Friday, August 31, 2012

Kudos to the Dog Walkers

The final five days of dog walking for the Electrolyte Research Project required a daily 9-hour stint on the trails - 6 hours of walking and 3 hours of rest at forest campsites. This schedule simulates a typical work day for a military bomb sniffing canine.

Our SP Kennel dogs walked between 20 and 24 miles each day, very reasonable for long distance racers. Of course, each group of dogs required a human to keep control and man the GPS trackers. These humans walked a minimum of 18 miles each of those days.

Kudos to the 5 human walkers who stuck to the research schedule during rain and wind, significant mud, close to freezing temps, unwelcome wildlife sign and very occasional sunshine. These tough, fit and personable Alaskan women were key to the project's successful completion. SP Kennel salutes Ryne, Kristy, Sarah, Aliy and Wendy.

Kristy and Ryne enjoy hot soup at the Jenny M Camp

Sarah navigates around mud and puddles on the trail

Simple pleasures for Sarah and Aliy - bananas and a little sun!

Wendy and Scout enjoying their trek together

The walking protocol is now over. Final canine blood and urine samples are on their way to the lab. We will post information about Electrolyte Research results when it gets to us. Thanks for all your interest and comments about this project.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quest Sites in Summer - Mickey's Musings VI

Are we ever fortunate to be summering in this part of Alaska. Last week Doug (Aliy's dad) and I took a mini vacation to the top of the world and beyond. The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race seemed to follow us all along the way.

We first drove from Two Rivers east to Tok, Alaska. Tok is the fueling and food point for SP's dog truck caravan when heading to Whitehorse, Canada, where the Quest starts in odd numbered years. Since Tok is the first major community encountered by northbound Alaska Highway travelers, 'Ma and Pa' motels, cafes and a few gas stations are concentrated here. Doug has made this trek in cold, dark, snowy February. But that is what the Quest is all about! It was sunny and 70 last week.

Then on to Chicken, Alaska, about 80 miles northeast of Tok on 'summer only' roads. Here miners seriously work gold claims and a small tourist business has sprung up. We stopped to spend the night in a cabin at the Chicken Gold Camp. We were greeted by a Yukon Quest sponsor banner and the former YQ Race Director managing check ins. The name 'Zirkle' prompted her to ask if we knew Aliy. And a long conversation ensued.

Quest Sponsor banner and Doug in Chicken.

A great stop. Chicken Gold Camp is remote, clean and friendly.

Our trip then took us on Alaska Route 5 and Yukon Route 9, better know as the 'Top of the World' Highway. The road winds upwards from the gold streams near Chicken, to a mountain top boarder crossing and through ridge-top meanderings in far northwest Canada. The 150 miles of 'highway' is narrow and mostly sealed gravel. This desolate mountain road is just south of the point where Allen will enter the US from Canada, on dog sled during the Quest, and head to the Eagle, Alaska checkpoint. There are no Customs Agents on duty where he crosses!

US Customs House on Top of the World Highway

It's just 65 miles from the boarder crossing to Dawson City, Yukon Territories and the spectacular Yukon River. This is where the Quest teams take their 36 hour mandatory rest at the local campground. Now the campground is home to tents, fishing boats and kayaks where Allen camped his team in snow drifts last February. And the mighty Yukon flows at a 5 to 8 knot pace where the 'ice bridge' links Dawson City to West Dawson in the winter months.

Yukon River Campground with leaves, grass and sun

We stayed two days in Dawson City and saw the Yukon Quest haunts - the visitors center, the checkpoint locale, the Downtown Hotel with its ever popular real beds, showers and laundromat. But most exciting was our trek over Parks Canada land and skinny, treacherous gold mining roads to the top of King Solomon's Dome. Those of you familiar with the Yukon Quest remember that this first mountain after the Whitehorse start is the highest on the race trail, at an elevation of 4002 feet. Our warm weather ridge climb in a peppy Nissan truck was breath taking and heart pounding. I can only imagine what Allen and his dog team experience up here in February.


The mining road behind me is the Yukon Quest Trail.
It leads to King Solomon's Dome, marked by antennas.

We are safely back home in Two Rivers now. There are more stories to tell but these are the ones that make us marvel at this extreme land and the folks that people the land. But even more, it makes me marvel at the courage and stamina of my children, Aliy and Allen, and their incomparable canine athletes.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Yukon Quest Sign Ups

Last week, despite 70 degree temps in Two Rivers, our thoughts turned to the snow and cold of February. It was time for Yukon Quest 2013 sign ups!

Allen submitted his registration for the Quest 1000 on August 4, the first possible sign-up day. Aliy was feeling a little left out so decided, a few days later, to register for the Quest 300.

Both races start in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories on Saturday, February 2, 2013 and finish in downtown Fairbanks about 10 days later.

Link below to the Yukon Quest web site for a list of all mushers who have signed up for the Quest races.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Electrolyte Research Continues at SP

Dr. Mike Davis, veterinary researcher at Oklahoma State University, is the designer of the electrolyte research study currently underway at SP Kennel. (See blog post dated July 22, 2012). Dr. Mike and his research team visited the kennel last weekend, at the halfway point of the study, to observe protocol and collect blood and urine samples from the research dogs.

Dr. Davis was gracious enough to be interviewed about the research study and his relationship with SP Kennel. I was going to edit out the interruption towards the end of the interview but decided it was indicative of SP Kennel, the organization that never stops doing.

Hope you enjoy!


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Bon Voyage, Wes

SP Kennel recently said goodbye to Wes Brightman, kennel volunteer extraordinaire. Wes has been a fixture here at SP since October of 2011. He has been an enthusiastic participant in all phases of kennel life - feeding dogs and scooping poop, authoring blog posts, driving dog trucks in 40 below temps, running dog teams during training, even participating in local sled dog races. You name it, he's done it!

Wes began a multi leg trip to Afghanistan on Tuesday. He will soon assume the position of Finance Manager for the Stability in Key Areas (SIKA) project in Kandahar with AECOM. This company manages international development contracts for the US government. The project focuses on community services and small infrastructure projects. Wes has promised that he will send us a description of his new living and working conditions. They will undoubtedly be a far cry from his log cabin in the woods in rural Alaska.

Wes models his Afghanistan gear

The other half of the Brightman volunteer team, Wendy, will be staying in that log cabin for a while. Wendy continues to volunteer part time at SP Kennel. She is also engaged in special projects for the National Headquarters of the American Red Cross, taking advantage of electronic commuting.

Wes, we wish you success in your new adventure. All of us at SP Kennel, people and dogs, will miss you much! Many thanks and safe travels.

Wes and Wendy at Wes' Goodbye Party