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I took seven dogs on a short run this morning to see what I’ve got left for trails. Not much as it turns out…

tundra run

The trail is melting, melting, just about gone

This is the view just about a quarter mile from my house, at a swamp where the trail is about to cut right into the forest. It isn’t all as bad as this. In fact, parts of the trail are still white and firm. I should have a few runs left before I stash the sleds for the spring.

The dogs on this run included four that just got back from running the Iditarod for Sebastian Schnuelle: Solomon, Antelope (alone, one up from wheel) and Solo and Coyote. They settled into an Iditarod trot, real smooth and not too slow. I have a short video…

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On Halloween, I tested the waters as a dog “driving instructor,” giving a one-on-one seminar on how to camp with a dog team. The class went so well that I’m considering opening it up to anyone interested in becoming more efficient or just gaining confidence in taking a trail break, whether inside or outside of checkpoints.

I sat down with the musher for two hours on the night of the 30th, going over what she knew and what she needed to learn. And the next day, she was on her own to pack her supplies (cooker, straw, booties, etc.), and head out on a training run to a spot where I could meet her. She set about doing all the routine dog duties while I watched and we talked about her routine. After a two-hour pitstop, she turned her team around and drove them back to her dog truck.

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Heads up: I have a new article posted on the Momentum dog food web site, \Dr. Tim’s Pet Food Company – Champions’ Corner, or short url: http://bit.ly/3SwTsk. There should be more articles coming over the course of the winter. Parts of them may be posted right here as well.

The article is part of a mini class I may be teaching here in Kasilof, talking with newer distance mushers about camping on the trail and then giving them an opportunity to practice while I am with them. The whole point is to go over the fundamentals of caring for dogs when you are by yourself, being efficient, and gaining confidence so you can pull over whenever it is right for the dogs to have a big meal and take a nap.

Mushers who’ve gained skills in running long distance often come from backgrounds where winter camping is foreign and a little intimidating.

There isn’t a lot of excitement, usually, during the slog days of fall training, and it has been a fairly typical year so far. We’re running a little longer than when we started, but the temperatures have remained stubbornly high, so water breaks are a major plus for the dogs. I’ve started running the team on the beach between Cohoe and Clam Gulch, and there’s at least one creek that really helps cool them off. They look vastly smoother in gait and more peppy once they’ve left the water. Here’s some images from our last water break…

The 2010 season is officially under way here, in Kasilof, despite the lingering warm weather we’ve enjoyed lately.

I’ve been taking the dogs on runs in the evenings, which wouldn’t be possible if our trail didn’t cross a wetland between two lakes.

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UPDATE — Change of plans. Most of my adult dogs are going to run with other teams in the Iditarod and Quest this year. I’m focusing my winter on some very promising yearlings, led by three or four older vets. More posts coming soon, since the season is now under way…

– Jon

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That’s what a friend of mine called this time of winter in Alaska, when you’ve got 12 hours of daylight and the snow is hard-packed and the daytime temperatures are warm.

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Mushers like myself participating in the Tustumena 200 this weekend should get to know the trail real well. At least we get about 4 inches of fresh snow to soften it up and make it sane.

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First we had the deep freeze, then exactly one day of perfect winter weather, and then the wind blew and the rain fell and our trails went to…

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A 300 mile “race” in Big Lake and Willow

There was no purse and just three dog teams, but the inaugural and possibly only ulcer research challenge came off without any major hitch. Mushers and veterinarians seemed pleased.

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