Sunday, January 31, 2010

January 31, 2010

The end of January has come and still winter eludes us in northern Idaho.  Warm temperatures continue and storms continue to bring largely rain rather than snow.  Nonetheless some snow remains in favored locations.  We've managed to get our teams out at Fernan Saddle and at the Granite Creek Snow Park.  Thursday we returned to Fernan Saddle where we enjoyed a bright sunny day and temperatures around freezing. 

I continue to work with the samoyed team, searching for another steady leader to work alongside Rose.  Several of the dogs will run in the position, but so far none as confident and driving as Rose.   Fortunately her abilities continue to grow and she seems unphased by whoever her partner is and whatever her partner might be distracted by!  Here she is lining out with Skye.  I am hoping though to develop some of the other dogs to be as focused as she is.  Rose has learned this role well from a couple of good role models:  Jezebel and Xena.

My 4 dog siberian husky team continues to be a joy to run.  So far I have 3 of the four dogs in lead, Cooper, Roper and McGee and all have done very well.  My favorite lineup is with Cooper and McGee in lead and brothers Ernie and Roper at wheel.  This matches up two pairs with very similar sizes and gaits, but really all of them work well together.  I am so impressed with the focus and athletic abilities of these four.  Their desire to run is infectious.  Ernie is a very driving dog, with alot of energy and not alot of patience at hookup.  His brother Roper is an easy gentle dog but he's no slouch once the command is given to go.  Young McGee is so much fun to run. Only a yearling, already he shows much maturity in every position he runs in. 

Fresh snow has fallen today, and we enjoyed our traditional pancake breakfast this morning, tomorrow we will celebrate the snow and drive up to Priest Lake for some more training runs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

freezing rain and other stuff

Woke up today to a dusting of snow and freezing rain, sigh, welcome to the Northwest.  Sometimes it just seems like "mother nature" can't decide what to do.   First it will be cold, with wondrous fluffy dry snow, the next minute it is raining, the next it is foggy, then cold, then raining.....My least favorite would be freezing rain though!

Nonetheless because of the wonders of modern weather forecasting, knowing that this day might be a good day to stay put, we enjoyed two wonderful days on the trails in brisk cold temps and fresh snow.  Thursday Bob and I drove up to Fernan Saddle, which is above Fernan lake, and a very popular take off point for local snowmobilers on the weekends.  During the week, it is quiet and a wonderful place to snowshoe, ski or dog sled.  We've lived here and trained our dogs for almost 10 years before we discovered how nice this place was.  I think I always assumed it would be so crowded since it is close to town.   Finally last year we drove up with our snow machine and toured some of the trails.  The views were absolutely spectacular.  This year, with snow confined to higher elevations or very favored locations we have come back, this time with our dogs.

What a treat we were in for.  The skies were crystal clear and the views, well incredible.  From the Fernan Saddle area one can see in all directions, west to Spokane, Mt Spokane, Rathdrum Mountain, south and west towards Coeur d'Alene Lake, east towards Montana.  The snow was cold and dry.  The temperatures were brisk, in the low twenties, warm enough for our comfort but still cold enough for the dogs.

On thursday Bob and I both took sleds out and on our first run we ended up doing about 8 miles round trip.  It was one of those trips where it was just so beautiful I didn't want to turn around so I kept going....even though I realized that the dogs and I might regret this on the way back.  Most years 8 miles wouldn't be a big deal at all for this time of year, but we have not put that many miles on the dogs this year.  They seemed to have the same feeling we did as we were out, and were not eager to turn around.

It was so beautiful thursday, we drove back and repeated our adventure on friday.  Once again the temperatures were perfect, the sun was shining and we were treated to views in all directions.  Best yet the trail groomer left us with a track of perfect powder.  I took out two teams once again, first 6 samoyeds and second a mixed team of siberian and alaskan huskies.  Friday I started out with Rose and Donner at lead.  Donner had ended up in lead on thurs and I wanted to see how he might do right from the start.  Well, he let me know just exactly what he thought, not much!  So we stopped and Miss Willow took his place in the place of honor (I try to convince all of the dogs that but somehow they just don't seem to believe me....).  Willow led with Rose to our turnaround spot, at which point I decided to switch her out with Blizzard, Donner's brother.  Blizzard is one of my most rock solid workers.  I have not had him in lead much at all.  When he was younger, he was clearly uncomfortable with this position; however as he has run for several years, his confidence has grown along with his tremendous physical capabilities.  Blizzard was clearly quite comfortable with his new role this day!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from all of us here at the Dashing Kennel!    We rang in the New Year here with a quiet day at home, taking a break from preparations for the Nursery, Cedar Mountain Perennials.  We finished up work replacing the broken sled runner on my sled, which was alot of fun actually, our first venture into the world of lashing sleds and "major" sled repair.  The actual replacement runner was provided to us by the sled manufacturer, Johnn Molburg of Artic Star Sleds in Pennsylvania.  He provided with excellent instructions, down the exact length of each piece of rope needed to lash the runner and attach it to each stanchion.  It is certainly nice to have a better feel now for how to repair and replace parts on our sled.  It is certainly NOT rocket science :).

