continue forward, but after a mile or so, she started turning off into the deep snow and lying down in the trees. I took this as a sign of extreme stress and just wanting out of the situation. Fine, since I wasn't planning to go far anyway. Once we got turned around, she pulled like a maniac. That was to be expected since heading home and back to the dogyard is something a stressed dog always feels good about. I ended the run with a bit of a cuddle, and I hope she will forgive me for putting her through all that stress.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Second Skijor

Today I took another of my experienced leaders out skijoring. Luna is one of my best command leaders, and she is the same age as Fresca - eight years old. Unlike Fresca, she took to skijoring right off. She pulled way harder than Fresca, making me glad that I got my ski legs under me yesterday with Fresca first. The trail goes straight west from my house and crosses an open field for perhaps a mile. Where it enters the trees, there is a choice of turning right for the Sawtelle trail or turning left for the Stamp Meadows trail. Yesterday I turned right with Fresca, so today I turned left with Luna. The Stamp Meadows trail is a road in the summer whereas the Sawtelle trail is a narrower ATV trail.

With my mediocre skiing skills, I was sure glad that the Stamp Meadows trail was smoother and less rutted than the Sawtelle trail because Luna was not going to ease off for anything. I did have to do one controlled fall today when Luna got confused at an intersection and wrapped the line around behind me. There was no stopping her, and so I figured laying down was safer than an uncontrolled crash with the skis going every which way. Unfortunately, the trail was hard packed and icy at that point, so I bruised up my thigh where I landed. Better than a sprained ankle, though.

All in all, I felt lucky to arrive back home (relatively) uninjured, but it really was a lot of fun. It would have been safer if I had gone out in the heat of the day when the snow is soft and slow instead of near twilight when it is turning hard packed and icy. Well, that is something to remember tomorrow since the days are predicted to stay warm and sunny all week, but we are down in the teens every night.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

First Skijor of the Season

Today I went out on my first skijor of the season. Actually, now that I think about it, it was the first time I had skijored since my wonderful old skijor dog passed away four and a half years ago. I took my most experienced lead dog Fresca. She has never skijored before, but I chose her because she is very responsive to me (she is also a house pet), and I want her to learn where the trails are for when I start getting the sled out. With the advent of snow season, new trails open up that cross the cow pastures in order to connect with the forest behind them. These are only open after the cows have been removed around November 1st.

Like most experienced sled dogs, Fresca was not sure what I was up to with the skis and no dog team. She thought maybe this was a play date. After a couple miles, she began to understand that I wanted her to pull and keep going forward on the trail. She pulled nice and steady coming back, and skijoring was just as much fun as I remembered. I think we went four or five miles, but I have no way to measure it until Mike retrieves his snowmobiles, which are still sitting in a storage garage in Three Forks.

Thursday, November 17, 2005


Today I took my cross country skis out for the first time in at least a couple years, maybe more. This is the first place that I have lived where I am able to ski from my front door, which is a truly wonderful circumstance. Since the ATV was "froze up", I decided to get out on skis and check out the trail conditions. It was a warm, sunny day, so I was expecting the snow to be quite sticky, but to my surprise, I was getting wonderful glide. I travelled across the untracked yard, my skis gliding with minimal effort on the crusty, windswept snow. The deep ditch at the edge of the property was completely filled in and packed hard by snowmobile traffic. Unfortunately, it was also a mess of moguls, created by that same snowmobile traffic. I did not go far today as I mainly wanted to see what condition the trail was in. Tomorrow I may scout a little further.

While I had the skis on, I decided to check out my new trees. Most of them are completely buried now, but a few of the taller ones are still visible. Last month I measured the heights of all the new trees so that I can track their growth. Therefore, I was able to use them to gauge the depth of the snow. The average depth seems to be about a foot and a half. Some of the two-foot trees are buried under drifts, and one stretch was only a foot deep. You can imagine from this how much easier it is to get around on skis than to wallow through the yard on foot.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Froze Up

Around here, "froze up" is a common phrase referring to mechanical stuff that isn't working like it should. This term applies equally in the summer as in the winter. For example, someone might say that an engine is froze up, or a bolt is froze up, or the brakes are froze up from sitting too long, or any of a number of parts that should be moving but aren't. I once heard that only two items are needed for doing most mechanical repairs - duct tape and WD40. If something is moving and it shouldn't be, use duct tape. If something isn't moving and it should be, use WD40.

Yesterday, I went out to take a team of dogs for a run, and I found that the ATV was "froze up". Specifically, the throttle cable was frozen. It would not budge one little bit. Some water must have gotten inside the last time it rained, and now it is frozen good and solid. Without that throttle, I dare not run the dogs because the ATV is too heavy to get through some of the drifts on just eight-dog power, and the snow on the trails makes it too dangerous to just run a huge string of dogs since they would be able to slide it along even with the brakes locked. This is a huge inconvenience as I now have no way of training the dogs.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005


It got very cold last night, down to 9 below zero, Fahrenheit. The wind was howling all night, and we were hard pressed to get the house warm. Thank goodness for the electric blanket. This morning the wind died down, and the sun is shining brightly, and the wood stove is overpowering the cold. It is a beautiful day.

The dogs are very playful in the new snow, and the cold weather makes them energetic. One of the dogs was screeching half the night, making the kind of noise that they sometimes do when they can't get anyone to play with them. Holly's pups, who are just a year old, are the usual suspects.

