Merry Christmas from Nushagak Kennels

Merry Christmas everyone.

Relaxing day with the family.  Alethia woke us up every half hour beginning at 5:00.  Finally gave in and Christmas morning began at 7:00.  Kids have been playing with presents ever since.  Jake and I had a few light saber duels and now the Lakers are playing.  Good day, even if the Lakers didn’t get Chris Paul.

Dogs are off today, but will start giving rides tomorrow.  We’re offering sled dog rides to raise funds for our trip to Two Rivers in March.  Shipping costs associated with moving a team of sled dogs halfway across Alaska are considerable.  We always get a great response offering rides as a fund raiser and this time looks to be no different.  Almost halfway to our fund raising goal already and we’ll be offering rides through the Spring.  Our dogs aren’t only running the race, they have to raise the money as well.

Kyle

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December 23, 2011

Been a very long time since the last post.  Won’t attempt to fill you in on everything that’s happened since last spring in one post.  I’ll cut to mushing news – We’re going to run another mid-distance race.  This one will be a 200 miler in March, the Two Rivers 200.

With each winter comes a unique mushing challenge.  After a decade of mushing no two seasons have been alike.  What I do each winter depends on the weather, family needs, available help and the dogs of course.  Our first winter on Waskey Road was a cold one.  With only a wood stove to keep us warm it was almost entirely a wood hauling winter.  The last two years have been consumed with training young dogs.  A few years ago the situation was such that I attempted a run at the K-300.  This winter finds me with a modest sized yard of adult huskies, a strong cold winter, a friend willing to help me train dogs and a standing offer from a friend in Two Rivers to run their 200 mile race in March.  Things lined up quickly this winter so I decided to give it a go.

My decade of mushing has not always been easy.  Failures were too many to count and tragedies almost ended it more than once.  Failure kept me going, drove me nuts and pushed me to work harder and rethink my strategies.  It had to come together eventually.

It hasn’t completely come together yet, but it’s starting to.  My dogs and I are turning a corner.  Hard to believe that it took a decade to get to this far.  Got my college degree in four years and built a house in a summer.  Creating a dog team hasn’t been as easy.  A few generations into my breeding program I’m seeing deep genetic talent.  The dogs act like they were made for this because they were.  It’s more fun than ever.

These dogs can haul heavy loads and travel the country with ease.  Naturally I can’t just leave it at that.  Must keep pushing and see what else we can do together.  A 200 mile race in Two Rivers should be just right.

 

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Video clips

I’m finally updating the video clips in the “Meet Our Working Dogs” page.  Click on the tab above and see what has been posted so far.  Will keep posting video clips until all dogs are represented.

Iditarod Ceremonial Start tomorrow.  It begins…

Kyle

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Quest gets interesting

“The weather is the boss” is a common saying around here.  The weather turned the Yukon Quest on its head today.  Wind and snow has made for difficult travel down the Yukon River.  Hugh Neff is still out front with a sizable lead, but if my calculations are correct a pack of pursuit mushers are gaining on him.  Hugh is breaking trail by himself while his pursuers have joined forces to take turns breaking trail.  The group is slowly gaining on him.  Too little too late?  I don’t know, but will be watching closely.  These next 24-48 hours should be very interesting.

Keep following on http://www.yukonquest.com and click on their Facebook and Youtube links.  APRN (Alaska Public Radio Network) and KUAC (Fairbanks Public Radio) are running stories at least daily at http://www.aprn.org and http://www.kuac.org.  Then of course lots of mushers have their own blogs and Facebook pages.  You can find links to those on the musher biography list.  Most importantly, keep watching the Spot race tracking.  Race dynamics and musher standings are changing by the hour.

Kyle

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Yukon Quest

The Yukon Quest is half over, but it’s not too late to enjoy the most fan friendly mushing event in the world.  The Quest travels between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse Yukon Territories alternating directions each year.  This year’s race started in the Yukon and is shaping up to be the fastest Quest ever.  Event organizers do an excellent job with their race.  In recent years they’ve added a number of fan friendly components.  Their website, http://www.yukonquest.com, will keep both mushing enthusiast and new comers alike busy for hours.  Check out race standings or click on the GPS race tracking.  You can see (as long as the equipment is transmitting a signal) where each racer is and retrieve detailed data on their running and resting schedules.  There are also YouTube, Flicker and Facebook links.  They each give you exactly what you expect; regularly uploaded 2-3 minute video clips, wonderful pictures and current interactive race updates.  Finally, they’ve got lots of daily news updates and analysis by Gwen Holdman, former Quest racer and wife of current front-runner Ken Anderson.  The Yukon Quest has worked very hard to create an enjoyable experience for any fan with an internet connection.  They are creating a new standard for all world-class races to work toward.  It’s all free and loads of fun.  Check it out at http://www.yukonquest.com.

Kyle

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Lilly Pond Derby

We all had a fun day at the Lilly Pond.  My friend organized a 6 mile 6 dog fun run.  Each musher received a latte gift certificate for entertaining the small crowd.  Anthony took a pretty good 6 dog team and finished with a bunch of other mushers.  I hooked 5 dogs in front of the big basket sled, and Alethia followed me on her sled pulled by Bernard and Lucy.  With temperatures in the mid-30’s and snow/rain falling all day, it was a soft soggy mess.  The trail was well marked and everyone had fun.  Posted some pictures below.