Sunday we enjoyed our first runs on snow, finally.  El Nino has brought a much dryer year than average to the Pacific Northwest.  Monthly moisture totals this fall have been progressively dryer.  Compared to our last two years, however, for us this is I almost hate to say a welcome respite from the constant drudgery of moving snow.  I am quite sure I will be ready for more next year with this break in the weather.  El Nino has brought lower snow totals to our area and our trails have been covered with ice in the last several weeks, bringing our training to a complete standstill.  Finally though we heard decent snow was to be found north of Nordman in the Priest Lake area, one of several areas that we enjoy running.

We met a couple of our friends yesterday at the Granite Mountain Snow Park and invited and met two newcomers to the area.  It was almost an all Siberian Husky rendezvous with the exception of my Samoyeds and Bob's alaskan huskies.  Bob, my better half, and avid skijorer took out three dogs on a sled so that he could get his first run on skiis in sans dogs.  I took 6 samoyeds out and then followed with a team of 2 siberian huskies and two alaskan huskies.

Our first runs were really quite nice.  The snow had a cornlike cosistency and had nice give to it which was perfect for a first time out on a sled.   Our dogs were definitely eager to be out on snow after a long fall on wheels. 

I had six of my 10 samoyeds that can run with me, including the three pups from the litter I bred in 2007 (Rose, Saffron and Pepper), Willow, and brothers Donner and Blizzard.  Of this group, Rose who has been working in the past year with an experienced old alaskan leader of ours as well as a young siberian leader, has matured into a nice confident worker.  My task now is to run several of the other dogs with her, mix and match.  A week ago, Rose's brother Pepper, who has also worked with our old Alaskan leader Jezebel, ran lead with Rose. 

Yesterday, Willow, a 7 year old was in co-lead.  Willow is not new to this role by any stretch of the imagination and she is a very interesting dog to watch in lead.  She is the only one I have seen in my kennel who seems to use her sense of smell extensively while she is working.  If teams have run ahead of us she will often be observed picking out certain portions of the trail and scenting periodically as she goes.   She is also the first one that seems to be aware of teams approaching or ahead of us.  Willow is also interesting in that at first she often does not always work as hard as the rest of the team, I don't know if the initial burst is something that she is uncomfortable with or if she is on purpose saving herself for a longer run as she did many of those when she was younger.  She always comes on very strong about half way through a run though, whether on an out and back trail or a loop.  I can always count on her strength to help guide the team home.   Yesterday we did somewhere between 6 and 7 miles, turning around at a road junction.  On the way home the snow was becoming softer and the dogs had a good workout.   On the gradual rise after the team crossed Granite Creek,  little Willow, and she is lean Samoyed, put her nose to the snow upon my request to push through to the top. 

For my second run, I took out Cooper and McGee, siberian huskies with Abby and Cody.  Cooper and Abby at lead, McGee and Cody at wheel.  Abby is a little red alaskan husky with a heart shaped blaze on her forehead.  When she was younger, she was painfully shy, avoiding strangers at all cost, ducking away from spotters or other trail help during races.  Over the years, this athletic little dog has grown so much in ability as a sled dog.  Ten years old now she accepts people with a wagging tail at the truck and confidently passes people and snowmobiles on the trail.  With her growing confidence her abilities as a co-leader have also increased coincidentally.  Rarely does Abby miss a command.  I never cease to be amazed at the athletic abilities of these dogs which can extend well into their senior years.  At 10 years old Abby is always pushing, and her strength far exceeds what one might expect from her diminutive stature. Cody is now 11, and his age has begun to show, but he still loves to get out.  Again though I am still amazed at what an 11 year old dog can do, they certainly don't have the top speed of their youth but their stamina is incredible.  This little four dog team did the same run as my 6 dog team, a great run to work out some of the kinks.  We took it slow in places on the way home in places as the snow had begun to take on an even softer composition.

We finished up our adventures with a warm cup of coffee, banana bread, and chex mix, shared stories and painted pictures of what we saw.  Judy saw several moose for the first time on the trail, having recently moved up to northern Idaho from Colorado.  She wisely gave them room to move off the trail in advance of her powerful 6 dog team.   As we closed sharing our memories of this day we look forward to our next day and the hope that a little more snow may fall in the meantime!

Happy New Year, and clear fast trails to all from the dashing kennel.