Robert and his team of racing Siberian Huskies on the trail in Casper, Wyoming (circa 2001)
If one phase can sum up the 2012 Serum Run Boot Camp it would have to be:
Too Hot to Trot
It was unseasonably warm this past weekend and it played havoc on our plans for the serum run boot camp. Well not really. We all had a great time. The organizers will be the first to tell you that an event like this prides itself on being very fluid in their plans.
We were and we made it work.
After submitting our applications way back around Christmas and being selected in mid-January, I was ready for this weekend, no matter what it entailed.
We had a great group of participants: six dog teams and seven snowmachiners. This small group of mostly veterans of past serum runs was the perfect mix for a weekend on the rivers of South Central, Alaska. Being a rookie I was looking forward to listening and learning from the folks that have done this before.
I have run the river on several occasions but mostly just up to Yentna Station and back without much planning or preparation. This is the same route that we did this weekend but with a bit more logistics. I had no idea just how much gear it took to just run 35 miles.
It all started on Thursday evening with us packing and preparing for the weekend. I know I packed like a rookie in terms of food and drink but I packed a little too light on things that mattered. I forgot my shovel and enough trash bags and I should have brought at least one extra snack for the dogs.
Friday evening we all met at Eagelquest Lodge in Willow and had a dinner or ham and potatoes, baked beans, rolls and M&M cookies. My wife, Michele and daughter, Nicole, came along to support me in this adventure. It was why we moved to Alaska for goodness sake.
After dinner we had a meeting about the next day’s event’s, the trail, and our itneniary before retiring to our cabins for the evening.
The little cabin slept 5 and I took one of the twin beds upstairs. We stayed up late talking and telling mushing stories. I slept well sans the blaring night light. We had a meeting at 8:30 back at the lodge so we had to be ready to go by 10 am.
On Saturday morning it was pretty warm. About 28 degrees or so when we dropped the dogs from the dog trucks and gave them a quick meal.
After a nice breakfast of cinnamon rolls and juice we decided that the first teams would be out at 11:00 and we headed out to pack our gear.
I was third to go out and the run from Eaglequest to Luce’s lodge was a bevy of passing and playing “tag” with Joe’s Screaming Huskies team. I finally pulled ahead after Joe stopped for a few minutes.
At about mile 20 I stopped to snack the dogs with fish and noticed that Marble, my six year old Siberian, refused to eat it. She laid down and started dipping snow. Being the thickest coated dog on the team I could tell she was hot. We rested for a few and trudged on the the sugary, sometimes very deep snow, on the Yentna River.
In this part of Alaska they have had at least five feet of snow and the river is virtually a highway for the people that live along the banks and the 100s of snow machines training and racing along the river a break neck speeds.
At Luce’s lodge Marble quit on me and didn’t want to have any part of this game any longer. I loaded her up in the sled bag and away we went. Our snow machines carry all of our gear as well as a dog crate to carry a dog should they become injured, sick or otherwise quit.
Being so close to Yentna Station I didn’t see any snow machine support and rather than wait I decided to make Marble comfortable in the bag. I secured her with a neckline and left he flap open so she could stick her head out and enjoy the ride.
By the time I got going again I could see two other teams about 1/4 to 1/2 mile behind me so I knew if I had to stop again they would be there to help if I needed it.
The Serum Run and the boot camp is not a race. We are out there to help each other. That is the beauty of this type of an event.
We arrived at Yentna Station in 3 hours 40 minutes. Not bad in the warm weather and punchy conditions. I have done this run in as long as five hours so, not a bad run at all.
The “trail breaker” snow machines were already there and had already set up places for us to camp our dogs. Being first in I would be first out in the morning.
I immediately started my chores.
Dogs first in mushing. That’s just how we roll.
More to come…