Hundreds of Miles, Christmas & a
It has been a busy time since my last diary entry. We celebrated Christmas, a wedding, have made our annual pilgrimage up the Alaska highway, settled in at Jamie West’s place and made an unsuccessful bid at the Copper Basin 300 – but lets start at the
Christmas is usually a ‘non event’ for Mark and I. Usually we are in full swing preparing for our trip to Alaska and training dogs and just can’t justify the time to put up a tree, etc. At our house it was this way again, but my brother Jim and his fiancé, Melissa decided to get married on December 26 (Boxing Day to us Canadians!), so we ended up at my Mom’s in Calgary for the better part of Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It was the first time in something like 14 years that we had been ‘home’ for the holiday (Mark gets most annoyed when I say that and reminds me that Perryvale is ‘home’ – and it is – but you all know what I mean!).
We all managed to spoil each other silly with lovely gifts. My Mom bought me a new dish set and cutlery – much needed and appreciated. Many of you may not be aware, but in the years before dogs I managed a Royal Doulton China Shop for a while and it gave me a definite appreciation for table settings and such. My dishes and cutlery were all 15 – 20 years old and starting to show their age badly. I don’t think I could have set a table with matching items. Now I can and I’ll be itching to invite some friends over for dinner when I’m home again in April.
Melissa never did come to her senses in time and she and Jim got married in a very small and lovely ceremony in their home. In keeping with who they are, we toasted them with orange juice and munched on ‘Turtle’ cookies in lieu of wedding cake. I thought it was all very touching and am thrilled to officially have Melissa as part of our family.
After scurrying back to Perryvale later on the 26th we managed to pick up our
U-Haul (no Y’Haul this year – this one had B.C. plates rather then Texas ones), get it packed, get a few runs in on the dogs, get them all in for
blood work and health checks and head for Alaska on the 3rd.
Many folks have questioned what dogs made the trip with us this year and I tell you, this was a very, very difficult decision. Things were up in the air until the very last minute and in the end I just couldn’t narrow it down to 20 and we ended up bringing 21 up with us (I would have made it 22, but that would have meant cramped traveling for a couple of the dogs and it is too long a trip for that – as it was, Kara just rode up in the cab with us and everyone had comfortable digs for the drive). So (drum roll please) here are the 21 (I’d say ‘in no particular order, but no one ever believes me when I say that anyway) –
dogs also made the trip
up to Alaska in 2004
In order to make my cuts a little more bearable this year, I with the help of a few trusted friends, made a few ‘rules’ for the team - all 2 year olds were cut and only 3 year olds that led made the trip. That left behind some wonderful young dogs, like Barq, Pepsi, and Jr – but they all have a great future ahead of them!
There was also one quite deeply felt veteran cut – Camilla. She still remains the most reliable front end dog we own, but as she gets up there in age, she is lacking the speed and drive needed to hang with this team – and a late season injury set her back some in miles too. I know it was the best decision for the team and for Camilla, but she got an extra big good-bye hug and an apology as we got ready to leave. I’m sure she will enjoy ‘Lording’ over the yard and telling tall tales to the youngster’s in the absence of the rest of the veterans.
The drive up was pretty uneventful. As some of you may have heard, our impatiently awaited new truck arrived before we left, but not in time to allow us to build boxes and make necessary modifications before our trip, so the old Ford was turned to again to haul all our butts and gear up the Al-Can. We did have one thing for the new truck that we ‘borrowed’ for the trip – a Sirius satellite radio. Way cool!!! Rather then watch the numbers going around and around without stopping when we hit the seek button on the radio, we were able to choose from 160 stations while buzzing down the highway. We did lose reception once we hit Alaska, but that is less then a day of the journey, so that was no real hardship (apparently you can buy a $150 antenna that will give you better reception while in AK, but we mostly wanted it for the drive up anyway). I just can’t rave enough about this system. After years and years of living on the edge of civilization with spotty radio reception and listening to the same tapes over and over, this is a bit of heaven. Well worth the $150 investment!
Our border crossing was faced with a fair amount of angst and dread. See, just a week before our trip we got word that the US was letting no kibble into the states. Even if you had US made, beef free kibble (as Eagle is) you needed a permit, which took 4 – 6 weeks to get and you had to be a US resident to get that. A frantic few days of phone calls and the help of a few nice folks at Eagle Pet Products, US Customs, and Mountain Dog Food had us sitting at the border with a mound of paperwork and a knot in our stomach. A Border Guard having a bad day can destroy even the best-laid plans. Our fear was unfounded as the Guard looked at a bit of our paperwork, asked a few questions and then wished me luck on the Iditarod. I felt my blood pressure actually drop a few points at that moment!
I should note that not all mushers were as lucky – apparently William Kleeden of the Yukon crossed a few hours prior to us and had all his food – kibble and meat – seized by US officials!
So, as planned, late Wednesday evening we pulled into Jamie and Harry’s lovely home in Willow. This will be ‘NorthWapiti Alaska’ for the next few months. Jamie looked only slightly concerned as piles and piles of gear and supplies were dragged out of the truck and trailer and piled into her house and yard. We assured her that things would look better after we got settled and especially once food drops were done. “Just when are food drops?” she quietly asked.
There was only one problem with the situation in Willow this year – there was no snow, just sheets and sheets of glare ice. Jamie explained that on New Years Day the trails had been near perfect and then it began to rain and continued to do so for 3 days. Figures.
Thursday we finished unpacking, dropped off the U-Haul, snuck over to Bob Chlupach’s – where it wasn’t quite so icey, for a run and started repacking for the Copper Basin.
Watch our next diary entry for the Copper Basin tale!!!
In closing, I’m adding a chart of information on our 21 dog ‘Alaska Team’ for this year. I’ll even do it in alphabetical order so no one can accuse me of favoritism in my listing! Hope you all enjoy!!