Monday, July 31, 2006

New Growth

In spite of the hot weather, the new plants are putting on new growth. This growth is happening so late in the summer only because of how late they were planted.

Here is a blue spruce with some bright new growth. The other blue spruces are putting out much greener growth. This species has a lot of variation in color.

The red maple puts out new little red leaves which turn green as they mature.

The Rocky Mountain maple is putting on quite a show with its bright red stems. The undersides of the leaves are red, too.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Whitetail Ranch To Seeley Lake

It was the middle of the night when we headed off bravely on the trail to Seeley Lake. I was fervently hoping that there really was a snowmobile track to follow and not just a drifted over expanse dotted with infrequent, reflective markers. Luckily, there was a track - soft and narrow, but clearly visible. The dogs did not mind wallowing a bit on soft snow as long as they knew where to go, so morale was very good.

The run was not entirely without its frustrations. In one spot, the trail came out of the trees, crossed a meadow, and went back into the trees. Many snowmobile tracks crisscrossed the meadow, and the dogs got confused about which track we were supposed to be on. They repeatedly veered off onto the wrong track, and then we would circle around aimlessly while I tried to direct them back to the correct track. This was compounded by the fact that I could not actually pick up the opening in the trees with my headlamp, so it was hard to convey to the dogs the direction that I thought we should go. Finally, I walked the leaders down the track far enough to where their superior night vision picked up the opening through the trees, along with a trail marker, and they surged ahead with renewed confidence.

I breathed a sigh of relief when we traversed the last of the open country and reached the system of well-defined logging roads. I knew that even if the trail was drifted over, it would still be obvious where it went. Of course, I had not reckoned on there being a missing trail marker. For a short distance, the trail ran along a plowed logging road. There was no danger of traffic in the middle of the night, and it had not been plowed down to the gravel, so the sled runners glided along without restriction. The dogs loved the hard, icy surface, and we zipped right along.

We were heading down a long hill when my leader Fresca suddenly turned off the road onto a broad trail that headed up to the right. There were no trail markers or arrows of any kind, but the intersection looked sort of familiar to me, even in the dark. I had only been on this trail once before, but Fresca had been on it twice, and I trusted her judgement. I allowed the team to proceed, but I kept an eagle eye out for markers. After a long way with no markers, I looked at my watch and set a time limit for continuing on that route. When I reached my time limit with no sign of any markers, I reluctantly turned the team around. This race course is always superbly marked, and there should never be that long of a stretch with no markers. Turns are always marked on the approach, at the intersection, and immediately after so that you know you made the right turn. I intended to examine the intersection to see if there was any chance that the markers had been knocked over.

I was almost back to the intersection when I encountered another team. Barrie Raper, who had been the second team to leave Whitetail Ranch, was coming up the trail. She was snacking her dogs when I came upon her, and she asked what the heck I was doing. I explained the absence of markers on the trail and at the turn. She affirmed that she had not seen a marker at the turn, either, but she insisted that she knew this part of the trail extremely well, having trained on it, and we were definitely on the correct trail. She helped me turn my team around, and we headed back uphill. It was great to get her help as it is difficult to turn 11 dogs around without a bunch of tangles, and it had taken me a couple minutes to fix the tangles when I turned around the first time.

It was a long, long, long time before I saw a race marker. What a relief to finally see one! I felt really bad that I had made the dogs go back and forth and run those extra miles, not to mention the loss of time. They were jogging along nice and steady but with less pep than before, and I figured they were feeling a little tired and perhaps a bit discouraged, just like myself. It was not long before Barrie Raper passed us although we kept her in sight until John Barron came up behind. He passed us both, and then Barrie's team sped up, and we were on our own again.

We were getting quite close to Seeley Lake by this point, and the team's slow down was not entirely due to being tired. I was riding the brake a lot for the sake of Luna. At almost nine years old, she just couldn't keep up with this speedy, young team anymore. She was still pulling hard on the uphills, and her gait was perfect, but I could see that she was getting more and more weary trying to keep up on the flat and the downhills. I decided that I would drop her as soon as we got into Seeley Lake so that she could immediately go into a cozy, straw-filled dog box for a long, well-deserved nap. Although she was my best command leader, I knew I would be okay without her, and I just couldn't ask her to keep running at this speed.

While Luna had been a bit slow right from the first day, I had really expected the team to be going slow enough by this point in the race for Luna to fit right in. The team was exceeding expectations. Dawn was breaking as we dropped down from the high country into the little town of Seeley Lake. We were in third place!

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Race Picture

I am about to start up my race tales again. I am in the middle of the Race To The Sky tale and will pick up where I left off. If you need to review, check the archives for February, March, April, and May. Here is a picture that is a little out of sequence. It was taken as we were coming in to Deerlodge at the end of the first leg of the race on February 4th. Fresca and Current are in lead, and Ghost is in the sled although you can't see him because he is inside the sled bag.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Rose is a retired sled dog, full time housepet, and hiking companion. She also goes along to the races to keep the handlers company. This year her son Gravity, who looks just like her but much bigger, was on my race team.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hot Weather

I can't really complain since other parts of the country are so much hotter than here, but we've been going through a real hot spell. It's been in the '80s and even topped 90 degrees a couple times. Keeping cool becomes a priority.

Rose says a trip to a high mountain lake is just the ticket!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Random Flower Picture

There are many wildflowers on my property. Some bloom for a short time, perhaps just a few days, while others are in bloom for most of the summer. Here are some white flowers that were in bloom for a week or two. They grew right at ground level with some scattered about and some forming brilliant clumps that would rival any flowering dogwood.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Random Dog Picture

Here is a random dog picture. This is Current, a five year old leader. Current is a shy dog but very bonded to me. She led for most of the Race To The Sky and the Canadian Challenge this year, and this was the first year that I had put her in lead during a race.

This is her mother Mary who is 12 years old and retired now.

Here is Current's father, the world famous Peppy, owned by four-time Iditarod champion Doug Swingley.

Finally, here is a picture of Current from five years ago.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Happy Birthday America

This is the day that we celebrate the birth of the United States of America. So, Happy Birthday, America.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Empty Nest

The chicks have all flown the coop. Every nest is empty. They sure grew up fast! They can't fly when they first leave the nest, so they hide in the grass.