Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meghan's Fire Break Run

Meghan was running a team along the Fire Break Trail when I caught up with her a few weeks ago (this was before the recent snowfall hence she's on a 4-wheeler). I asked her what it's like to run SP Kennel dogs; you can't quite hear her answer on film: "It's amazing! What a privilege. These guys are legends and I get to run ten of them today. Yeah, I love it!"

Friday, December 28, 2012

Catching up with: Fang

"If you've ever wanted a pretty Alaskan Husky: we've got one here in Fang" says Aliy. "He's gorgeous when he moves down the trail and he's gorgeous when he just stands around."

Fang has a wildly fun and rich personality. He loves to play with his buddy Ranger in the dog yard but he’ll harass any human being that walks by to please stop and say ‘Hi’.

We look forward to him starting on many of the SP Kennel race teams this season. As a three year old dog he has a tremendous amount to offer and we are pretty excited that he is starting to be one of the most talented dogs.

Go Fang!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Look Who Dropped In

Look who dropped in to the kennel on his way back to North Pole after a very busy night delivering presents!

A Holiday Tale (re posted)

Sometimes I need to look into the past and see where I came from and who has influenced my journey. My time in Bettles, Alaska (nearly 20 years ago) was very special because of the people and the dogs that welcomed me into this lifestyle. I will always be thankful for that path that was miraculously laid out before me. -- Aliy

SP Kennel’s first sled dog was Skunk. He was given to Aliy many years ago by a trapper who lived on the western coast of Alaska. Skunk was a mature dog with years of trap line experience. All he had known was a somewhat harsh world of eating carcasses from the trap line and fish oil then curling up in the snow.

In those days, Aliy was living in a small village north of the Arctic Circle. Skunk was delivered to her by bush plane the week before Thanksgiving. Since she had not yet built a dog sled, the two would walk the trails around the village getting to know each other and the area.

Skunk would habitually run ahead a ways then come back and check in with Aliy. He did this repeatedly – almost as a game. But then one day something (a rabbit, a moose, a caribou, an eagle, who knows?) grabbed his attention and he reverted back to his previous life. He scampered off into the wild. Aliy called and called. He didn’t come back.

She walked back to the village and put dog food on her porch to entice him home. That night dogs barked throughout the village. Skunk was around but he never came home. A day went by and the elusive dog was still missing. Where could he have gone? The closest town was 45 miles by dog trail!

The next night, only two nights before Thanksgiving, the dogs in the village barked constantly. This usually meant that a bear or wolves were prowling the town. This year, it meant a sled dog! Skunk traveled from cabin to cabin…...a surprise holiday visitor.
The next morning, villagers knew that he had stopped at their homes when they couldn’t find their Thanksgiving turkeys. Many people in the Arctic use Mother Nature as an outdoor freezer. They keep their frozen foods on their front porches or in their arctic entries. Apparently, Skunk knew this too.

An "all-points bulletin" was put out on Skunk that day. He had ruined many a Turkey Day dinner. He was even spotted on a village road trotting off with a spiral ham in his mouth. The villagers were very upset. They chased him with a snowmobile, but no one could catch him. In that town, on the day before Thanksgiving, a loose dog was a dead dog.

Aliy borrowed some lynx traps from a trapper in town. She set them up around town and baited them with the half eaten turkey carcasses. That night and early into the morning, she made her hourly rounds to check the traps.

Then, at 3 AM on Thanksgiving Day she walked to the trap behind her house. In the glow of her headlamp Aliy saw two shinning eyes – SKUNK! She walked up to him and saw that his hind foot was in the trap. She looked sternly at him and said, "The town people want you dead, dog. You best not growl at me." Amazingly, he looked up at Aliy and wagged his tail!

Aliy removed Skunk’s foot from the trap, lead him home that night and tied him up outside her place. The next morning neighbors showed up to report on Skunk’s antics. Even a family who lived several miles south of town came by to tell Aliy that he must have come to their cabin his first night out. All of the bait on their trap line was gone and so was the meat from their front porch.

For many years, Skunk held the record as Aliy’s most expensive dog, simply because of all the turkeys she had to pay for that Thanksgiving.

Skunk leads Aliy's first dog team.

In the years to come, Skunk was an important part of Aliy's small sled dog team but an even better companion dog. He spent 8 years after that fateful Thanksgiving as Aliy’s dear friend and constant companion. He even traveled with Aliy to the ‘Lower 48’ on an extensive cross-country trip. He was a perfect driving buddy, riding ‘shotgun’ for 8000 miles in a little red Chevy pick-up.

"SP Kennel" is named for that special dog. It will always be "Skunk's Place".

