Friday, January 20, 2006

Copper Basin

So Hugh wanted me to write a bit about the race this past weekend and he's promised to write some from his perspective soon. In case you haven't looked at the final results, Hugh came in 6th and Dean finished 13th. First I wanted to point out to Craig Medred of the Anchorage Daily News that Hugh was only in 2nd place for about 5 minutes and was mostly around 5th place, and his team did not falter badly between Wolverine and Tolsona. He had 6 out of 12 dogs on his team that had never raced before and one dog that has only recently recovered from a strained tendon injury. We use the Copper Basin race as training for the Yukon Quest; the prize money is hardly worth risking dogs for. The trail between Wolverine and Tolsona was the worst he's ever seen (and he's seen a lot of bad trail). There wasn't enough snow and the snowmachiners had created about 20 miles of moguls. With all the new dogs Hugh had, he slowed the team way down to prevent injuries and to not totally demoralize their spirits. Arriving in Tolsona, he saw three teams that didn't want to continue - it took their handlers a few miles of leading to get them out of there. He was so upset by this sight that he wanted to call it a day there but decided as the remaining 20 miles of trail was downhill and flat he would let them finish. Anyway this isn't meant to be a list of excuses but an explanation of why he didn't push the dogs at the finish.

The race itself started good. As usual I got about 1 hour of sleep the whole race. This makes it increasing diffcult to get to the last couple of checkpoints on time. I find it takes me longer to clean up the site and then I always end up rushing to drive the next 50 miles to the next checkpoint. The first section of trail was ok except for the present once again willow bushes that are annoying and dangerous to the dogs. All the mushers were raving about the second run to Paxson. So beautiful with the full moon out. The third run to sourdough was ok and the moose holes turned out not to present too much of a problem. The conditions at Sourdough left much to be desired. This time the cabin from previous years was not available and all the organizers could find was an old canvas tent with missing poles and a bit of straw - not even a source of heat. Needless to say a lot of mushers were hanging around a campfire for seven hours instead of getting some much needed sleep. The trail to Wolverine was good but the trail out was poorly marked. Hugh left about 10 minutes before a pack of 4 teams but ended up on the wrong trail and had to return and leave right in the middle of them. After Hugh had left Tolsona I found out that our little Mojo on Dean's team had died on the trail to Wolverine. Apparently she had vomited and then aspirated the vomit into her lungs. Clint Warnke was right behind Dean and tried to clean out her throat and give her CPR but unfortunately it was too late. Mojo was the fastest leader in our kennel. A talented little 4 year old reddish-blonde husky-hound with the biggest heart. Karen Ramstead told Hugh that at least she died doing what she loved but I would prefer she had at least a few more years with us. Anyway I was really upset but had to hide my feelings until Hugh had finished and I could tell him in private. We spent the next day feeding and looking after the dogs and returned home after the banquet with a heavy heart. It's nice to be back home with the dogs again. I think they like being home too, back to their own dog house. We'll train in the Whitehorse area until the Quest. Speaking of Quest we'll be working on food drops this weekend.


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