Monday, February 20, 2006

Yukon Quest Day 1: Strange Days are These

What a freak show! The funny thing is now that we're safe and back home with our beloved pooches there's a great sense of relief that we no longer have to be associated with an organization whose pathetic performance this year has ensured that the Yukon Quest's future looks to be in as much disarray as the trail was over the last week between Fairbanks and Dawson. We started with high hopes, survived numerous obstacles along the way culminating in our coerced withdrawal just a few days ago under suspect circumstances. While memories and thoughts are still fresh in the mind I've decided to set them down on paper, it's the least we can do for all of our kennel's supporters home in Chicago and Toronto, school kids across North America as well as my gunnas in the native Athabascan villages of Alaska's Interior. This year's Quest was one for the memory books as well as the last time Laughing Eyes Kennel will ever be associated with a race that I believe dishonors the integrity of a lifestyle it supposedly was trying to emulate. Though we weren't allowed to finish in a fair, ethical manner the dogs are happy with wagging tails, and that my friends is what Laughing Eyes Kennel's existence is all about - positive energy. Enjoy the show - my apologies that the final chapter was never allowed to be performed.

The Start: Fairbanks
Warm. That would be the catch word for this year's racing season. As the earth's temps have risen of late, prospects for decent mushing trails have all but disappeared. My heart goes out to fellows like Mike "Rattles" Kraner of Alaska and Doug and Mitch from the Canadian Rangers who along with dozens of others performed admirably placing down a base as best they could. Unfortunately we are but ants compared with Mother Nature's energy. This year's race would not be a celebration of our Northern Lifestyle but a war to survive an obstacle course from Hell. From the very start conditions were quite unusual. Normal temps. in Fairbanks should have been optimally around zero - this year it was 30 above. Thus the trail was hot, slow and slushy. Numerous friends had stopped by the truck to wish us well: Lloyd Charlie and Rocky Riley from Minto, Mrs. Brainerd, Ronny Evans and Alan J from Tanana as well as numerous others. We were to be the 11th squad heading out, there were 22 teams total.

Parked next to us was our good friend and neighbour Paul Geoffrion. Paul was competing too - he even had 4 of our dogs on his squad: Trixie, Uncus, Scotty and Brady. Paul happens to a dentist. I will always be in his debt for he is the man who last year discovered a cyst that was eating into my upper jaw - it might have been fatal if it had not been discovered. This kind frenchman has been a true blessing - now we know why my mouth has always been in such pain.

As usual there was a frenzied level of excitement as dozens of barking, screaming, pumped up dogs were bootied up and harnessed. Sebastian Schnuelle stopped by to wish us well as well as many past Quest competitors: Bill Cotter, Dan Kaduce, Bill Pinkham and others. Going into the race I couldn't understand why so few had signed up compared with the better known Iditarod whose field consisted of over 4 times as many teams. What was the difference in these races? A week later and now we understand. Organization, Understanding, Integrity.

Tears were in my eyes as the starter counted down the final seconds: 4, 3, 2, 1, Go....... Giving Tamra one last farewell kiss we flew on down the trail with little Colby and Mr. Flame up in lead. The crowd was packed tight along the trail too close - scaring the pooches as we sought to excape the madness and enjoy the relative calm of the woods.

to be continued....


At 8:38 PM , Blogger HAG said...

Serious Bummer! I hope the Iditarod will bring happier trails.

At 5:25 PM , Blogger jaime vives said...

yo' man, this is not surprising me one bit. i've been following the race and also checking the weather conditions. i was very surprised to see the temperature, specialy in, feb 21st it was 46 degrees!! now i it's all making sence to me. can't wait to hear the rest of the story. and even wonder what kind of snow will there be in the middle of mach...
good luck amigo


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