Never Assume – Stage 5 Alpine

Well, yesterday we expected today’s trail to be faster and we learned, once again, never assume in Stage Stop becuase you NEVER now what you’ll get.  This year’s run certainly was not a duplicate of last year in Alpine.   Last year the trail was much firmer and the temps were warmer.  We had 10 degrees this morning, overcast and the trail was soft and similar to running in sand.   Sections of the trail were littered with moose and elk holes.   The conditions did not even give relief on the down hills as many drivers found themselves having to pump downhill.

We went with 11 dogs.  Anker and Pepper lead with the hopes they would remember their run last year and lay one down.  The rest of the crew consisted of Mikka, Slim, Shiner, Perry, Bergen, Utah, Sedona, Cracker and Ivan.   The team ran fine to the turn around.  They passed everyone in front of them head on and then they started passing teams on the way back.  After passing about 7-8 teams, near the 35 mile mark, they went flat and decided they wanted to coast.   Bruce couldn’t get the fire back into them until he was 1 ½ miles from the finish.   He had another potential leader that was still driving, but chose not to put her up there because he had one dog that he had to protect on the way back.

At the turn around Sam Perrino had gained 1½ minutes on Bruce and Aaron about 1 minute.    Joe Gans passed Bruce at the 17 mile mark and was just smoking.  He had made up 9 minutes in just 17 miles.   When Joe crossed the finish line the team looked great and he earned himself the honor of the yellow bib!   Lina caught Bruce just before the half way point and Buddy passed him at about 35 miles.   Their teams were also stroking and looked great.  They climbed nice and never stopped loping. 

Jerry Bath had a very unfortunate incident with a young moose.  It came across the trail and jumped his point dogs hitting both of them with its hoofs.  Then it turned and ran down the team and came to his sled.  Jerry stepped to the side of his sled as the moose kicked his sled twice and then ran off.  He immediately looked  the team over , saw no blood but to be cautious he bagged both point dogs and carried them in.  Thankfully, neither Jerry or the dogs were seriously injured.  The dogs sustained only minor bruising, but one dog will be scratched. 

It looked like it was a rough day on several teams as there were several dogs being carried in.   Our team faired very well except for their feet.  It’s the kind of snow that makes bootying a waste because they fall off, get caked with huge snowballs or they can’t run because it’s slippery and you risk injuring them.   Running the dogs to the line is almost comical as you slip and slide and trip through this slippery mess of snow.  It could be compared to running in salt; you’re running as hard as you can and not going anywhere.  You’re damned if you booty and damned if you don’t;  unless you have dogs with concrete feet, which we don’t. 

Dogs started/finished:    Buddy (10/10), Lina (10/9), Joe (12/12), Aaron (10/9), Sam (10/9),  Bruce (11/11), Jerry (11/9),  JR (10/10), Stacy (12/11),  John (10/9), Kate (10/10),       Mike ( 10/10), Debbie (9/9), Dennis(12/12), Barrie (10/10), Chris (12/12) . 

The dogs are tired and this is the point in this race where they really have to dig deep and you find your hard ass every day dogs.  The dogs that won’t or can’t run every day or are injured put extra pressure on the rest of the dogs to take another one for the team.  Strategically, it is a nice situation if you have 12 dogs for the next two stages.  We won’t know if we do until late tonight when they come back out and we have a chance to see how they are doing and what their moods are like.

We have already received conflicting information on tomorrow’s trail.  First report a day or so ago was that it will be like Big Piney.  Today’s report is that it may wind up being our fastest trail yet.  It is supposed to be warm tomorrow and this could break up the trail.  We’ll just have to wait and see.  We know that every year we’ve run it, it has been tough.

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