Anthony and his wife Erin

Alethia and I coming in.

Alethia and I at the finish line.  She was a little wet and cold.

Bing and Buddy

Luke and Juliette

Bernard and Lucy

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First impressions

Anthony has been running with me for over a week now.  We’ve logged almost 10 runs.  He’s a natural.  Because I’m so far removed from my first run, and Anthony is a thoughtful guy, I asked him to pen his impressions of his first run.  Was very pleased to read it and am happy Anthony decided to share it with all of us.

My first mushing Experience

On the night of January 5th, 2011, I was on my way to Kyle’s place, maybe a half mile down the icy road pondering how the evening might play out.  Being raised on a farm in Kansas, where 6 inches of snow was a good winter, I had zero idea of what dog sledding was all about.  I had not yet learned that there is something magnetically fascinating about this endeavor.

As I pulled into Kyle’s driveway, I became apprehensive and excited about the notion that I was going to try something entirely new challenging, and was entirely humbled by the fact that I was being afforded this opportunity.

After greeting Kyle and taking a few initial pointers on the procedures and attitude, lines and sleds were readied and positioned for the hook-up.  The first practical lesson of the night came when Kyle gathered and explained how to properly don a harness and attach a dog to the lines.  At first this seemed to be a very complicated process and I became nervous when it was my turn to try, but I steadfastly gathered the dog chosen t run on that team, followed the instructions of my teacher, and slipped him into a harness without much effort.  The dog, no stranger to the harness, was cooperative during my first tries  and generally stood erect allowing me to manipulate its limbs one direction then the next until I had everything figured out.  By the time I hooked up the fourth and final dog, the process made perfect sense and the gentle dogs seemed to slip effortlessly into harness.

While I watched Kyle assemble his team, I realized that there was great skill and technique to be learned about just hooking up the dogs.  Had I gotten in over my head on this one?  It was dark.  I did not have a super idea of the trail layout or snow conditions, but I knew to trust the animals, hang on, and follow Kyle.  Before I knew it, and while I pondered what might happen in my very near future, Kyle was hooked up and ready to go.  I received a few final pointers regarding the trail conditions and special areas the went to stand on my sled.  As I stood, dogs totally erect in anticipation of the run, I donned my gloves, looked over each dogs’ harness and line, went through the various details of my education so far and gave Kyle the signal that I was ready.  I felt as though I was a cowboy setting atop a giant bull nervously signaling the chute operator to open the gate and let loose the incredible power of nature that I had decided to tinker with.

As I watched Kyle’s team dart off as fast as rabbits and snap around the corner and onto the trail, I knew that it was now time for the anticipation to end.  I pulled the quick release snap that was tied to my anchor line, preventing the dogs from running.  In a nanosecond my sled was on the move and I was zipping right along with it.  The shear speed and force by which the sled moved was immediately addictive.  It was a rush that I would liken to an astronaut setting at the tip of a rocket when the words…3…2…1…launch…are heard.

I knew about a sharp incline int he trial that followed the turn I had jus seen kyle pass.  As I approached th hill, moving faster than I expected, I gently stepped on the tread and coasted effortlessly behind the dogs who by this time were in full swing and clearly in their element.  Following our arrival at the bottom of the incline, I hollered Gee Gee Gee, which I was told is the command for turn right.  Immediately the lead dogs darted exactly where they needed to and continued to pull with incredible drive.

The initial shock of what had happened only wore off about 5 minutes after we had left eh starting position.  It was then that I broke my intense concentration of holding onto the sled for dear life and watching ever move of every dog.  It was not a particularly bright night, but there was light enough to see basic shapes like trees and dogs.  The night sky was partially clouded but stars still shone and the air was crisp and fresh.  It was under this backdrop that I began to listen.  What I heard was almost indescribably peaceful, almost spiritual.  It was the sound of an amazing new natural engine that I had never hear before running full out on all cylinders.  However, unlike the brute force and toxic smells that my snow machine belches out power under, this engine made no noise, no smell, the air flowed naturally over you.  It didn’t jerk and clink with strain as metal ground here and there on other pieces of metal.  Literally the only sound, sight, or other sense to be detected was the swoosh of my sled and the little pitter patter of the teams feet as they darted forward behind Kyle at an astonishing pace.  This tranquility remained with me for the rest of the experience.

By the time we had returned home I was in such a relaxed and peaceful stet that I hardly remember returning the dogs to their homes with warm hay and food, content that they had run, played and lived.

Perhaps the most surprising issue of the night is the lasting impression it made on me.  I have found myself attempting to clear out the clutter in my mind only to have it come back to the experiences of that night.  The hardships, training, and other variables which inevitably present obstacles to mushing must be worth it.  Right?  I now understand why one would want to take on such a pursuit.  Like surfing, hang gliding, etc. it is truly and indescribably experience.  The connection between rider, the serenity of nature and the traditional instincts that are harder to describe are undoubtedly a reality that some may not escape, myself included.

Anthony Schneider

Sure you’ll be hearing form Anthony again.  He’s hooked.

Kyle

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