The Lander stage was switched around a bit. Instead of running out of the Lake Louise parking lot 45 minutes out of town, we ran out of Sinks Canyon which is only 5 minutes out of town. At Sinks there are 5 miles of switchbacks to climb right at the beginning of the race. The race hasn’t run out of Sink’s since they paved the switchbacks. There was some concern about snow as the night before we saw high 40’s. The temp when we got up this AM was 28F and by the time we got to the parking lot it was 36 degrees. We were warned of a possible inversion, which is when it is hotter at the top of the mountain than at the bottom. It was overcast so we were hoping this would help keep the temps cool.
When we got to the parking lot it was a sheet of ice and I mean ice skating ice. We immediately started hauling snow by sled to put around the truck; however, this made it more slippery. Fortunately, we were parked next to The Redington’s and Erin and Miriam were hacking away at the icy parking lot with an axe. At first, I teased them and soon found myself hacking away just to keep safe footing. All the dogs had to be gently lifted to the ground or they would have lost footing jumping from the truck.
Since the trail was new to us we weren’t sure how fast it could be done. We set ourselves a mark and Bruce was going to gauge things as he went and run his dog team. Buddy went out right in front of him and he was focused not to let that play into how he ran this team. We chose to go out with 11 dogs. The team was led by Sik Sik and Spike followed in order by Cheyenne, Sparrow, Pepper, Spit, Puffy, Utah, Durbin, Stella, Kaloof. We were very concerned about the team’s health the night before as it became blaringly obvious we had a bug going through the truck. However, at the morning drop those dogs drank like champs. By the time we dropped them in the parking lot they were crazy fools. When I picked up the harnesses they just went mad. I was truly impressed with their attitudes and relieved at the same time.
The trail was hard and fast going up and at the halfway point it got a little soft and very warm due to the inversion. The winds were very strong and played havoc with several of the lightweights literally blowing them around. The switchbacks had some brief sections of pavement showing and Bruce got out on the pavement early on ruining his runners. The main team charged the climb and ran great. They went a little flat around the halfway point in the heat. When it got breezy they picked it back up. When the first teams started coming in I was timing them and it the fastest times were 3:07 as far as my rough calculation could tell. Buddy had gained some placements and came in right on Richard Beck’s butt down the switchbacks. It was great fun to watch that type of finish. I kept checking my watch and knew that Bruce had to arrive soon to be in the thick of things based on the times that had already come in and then Al-Jo said, “Oh my gosh, there he is!” I got so darn excited I neglected to check the watch and later had to guess.
The team checked out great. One dog had the bug show up and he was not a happy camper and there were a few sore feet, but overall they looked great. Our two yearlings; Durbin and Kaloof were still ready to roll.
Al’s team was led by Darling and Dokken followed by Blackie, Cora, Driver, Lahti, Epson, Tesla, Checker and Vaanta. Al’s race was a bit more eventful as he had an unfortunate head on collision with Jerry Bath due to our leaders running on the left. Jerry was coming down the hill fast and the point dogs banged pretty hard. Thank goodness all dogs involved were ok. Then at the halfway point he had a dog that needed to be bagged and he had one that fell victim to the bug. On the bright side, the team was happy when they came in and they drank like pigs.
There were a few stories out on the trail. Stacy was having a good run and then got blown over by the wind and hit some pavement, which flipped her and she drug for a few ripping up her snow pants. Erin Redington got sucked off the trail coming down the switchbacks and took out a plastic snow fence. Overall, she was pleased with the dogs and how they performed. We heard there was some cramping going on in some teams due to the heat.
On the way to the banquet we got tipped off that Bruce had unofficially won. We were in disbelief. When we got the official times it was very emotional. It’s been 7 years of coming to Stage Stop and we have worked so hard trying to build a team that could run up at the top. It was overwhelming to know that we were at the top for one day. We would certainly hope there are more to come, but we will relish this one for a long time!!
Thanks to the entire Magnusson Racing crew that has been a part of helping us get this team the yellow bib today; Al-Jo, Gerhardt and Al you guys rock!