Monday, May 29, 2006

Dang Gopher

I had one native mountain ash seedling left over after planting for the pups, so I put it in a prominent spot in front of the house. The next day a dang gopher had nipped off the top. I knew it was a gopher because he left his calling card - two turds. The top bud had been in the process of leafing out, and the little baby leaves were just lying on the ground next to the sad looking stem. Perhaps they smelled good but tasted bad?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Planting 'Em

Not everything that gets planted is a plant. Now that I am home and the ground is thawed, I must face the unfortunate task of burying the puppies who died of parvo. They have been residing in a freezer waiting for spring.

My intention was to plant a tree or shrub for each pup, and my new seedlings arrived this week. The tree I chose to plant by each burial plot was the Native Mountain Ash (Sorbus scopulina). This tree produces colorful orange berries that are eaten by robins and other birds. I wanted something attractive to robins to commemorate my puppy Robin. Smoke, Kindling, and Spark also got a mountain ash each, but I do not intend to ever turn their trees into firewood, so they will have to be content with attracting birds instead.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

New Growth

The lodgepole pines are starting to grow! The new growth is brown to start with.

This one is growing a baby pine cone.

The aspens are leafing out.

Aspens grow multiple trees from a single, extensive root system. This is known as a clone. All the trees in one clone will turn the same color at the same time in the fall, resulting in a dramatic display. However, in the spring, the stems all leaf out at different times depending on their size. The smallest stems will leaf out last of all. Here is one that is just budding out.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Planting Time

I am back home, and there is not a speck of snow left anywhere on my entire property. This means that it is time for planting things! While I was in Ohio, a friend gave me a Siberian Iris plant. I decided to plant it with Cody's ashes. Cody was a special little one-eyed cat who died five years ago at the age of 14 years.

A good friend in Montana gave me a Gooseberry plant. I planted Scrooge's ashes with this one. Scrooge was an excellent lead dog who died of lymphoma (cancer).

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cain Ridge To Whitetail Ranch

I put Fresca and Current in lead for this section of the race. Fresca is great with commands, and Current is built for speed, so I figured this would be a good combination. I was right. We fairly tore up the trail leaving Cain Ridge. The trail wound through an area with houses before going through a culvert under highway 200 back to the north side. The snow was thin and icy, and it seemed like we were going through people's back yards at times, but Fresca never missed a turn as I hung on for dear life. Once on the north side of the highway, the snow got deeper and the trail less curvy, so I was able to relax a bit. We picked up a regular snowmobile trail heading west.

It was still twilight when we went past the back of two-time Beargrease winner Cliff Wang's kennel. He and his family were out watching the teams go by, and he had a nice word and a wave for me. We also went past four-time Iditarod winner Doug Swingley's kennel, but only near enough to hear the dogs, not near enough to see anything. It may have been feeding time as I have been by there before without hearing anything, but this time there was no mistaking it.

The trail at that point began the climb up over Huckleberry Pass. My team was still relatively fresh but did slow down some for the long, long climb to the pass. Another team passed me while I was snacking the dogs. I was stopping every hour or two to give them some meat snacks. After cresting the pass, there was a fairly steep downhill for eight miles, and I caught the other team and passed them. We were most of the way down when we passed a second team. Upon reaching the bottom, the trail headed across an open area for a couple miles, and the checkpoint lights were within sight. I could see the headlights of the two teams behind me, but I had gained perhaps a quarter or half mile of distance from them.

To reach the checkpoint, the trail crew had marked a wide sweeping turn that would head the dog teams across a field straight into the checkpoint. Unfortunately, the trail they had broken out had been completely obliterated by wind and fresh snow so that there was no sign of a track. To follow the markers, the dogs would have to go up over a tall berm and then wallow across the field in deep, bottomless snow. It turned out that there were only three or four teams in front of me, and they had all missed the turn and ended up reaching the checkpoint via the plowed road that the dog trucks came in on.

Jason Barron, who was a handler for another team in this race, wondered what went wrong at the turn, so he had walked out along the trail. As I approached him, I could see the markers diverging from the packed trail, and I could also see that no other dog teams had followed the markers. The field was unblemished by any tracks. Jason wanted me to break trail so that the rest of the teams would follow the correct route into the checkpoint, so he pulled my leaders up the berm and pointed them across the field toward the distant lights. To my amazement, my leaders headed off bravely, wallowing in the deep snow, with the whole team pulling me and the sled directly past each set of markers until we reached Whitetail Ranch. I looked back to see the two teams behind me successfully navigating in my wake.

Mike had snowshoed out a nice spot in the trees for my dogs to rest. Kit rubbed the algyval liniment on their wrists to prevent soreness, and I put the neoprene wrist wraps on to keep the joints warm. I put out food and water for the team. A few of the dogs did not want to drink their water, but they drank it later after a nap. We covered the dogs with blankets, and I headed into the checkpoint building for a bite to eat and a nap of my own. They were cooking wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches inside, and there was a nice couch to sleep on.

There was a mandatory four hour layover at Whitetail, and they were also supposed to tack on extra time to account for the staggered start and to account for everybody's time on the Rimini to Deerlodge leg. Nobody had calculated these times beforehand, so I did not know when I would be allowed to leave. The Race Marshall was attempting to calculate all the times on the spot, but it was taking a long time. When I got up from my nap, they finally had the times calculated, and I would be the second team allowed to leave.

Nobody wanted to be the first out of the checkpoint and have to break trail, and some teams wanted to rest longer than the minimum anyway. I figured it was early in the race and my dogs were not as tired as they would be later, so I wanted to go on to the next checkpoint and take a longer rest there, but I did not want to break trail to get there. I was still debating this when my required rest time was completed, but after getting some good information that there at least was a visible snowmobile track to follow, I decided to head out. I left the Whitetail checkpoint leading the pack!

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Last Run

The snow is melting rapidly. We are down to two feet in most places. Here is a ground squirrel in the back yard where we still have three feet of snow.

Some strips of bare ground have opened up, releasing all sorts of critters.

The puppies went out on their fourth run today. Sox was in wheel with her mother, Abba, on this run.

This will be my last run on the sled. I am going to Ohio for my sister's wedding and will not be returning for two weeks. I expect much if not all of the snow will be melted by the time I come back.

It was a lot of fun while it lasted!