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from SP Kennel

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Enjoy your loved ones today. From all of us here at SP Kennel (including Tig).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Aurora 50:50 Final Results

We've just received a phone call from the team; they are on their way back to the kennel and everyone is happy and healthy. They are delighted with the way everyone ran and with the final results: Allen in 3rd behind Ryan Redington and Jeff King who tied for 1st! Aliy came in 4th and Meghan 8th.

We'll get times and more details to you once they are home and settled.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Aurora 50:50 Day One Standings

The first 50 miles in the Aurora Dog Mushers Club's 50:50 have been run. Aliy is currently sitting in 4th position, Allen in 5th and Meghan in 8th. All the dogs did really well and are enjoying a good dinner and overnight rest; ready for the second 50 miles on Sunday.

We'll keep you up to date with final results tomorrow as soon as we hear!

Aurora 50:50

Thanks to Amy and Ken Wheaton, who are in Wasilla for the Aurora 50:50, here are a few shots of the teams getting ready for the start of the race. Above left is Aliy bootie-ing Willie and above right is Meghan readying her team. Below is Allen's Black team (behind) keen to get going at #12 and Meghan's Red and Black team (closest to camera) ready to go right behind him at #13.

Aurora 50:50 Race Rosters

The teams set of Friday afternoon and headed south for the Aurora 50:50, starting Saturday morning. The teams have been decided and we have three entered: Aliy with the RED team, Allen with the BLACK team and Meghan is racing the RED AND BLACK team.

Click here to view the Aurora 50:50 race rosters!

Friday, December 21, 2012

White Mountains Camping Trip (Video)

Aliy captured some great footage on the way out of the White Mountains Recreational Reserve on Monday morning. It was a gorgeous morning and you can see how the light changes as the sun rises - you can also hear Ranger chatting all the way along the trail!

What better way to enjoy such a beautiful corner of the world than on the back of a dog sled!

Shaktoolik Kids Celebrate Life

One of my absolute favorite villages on the Iditarod is the tiny Eskimo village of Shaktoolik out on the Western Coast of Alaska. The people out there have a life different from much of the mainstream world - and they are proud of it! The dogs and I will be in Shaktoolik in just over two months.

I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Aurora 50:50

There has been a late change to our racing schedule for this weekend. Unfortunately the Two Rivers Dog Mushers Association Solstice 100 Race has been rescheduled until January 12. Too little snow, too much snow, then too cold temperatures of Interior Alaska apparently overwhelmed the club's trail committee.

Therefore, despite the 650-mile round trip dog truck commute, we have entered the Aurora Dog Mushers 50:50 in Big Lake, Alaska. Our dogs and mushers are ready to race!

We will pack up two trucks with three teams and head south to Big Lake on Friday. The race is Saturday and Sunday and we will keep you updated with team line-ups and race progress as much as possible over the weekend.

We're still on track for the Copper Basin 300 and Kusko 300 in January and we will update you closer to the time with team line-ups for those races.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

White Mountains Camping Trip

On Sunday afternoon Aliy, Allen, Meghan, Ryne and Moira packed 45 dogs along with five sleds full of gear, straw and supplies and headed off from the Wickersham trail head into the White Mountains National Recreation Area - just north of Fairbanks. The yearlings and a couple of the "more mature" dogs were headed 13 miles to Moose Creek Cabin. Heavy snow conditions closed the trail about 6 miles shy of this goal.  But, the teams were able to break trail to Lee's Cabin, which was luckily unoccupied for the night, and set up camp. The three adult teams proceeded on with a 7 to 8 hour training run before looping back to the cabin.

Aliy and Moira set up camp, heated the cabin, made water and started dinner for the dogs and humans under the very close supervision of ChaCha and Rose.

Allen, Meghan and Ryne ran on some of the open trails and encountered cooler conditions but got some really good miles on the dogs!

It was the first time camping for the youngsters and they all did really well; they ate well, slept well and coped with the change to their routine brilliantly. We encountered temperatures ranging from about -35F to -50F during the course of 24 hours.

Aliy captured some great video on the way out on Monday morning so watch for that in the next few days.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Catching up with: Mac

Mac is our biggest dog and one of our more vocal. He is not only a powerhouse in the wheel position on the team but also a cheerleader!

He is as strong as an ox, so his sled dog work ethic is much appreciated by the team.

Mac is calm and confident, he’s never upset by new experiences and is a calming influence on the youngsters that surround him in the yard. While the others are getting excited he sits peacefully, but always ready to go.

We're looking for big things from Mac this year. Look for him on the team.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yukon Quest Fundraising Auction

Last Friday evening the Yukon Quest held an auction and wine and beer tasting event to raise funds for the 2013 race. Aliy was the auctioneer and she did a sterling job helping the Quest raise quite a few thousand dollars for their organisation.

Hotly contested items for auction included "Musher for a Day" packages from Brent Sass, Hugh Neff, Paige Drobny/Cody Strathe and SP Kennel!

