Editor’s Note: “Training Like Mad” is the perfect title to kick off the first of a series of 2011 Iditarod musher journals that are directly related to the work that’s being done in order for teams to prepare for IDITAROD XXXIX. Veteran Iditarod Musher and 2009 Yukon Quest Champion Sebastian Schnuelle describes his journey from Whitehorse to Paxson and the first few days of getting into the groove!
We have moved to Paxson in Alaska. We did not have a flake of snow on the ground in Whitehorse. Now I read the other day in the Yukon News, online, that Whitehorse received a record snowfall of 67 cm instead of the usual 27cm for the month of November. That snow started to come down, right when we were leaving. It made for an interesting drive to Paxson. Also the fact that we were traveling with 2 trucks, trailers and 70 dogs helped to make the drive even more interesting. Changing 2 trailer tires in 30 mile an hour winds with snowfall was all a part of the program. Finally, we made it safe and sound to the Greatland. It sure feels like coming home.
Not much time to settle in… our dogs were getting amped up with each day off. After a short 14 mile run to check out the Denali Highway conditions I decided to train on the snowmachine. I never liked snowmachines, and this was not going to change. Not even 400 miles on my nice new Bearcat 4 stroke.the thing, I blew the head gasket out. Apparently going to slow, 8 to 9 mph lets not get enough snow get on the cooler. Dang, I thought those machines were used to break trails and to work. It is now sitting at MacLaren and Allen is fixing it, putting an external radiator on. Time will tell if it will be any more useful. The dang thing would also not start at 20 below F, I had to drain water out of the chain case to get it into reverse. Dogs are easier. Feed em and go. Anywhere, anytime, any temperature.
My neighbors Jenny and Audie as well all Alan and Susie are once again going out of their way to get us on the trails ( or out of their way…. ) The next training run saw me use their 6 wheeler, while Jessie used their 4 wheeler. On the way up to MacLaren with the 6 wheeler I picked up Dave Decaro, who was stranded at Tangle Lakes, after the snowmachine he and Mike Santos used to train dogs with broke down. 2 Days later on my next run out to MacLaren, Alan, Bing and a few others were out packing down the trail after a recent heavy snowfall. I was once again riding my overheating snowmachine pulled by 32 trusty dogs, dragging my fully packed sled behind, when I came upon a broken down snowmachine. Footsteps led to another machine. 2 miles later that machine was also standing next to the trail and 2 sets of footprints leading away. Sure enough, another mile down the Denali I had 2 hitchhikers again, at 1 in the morning.
I have traveled quite a few miles in the bush now, I never had to walk using a dogteam. Back at MacLaren I left the snowmachine for Alan to take apart and switched to the sled. With 32 dogs that is. To say that I was apprehensive at the first hookup was an understatement. Luckily there was a lot of snow and very very slow going. Heck, after a run or 2 running this big string did not seem as bad anymore, even fun. Fun to drive, but NOT fun to put 128 booties on at 20 below. Forget that…. No fun at all.
We had a great Thanksgiving Dinner at MacLaren and spend quite a few days camping out with the dogs. After that we now did a few short runs around the cabin here and on the pipeline trail. This included 3 teams running down the Richardson highway on pavement, as the trail which was supposed to be leading to the pipeline was not broken out yet… and I had to go explore on dogteam with not having a snowmachine. Fun, the dogs were real exited about the easy going on the pavement. It was cold, minus 30F for the last few days, but it has warmed up today.
Tomorrow Dave Pike, from the Pike Legal Group, a sponsor of mine, is coming out for a visit, and after that we head back out on the Denali Highway for more Camping trips. The Sheep Mountain Race is right around the corner… let the good times roll. The dogs are doing well. We are sitting at around 1800 training miles for the young 2 year olds, about 1000 for the older, wiser gang. They enjoyed the new addition to the kennel, their dog barn. While 30 below outside, it went up to 60 above inside with just dog heat. 32 heaters in all!!!