Mother Nature has a sick sense of humor! Yes, I’ll admit I prayed all freaking fall for snow and I was praying up to the minute we left. Then the day we left Michigan gets hit with a major snow storm. Then we get here and it hasn’t stopped snowing yet. So HA HA HA , PRETTY FUNNY MRS. NATURE AND YOU CAN STOP NOW!
Yesterday we had a day off to make the 3-4 hour drive to Lander. We all met on Main Street and the town came out to meet the mushers. One of the best community events on the circuit, in my opinion. When we arrived in town it had started snowing and then it just kept coming. Most years, we never see snow in the town of Lander. Well, not this year it was blowing to beat the band. There was talk that the pass might shut down as they had already shut down another road that shoots off of the pass. So we went and got chains for the truck that night in preparation for a potentially hellacious drive. That night we went to bed wondering if there would be a stage in Lander.
We woke up to 18 degrees and who knows how much new snow. You can’t tell around here because it just blows all over. When it blows you imagine you’re living in a snow globe. The pass was open and we hit the road at 6AM. After the first two leisurely days the 5:30AM wakeup call was a wee difficult. At the driver’s meeting they were told that there was a very hard packed trail with a couple inches of snow on top and snowmobiles were going out in front of the teams.
We had 12 fresh dogs (Smoke, Sedona, Lumpy, Dime, Euro, Pence, Chepi, Penny, Sigfried, Kroner, Aslan and Ailer). We only booted the sore feet. You could tell the snow was going to play havoc on feet a bit as it was cold and balling up in the fur. We greased well to try and prevent the snowballing. While we were in the chute Bruce had a little mishap when a dog jumped up and bashed into his face. Unbeknownst to him his cheek had burst open and was bleeding profusely down his face. Imagine the horror of all the 3rd grade students sitting next to the trail when Bruce approached them and thanked them all for coming!
In the first 500 feet there were large moguls on the trail from packed down drifts. Then it was basically a trail with a bottom and about 6 inches of very loose snow on top. Bruce warmed the team up and then the trail starts to climb pretty quickly. The dogs were setting a nice pace and climbing better than they’ve ever climbed. He passed Wilomitzer within 5 miles and then he ran alone for a long time. The speed on the descents had to be controlled as the snow was very loose. The team ran a great pace to the half-way point. At the half way point they came to a loop for the turnaround. A guy standing there yelled, “It’s a hard 90 degree to the right.” Bruce called, “Gee” and Sedona took a hard right. Well, the trail then went immediate left, but there was a snowmobile track that went right off the hard right and down the side of a hill. They had a snowmobile parked right in the turn, but not to block off the other trail. The snow was up to Bruce’s thighs and he had to get the team out and back on the trail. Just as he was starting to do this here comes Al and his team and they started down the hill. Bruce caught them just in time and Al was able to run up and grab his leaders. When Bruce got the team out of the mess they were in a huge tangle. Al waited for him to get it sorted out. As all of this was going on Dennis Laboda came upon them and thankfully, took the opposite direction in the turn around to avoid a bigger mess. Al and Bruce determined Bruce lost at least 2 minutes in the tangle. After the turn around the team passed Dennis back. Alex caught Bruce around mile 25. They ran together for about a half an hour. They both passed Emily Entriken. At this point Alex said he had to stop so Bruce passed him. The trail firmed up a bit at this point and the team rolled home. He was able to gain 3 minutes on Alex from this point.
Jeff Conn said his run was very slow. JR was pleased with his run. Jerry Bath’s team tried to take a turnoff that they usually take to go home and he had a difficult time to getting past this point; which lost him some time. Austin Forney was in great spirits when he rolled in and Chris Adkins was happy with how the dogs got through the trail.
Tomorrow we are supposed to see -6 below zero. There is no new snow here and the trail is expected to be hard. We’ll wait to see when we get there. The handler games also start tomorrow. Dylan and I have been teamed up with the Laboda crew and the Conn Crew. We have been told we will be competing in sled dog trivia, dog dish curling and a poop memory game. Hmmm this should be interesting. Dylan is chomping at the bit to get these games rolling and we’ve already designed our curling dish! Wish us luck!