Can you spot Allen there too amongst the other Quest mushers?

Sheep Mountain 150

In case anyone was wondering why we hadn't given team line-ups or updates on the Sheep Mountain 150, the race was cancelled earlier this week due to a lack of snow.

Here's the latest post from Zack Steer, the Race Director: "This last storm was too little, too late to save the Sheep Mountain 150 sled dog race. The 2012 race is cancelled, sorry to say. We needed at least a foot of snow and only picked up a couple of inches. Trails are fine for biking and skiing, but would not hold up for the safe travels of 60 dog teams. Last Fall's wet weather saturated the ground with water. This winter we have seen much more glaciation and ice than normal along the creeks and valleys."

So, our next scheduled race is the Two Rivers Solstice 100 on December 22 - we'll update you about teams later next week.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fresh Snow

Our "snow dance" worked and we've had a few inches of fresh snow with more still falling as we post this. We are very excited to finally have snow, it makes the trails not only much better for mushing but also very pretty!

Aliy took a video on Sunday around some home trails after the first inch or so of snow fell overnight.

Lead: Scout and Quito, Swing: Ranger and Chemo, Team: Boondocks and Rambler, Wheel: Tug and Pud

Monday, December 10, 2012

Aliy's Yearling Run

Aliy took the yearlings, along with Spicy, out for a run a couple of weeks ago. Here you can see the future of SP Kennel very early in their careers; it will be fun to look back at this in a few years time!

You will notice most of them are running with neck-lines - this is because youngsters sometimes just don't know which way is forward and the neck-lines help to reduce the chaos that is a "yearling run"!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Copper Basin 300

Allen has signed up to race in the 2013 Copper Basin 300 Sled Dog Race.

Allen has raced the CB300 for the last 10 years. He believes it is a phenomenal race in one of the most rugged yet beautiful spots in Alaska. The timing of the race is perfect for a Yukon Quest musher and dogs - three weeks separate the two races. As well, the mountainous trail is similar to that of the Yukon Quest.

As folks might remember, last season "the toughest 300 miles in Alaska" race was canceled after the race course was literally "un-raceable". Teams were stranded between checkpoints 90 miles into the 300 mile course with no trail to follow. Whether this was due to Mother Nature, human error or a little bit of both is now irrelevant. It was a blow to all race teams, dedicated volunteers and the entire Copper basin community.

In mid November 2012, according to the newly formed CB300 board, volunteers and race officials ... the 2013 race will go on! The race start is scheduled for January 12th and will begin in Glennallen, Alaska. This is exciting news for the mushing community as a whole.

The CB300 has been running since 1990. In 1996, the race was canceled due to severe cold weather and in 2012, the race was canceled due to trail conditions. For the remaining 21 years there has been a race. But, it is never easy! In 2005, two snow machines sank in Paxson Lake while trail breaking. Nearly half of the musher field scratched that year. In 2009, fifteen miles of trail were put in within minutes of the first musher reaching that section.

The CB300 always has a challenging trail with: incredible mountain summits, steep inclines, wet water crossings, waist deep overflow, ground blizzard conditions, wind swept lakes and often 30 to 50 below temperatures. Mushers should not sign up if they are looking for 300 miles of groomed trail.

The CB300 is the one of two 300 mile races in the north that covers 300 unique miles of trail. (The other is the Yukon Quest 300 that uses the first 300 miles of the Yukon Quest route.) This fact is awesome for a musher and dogs who get to see new and different trail through out the entire route. However, this fact is also an underlying problem with the race. Obviously, this means that 300 miles of trail through the Alaska Range Mountains, rivers and valleys must be maintained by a dedicated group of volunteers. Volunteers are just that ... volunteers. They use their snow machines, time and effort. And a great deal of effort it is! There are no reality show cameras following the CB300 trail breakers and volunteers, but in this day and age of Alaska "rugged man shows" perhaps there should be.

See you at the CB300!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Top Of The World

Back in late November, before the "deep freeze", Aliy, Allen and Meghan took teams for a run to the top of the world! Aliy has captured the magnificent scenery of the Alaska Range and Denali along with some great footage of her team.

Lead: IV and Olivia; Swing: Chica and Rambler; Team: Beemer and Sissy; Wheel: Waylon and Ranger.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Catching up with: Biscuit

"Have I ever mentioned Biscuit has a lot of energy?"

Biscuit is definitely one of the kennel mainstays and now that he is seven years old he’s become the heart of the kennel. He is confident and reliable and the whole teams knows it.

He is also the proud poppa of a new generation of SP Kennel pups - have you seen how much they look like him? Watch out world!

We're pretty excited to have Biscuit on the team - he's an “All Star”.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

More From the Firebreak

We hope you enjoy this short video from the Firebreak training run last month. Check out all the wagging tails when Aliy stops for a quick break!