Warming Up for K-300 and Bogus 150
The weather in southwest Alaska has followed one of its favorite patterns. We went from thirty below to thirty above in the space of about 48 hours. A southerly front moved in two days ago, bringing us heavy clouds, snow, and then wind. After such intense cold, this feels amazingly warm. Hatless, gloveless, unzipped jacket kind of weather. At +36F last night, water was dripping from decks and railings. At least, so far, there’s been no rain (deeply dreaded in mid-winter).
Warm-ups like this usually occur a couple of times during the winter, and are generally welcome as long as they don’t last long and it doesn't actually rain. Once things soften up, it is much easier to shovel off the decks and to clean out dog houses in the dog yard, flip the floors over and put in fresh dry straw. Unfortunately, the warm-ups often bring rain, which melts the snow into slush. And then the warm-up is generally followed by a hard, fast freeze which takes the thermometer back down below zero and turns the land into a slick sheet of ice. If we’re lucky, it will snow again after that so we can get some traction. Walking is perilous. Winter rain is just the pits.
This weather pattern seems to happen consistently during our big sled dog race week, which is coming up. We have lovely cold weather for the weeks leading up to the races, and then a big warm-up comes and soups up everything. One year the water was so high at the edges of the river and in the sloughs that the Kuskokwim 300 was referred to as the “Kusko-Swim”.
The K-300 and the Bogus 150 are eight days away, and dog-mania is building around Bethel. Dog teams out training are a frequent sight. The organizational machinery of the races is in full swing. Guest accommodations for the visiting mushers and their dogs must be arranged, truck transport for dogs and sleds coordinated, plane transport for dog food drops to the checkpoints scheduled. There is a small army of volunteers who come together for this big event and make it happen.
Dutch and I are the host family for our favorite musher, Aliy Zirkle. She is an outstanding long-distance sled dog racer who has done numerous Iditarods, and she was the first woman to win the Yukon Quest. Last year was her first K-300, and she stayed with us for ten days, due to the time delays from the severe cold.
Aliy is a delightful and charming young woman, and a very easy guest to have. She fit right in to our little dog world here. Her sixteen sled dogs were lined out along the driveway with lots of straw and a good windbreak behind them. They were comfortable and the location made loading and unloading them quick and simple. And she could see them from her bedroom window.
We are planning the same set-up for this year, and the get-ready is in process. The snow trench must be dug, windbreaks set up, lights strung, wiring repaired. It will be a busy weekend. Aliy and the dogs will arrive on Tuesday. Musher meetings and vet checks for the dogs occur on Wednesday and Thursday, as well as a benefit concert Wednesday night. The two big races start on Friday the 17th, and the shorter Akiak Dash (50 miles) will be on Saturday. More info and photos are on the website here.
Those of you who are not interested in dog mushing may want to skip this blog for the next two weeks. I probably won’t post about much else until its all over. We’re in dog heaven!
Grrrrr...grumpy Blogger refuses to load my photos, either in Firefox or Internet Explorer. If I switch to Blogger Beta will it be nicer to me? And does anyone know where my sidebars have gone? They just disappeared one day.
Labels: Dog Mushing