In the past week, we’ve covered all the winter conditions that Mother Nature has in her arsenal. As per usual, the Mushing Gods threw several wrenches into our winter plans and as per usual we bitched and made the best of it! We were so excited that after Stage Stop we were actually going to get to stay and train dogs as opposed to flying home and then flying back again. We drove back to West Yellowstone on Sunday after SS. Trained dogs on Monday and then on Tuesday we were greeted by a hellacious winter storm. Bad enough that incoming roads to West Yellowstone were closed as were several roads in Wyoming. Suffice it to say, we decided to skip training. Wednesday things went from bad to worse as the storm turned into a major rain storm; which continued into Friday. You can imagine what a mess it makes when a little city with twenty foot high snow banks gets torrential downpours for three days straight. There was water everywhere and even in our little cabin. As the snow melted it came in under the door and flooded us a bit. The worst part; we didn’t bring our muck boots. We were able to resume training on Saturday as the temps dropped significantly and everything froze solid. Perfect for trying to speed the dogs up except the trail was frozen chunks of snowmobile churned snow and we were down to the 11th hour.
In the next three days we sorted through the dogs and found out who would run in The Pas and who would not. We found ourselves down two leaders, two core dogs and we had a bitch in heat. We decided to pull five dogs from my Stage Stop team; two leaders and three team dogs. This ruined our plans to run two 6 dog teams in The Pas as we were out of leaders.
We then drove like crazed mushers 1100 miles on crappy roads, through crappy scenery only to arrive to what appeared to be a dryland mushing event; there was NO snow. Not exactly what we had planned on, but again we’re flexible and we were going to make the best of it. We drove part of the trail the day before the race to look at areas of concern. The biggest concern was the ability to hook down and what the trail was going to do to the feet. It was very well groomed and maintained, but it was little ice crystals and patches of dirt.
Today, we awoke to temps around 17F and they were expected to be 40 degrees. We arrived at the starting chute later than we would have liked thanks to the local McDonald’s and their very prompt service (note sarcasm). Seriously, how long can it take to slap a rubbery egg from a tray, a piece of cheese and a piece of rubbery ham onto an English muffin. NOT FOREVER! They should feel lucky that I hastily grabbed my egg mcmuffin and left the building without harming the staff; especially after I learned they messed up the order to boot. My Detroit side was coming out this AM! Ooooh scary!
Anyhoo, breakfast in hand we arrived at the race site. The team would consist of Smoke, Yona, Nickle, Dime, Grover, Teller, Anders, Kroner, Peace and Euro. All the dogs were in great shape and ready to go. We chose to go without booties out of concern for some slippery corners/sections and the potential heat coming later in the day. Bruce said the team was stroking it and he was on the pad hard trying to keep their speeds under control. Bud and Lina passed him somewhere around 6-8 mile mark and were moving faster than he wanted to that early in the race. Don Cousins and Rachel passed him and Robbie Turner was also ahead. This group all ran together to the turnaround. He could see the Streepers and kept them in sight. He got by Robbie before the turn around and then got Don and Rachel in the turn-around. As they came out of the turn-around, he passed Bud and Lina. It looked like Lina was having some issues as she had slowed down a bit. After the turn around the trail broke down and the pace significantly slowed. Bruce ran by himself for quite a bit and then he caught Harry. He and Harry passed by Richard. At this point, he could see the front two teams and he was running in third place. The team was gaining on the front two leaders. According to sources, Bruce got to within a minute and a half of Tommy. However, the Musher Gods threw us a curveball and one of Bruce’s leaders started having issues. By the last three miles the leader was now significantly slowing the pace. However, he was still moving at 14.5 mph and Bruce felt it was better to keep him moving at this pace to the end as opposed to bagging him. It was in the last three to four miles that Buddy and Anny passed him and pushing him into 5th place. The team was in a great mood when they came in. Feet had a few nicks and dents, but they are in relatively good shape. Tomorrow will hold more challenges as it is supposed to be warmer still and it doesn’t feel like it is going to get cold enough tonight for that trail to set up. We are expecting a slower trail.