Comet and Abba stayed warm inside the house with their puppies. All the eyes are wide open, and most of the pups can walk on all four legs for a few steps at a time. They cannot see well yet, so they are going through a stage when they don't know what anything is or whether one is a friend or a foe. Lots of cuddle time should show them that humans can be wonderful friends.

Monday, November 14, 2005


This is not the windiest place on earth. It is, however, one of the windier places that you would be likely to see. We have a dog named Windy who is a sister to Rain, Thunder, and Hail. She is an energetic dog, which is a good thing because she can pound down the snowdrifts in her circle. We have gotten another foot of snow to replace what the rain diminished, and now the wind has created some interesting drifts in the dogyard.

Did I mention that it is windy here? The wind is legendary in this particular spot in Island Park. The snow plows go back and forth and back and forth because the wind will drift the snow over the road in the time that it takes the plow to get just a few miles down the road. In fact, there are gates for closing down the highway at either end of the open stretch that we live on because the wind can create dangerous whiteout conditions.

Today was tremendously windy but not really any windier than we are used to seeing here. The snowfall stopped in the early morning but traffic continued to be very slow all day because of the wind which picks up the snow off the fields and blows it across your line of sight. We saw evidence of numerous vehicles which had gone off the road. A tow truck service can be pretty busy in this area!

Monday, November 07, 2005


We still have snow cover. I still do not expect to see bare ground until April. However, it rained all night and turned the snow into a wet, heavy slush. The good news is that it uncovered my wood pile, so I can continue with the job of stacking firewood. The bad news is that it makes the driveway and yard so slick that it is difficult to drive vehicles around. Nonetheless, we were able to move what needed to be moved and park the vehicles in their permanent-until-spring spots.

Our two travel trailers went north today to a less snowy spot in a friend's yard. The warm temperatures had melted any snow on the plowed highway, so we had very good driving conditions with dry roads. That is a good thing when one is towing two trailers behind a single truck. It was a big relief to get that job done because more snow is predicted for tonight and tomorrow. Another foot of snow is likely. We still have a few more things to do before we will really be ready for winter. Sigh.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Snow Cover

We now have snow cover! That means that the ground is covered with snow, and we will not be seeing any more bare ground until sometime in April. I have not measured the depth, and because of the strong winds and drifting snow it is difficult to know what the true depth is, but it is at least twelve inches, and it is hard work to cross the yard on foot. I had to spend the day unburying some of our firewood that had not gotten stacked yet and moving vehicles to accessible locations as well as all the basic dogyard chores. I have still not found all the dog dishes. It seems that some of the dogs don't care enough about their dishes to find them and unbury them for me. The dog houses also had to be broken free and lifted up on top of the snow. This was relatively easy since we use lightweight plastic houses.

The two mother dogs are doing splendidly, and their puppies are happy and healthy. No eyes are open yet, but Sox is starting to show slits and should be open tomorrow. I put two of Comet's puppies in with Abba to even things out a bit. Abba is an excellent mother with plenty of milk, so it didn't seem fair for Comet to be producing milk for six puppies while Abba only had one. Abba knows they are not her puppies, but she is willingly caring for them anyway, and now Sox has some normal, healthy competition at the milkbar.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blowing Snow

They finally got the forecast right. The rain turned to snow sometime during the night, and the wind is howling and blowing snow today. I spent the day doing chores and bringing wood inside to dry and stoking the wood stove. It is not real cold yet, but the howling wind sure makes me shiver. I don't know what the wind chill is, but my hands and feet froze while I was feeding the dogs. The gates into the dogyard were frozen shut, but I managed to chip them free. That is the trouble with rain that turns to snow. I much prefer cold, dry snow; it is easier to deal with. This time of year is the transition period, though, and I should have remembered that. We did not have much of this sort of thing in Three Forks.

I chickened out of running the dogs today. The cold, blowing snow was just too much for me. I will get my nerve up by tomorrow, which is supposed to be windy and snowing as well. I did manage to visit all my new trees. Many of them were flattened by the heavy snow and wind, so I pulled them all upright and did my best to pack snow around the trunks to hold them straight. I expect I'll have to do it again tomorrow. Once the snow is deep enought to cover them, I will be able to forget about them until spring.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

New Month

Time has really flown by since I moved here. It seems there is barely enough time to get the normal chores done let alone all the stuff involved in settling in to a new house. Today I was so busy stacking firewood and fixing dog chains before the next wave of rain and snow hits, that I did not have time to run any dogs. Yesterday I ran Holly's puppies along with Robin and my favorite leaders Charge and Current. Previously I had been using Switch and Breaker (sisters to Charge and Current) to lead Holly's puppies, but Breaker was starting to show signs of stress about leading, so I decided to change the lineup a little.

The cows have all been removed from the pastures around here. They get moved every year to a less snowy spot for the winter. The barbed wire fences have also been laid on the ground so that snowmobilers cannot hook the wires with their skis. I noticed a green-treated fence post that has been lying all by itself along my trail, and I planned to pick it up on my way back to the yard, but as I was returning with the team, I plumb forgot and passed it by without thinking. If the predicted snow does not cover it, I will pick it up on my next training run. It may be useful for stringing a picket line or for snubbing off sleds.

There was no snow on the ground today, but snow is predicted overnight. It is raining while I am writing this.