While we‘ve tried to limit the number of the dogs in the yard these past few years, you eventually have to bring in some younger ones if you want to keep a working team. My friend Lynn took in a couple of unwanted litters of sled dogs this past winter and we wound up taking a couple of the older pups this summer. They’re around 8-10 months old and pretty obnoxious. It’s going to take a fair bit of work to get them trained right, but that’s the main focus in running dogs.
The tractor originally came from Soldotna. It had been a rental unit there and had real low hours. It only needed a loader attachment. The local John Deere dealers found a loader for a 970 tractor in Anchorage and installed it before shipping it up to Fairbanks. That loader is a little bigger than the one for an 870 tractor and gave it a larger bucket. The loader only lacked a grill guard for it to be complete. No problem, I said, we’ll put one on ourselves.
Over the years, an occasional log has come over the top of the bucket, just missing the grill or headlights, but no harm was done. One time I picked up a heavy piece of equipment with a chain attached to the loader. Once lifted, it swung right into the front of the tractor. Amazingly, nothing happened. But I knew it was just a matter of time until something broke. Last summer when I was getting some parts at the dealer, I checked out a new tractor they had for sale. Not only did it have a grill guard, it was made of expanded metal, welded to the front of the loader frame. Incredible, I thought, the perfect grill guard. So the next time I was near one of the local steel yards, I wandered through their scrap pile and found a decent piece of expanded metal. They cut it to the approximate size and I had my grill guard. Well it only took another year or so to finally attach it to the tractor, trim it to fit, weld, sandblast, and then finally paint it John Deere green. Now it looks just like a factory job and it only took about twenty years.
My two wheel dogs are both ten now; one is mostly retired and the other thinks he's got a part time job. So when I saw an add for a super hard working wheel dog named Andy, well I just had to respond to it. The woman who had the dog lived in Ruby, a small village on the mighty Yukon River, and she said he was just too strong for her to handle. That sounded perfect to me, but not so much for my wife Andy. While she tolerates my mushing addiction and occasionally runs a team herself, the thought of another crazed sled dog, leaping and barking in the yard, was, at best, not high on her to do list. But promises to finish the house, well at least keep at it, won the day. So now we have another Andy, a big, strong boy to help me get up those monster hills in the White Mtns.
My friend Bill and I drove up to Bettles, a village north of the Arctic Circle to run our dogs. While it's normally isolated from the road system, the village puts an ice road in each winter to haul fuel and supplies from the Dalton Hwy. We heard a lot of horror stories about traveling the ice road, but the trip went remarkably well and I only hit one bad hole on the way in. Once we got there, the people we met helped us have a great time. On the last last day, we visited old Bettles. After WWII, the village was relocated seven miles upriver to where an airstrip was built, so now the original village is abandoned. All the old buildings are still there and it was an interesting bit of history to see. We hope to get back there sometime soon.
Seems like if it isn't snowing this month, it drops down to near -40. It's great to finally get some decent snow after last winters drought, but enough already. It snowed over a foot and a half in the past week or so and over two feet for the month. And as soon as it stops, it's back down below zero. But it sure makes the mushing trails a lot smoother and gives the global warming skeptics something to gloat about. Here's a couple of photo's from a recent dog run. Spuds likes to roll around on his back when he gets hot. Looks weird, but he never gets tangled up in his tug line.
Another perspective on the recent weather: http://newsminer.com/view/full_story/12139655/article-Groomers-break-trail-after-back-to-back-blizzards-in-Interior-Alaska?instance=outdoors
Quite likely the most interesting fall in a while. Training on the 4-wheeler in Oct. to late Nov. Then the rains started and we had to cut ditches through the dog yard to keep the water away from the dog houses. After three days of rain, it cooled off and snowed half a foot, then dropped below zero until new year's eve. At least there's enough snow now to run dogs with a sled and the weather's warm enough to enjoy it.