Yukon Quest 2011!

Well my dear followers, we have once again seen another Quest completed.  If you’ve read my blog you may remember that the Yukon Quest is our “other” 1000 mile sled dog race; The Toughest Race on Earth.  As it is very near and dear to my heart, I’ve posted about it before.

This summer most of the regular crew all went up to Mile 101 to hang out and get some work done on the place in 4th of July and Mile 101.

Yukon Quest 2010 which was also working at Mile 101.

In 2009 I got to handle for Wayne and Scarlett Hall from Whitehorse to Fairbanks in Yukon Quest, Adventures in Handling.

Here is a video taken a few years ago of Mile 101 Checkpoint so you can see inside some of the cabins.

This year, since they mushers were coming from Whitehorse (odd numbered years), by the time they got to our checkpoint on the US side, they are semi spread out.  This let us get much more sleep then the frenzy of last year when they came from Fairbanks.  As one of the two cooks, I was just tickled pink when two separate mushers mentioned the bacon and eggs they got with us.  Our traditional meals, bacon, eggs, and halibut are donated to use by our local watering hole, Ivory Jacks.

To see pictures better, may I suggest right clicking and opening them in a new tab.

Yes I was feeling a bit whimsical for my trip, my grand adventure.  Carol Falchetta and I decided to caravan up to the checkpoint.  We were going to head up on Saturday, Feb. 12th but due to the extreme quickness of the first part of the race, we decided to head up on Friday.

My frosty Toyota
Carol and Rollie
Going up and the road is getting more snow packed.
On our way up 12 Mile Summit, we stopped to talk to Snowplow Man. He tells us the road is still open and he will be back soon on another pass.

Due to the snow berm in the middle of the road from the snow plow’s first pass, two vehicles coming down 12 Mile Summit was on our side of the road.  They ran Carol off the side of the road and just kept driving, assholes.  I can only hope they were out of state hunters.  At this point the wind was blowing pretty strongly and the snow was blowing pretty sidewaysly.

She wasn’t far off the road but she was really stuck. Once off the road, it’s just soft snow to sink axle deep in.

Here’s a video I took, sitting there with my flashers on. You can see the wind is pretty hard.

There was not much we could do so we decided to just wait for Snow Plow Man to show back up.  It was very comforting to know that big ass truck would return.  This wasn’t the last time we were thankful for DOT and we weren’t the only ones.  They spent the night being heros!

He gets her out very handily.

So you would think we would be right back on the road huh?  unfortunately when we started to drive off, I realized I had a flat on my right front tire.  I am so thankful that it happened there while sitting and not while driving a windy, mountain, snow covered road.  Just the day before a friend pointed out that a tire looked a bit low so before leaving I checked all of them and added the necessary air.  After just a few feet I knew what it was so I pulled up right in front of the snow plow.  No way was I going to let him leave hahaha.  (Not that he would or did!)  I jumped out, looked at my flat, worded to him through the window “I have a flat!”  He worded back “I know!”  He rolled down his window and told me of a pullout just a few feet behind him and to pull into there and he would call for help.  So I limped into the pull out and he pulled in beside me.  By this time, the wind was howling and in full blizzard mode.  Because of this, Carol couldn’t see that I was not behind her.  It was seriously down to a few feet of visibility by now.

Snow Plow Man told me to stay in my car as he had called his buddy who had his heavy winter gear to change my tire for me.  Yes, you heard right, “change it FOR me!”  My regular readers know that I know how to change a tire…but they had the big jack which was handy.  All in all I sat and waited for a bit but the DOT guys never left me alone.  For not being a wimpy girl, this was still comforting to me.

My heros, Travis and another one who I didn’t get the name of.
A young Trooper checks in on us.

The tire got changed and they took the tire with them to their shop to fix it.  They told me I could pick it up on my way back so I wouldn’t have to run with out a spare.  Do they rock or what?  I promised them a 12 pack on my return.  More to that story later.  I was once again, on my way.  The next 20 miles were eerie.  With the snow and wind blowing a tempest like the deranged breath of Mother Nature and the solitude of the road, it was a bit surreal.  After I got off the mountain a bit, it started to ease.  By the time I pulled into the checkpoint, Eric, trailblazer extrodanairre, had just plugged in his truck so it would start, to come look for me.  Carol felt terrible that she lost me.  She had pulled over for 45 minutes then went on to notify the people at the checkpoint.  I didn’t mind, as seriously, one could not see in that blizzard and by then she was closer to the checkpoint.

That first night was a bit bare as none of the food had shown up yet so we were left with what we had brought with us.  The following night however, made up for it.  The rest of the crew showed up and Eric made his traditional cajon shrimp boil and we all ate, drank, and were merry!  Good times shared with good friends and good food, who could ask for a better time?

Peter, Greg, Lucas, Jan.

Kevin, Sterling, Eric, and Kelly.

Kate and Joe

I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of Mike.  He was probably out working on something.

Here is a great little video taken by Peter Kamper, our Checkpoint Manager and videographer.

“Mile 101 is the most remote checkpoint of the YQ trail. It is connected the outside world via ham radio and satellite internet connections. Power comes from generators the crew brings up to the mostly abandoned cabins. Often the checkpoint, laying between two mountain passes is cut off from the rest of the road system due to blowing snow and severe weather conditions.
Video Peter Kamper”

People ask me about the trail markers going over Eagle Summit.  A lot of thought and hard work are put into these.  This is an amusing spoof on the subject done by Eric a few years ago.  Hey, I think it’s a great idea.

Brent Sass’ handlers decided to come out and spend the night with us, since we are the most fun…

Josh
Steve (most commonly known as “the guy with the blow up doll” OR “the guy with Cheetos in his ears, speaking in a Japanese accent to “the control tower”.
Inside the Comm Shack, Sterling, Carol, Kevin.
Kevin, HAM Radio operator and technical guru.

The following day it was time to get some work done.

Joe, hard at work.

Jan and I followed Eric up the trail towards Eagle Summit on a secret mission, placing a big box of pink flamingos along the trail.

Looking down from Eagle Summit.  Eric took Jan and I down on his snow machine.  While he said I didn’t, I THOUGHT I screamed all the way down.  I can not imagine getting up that with a team of dogs.

Unrelenting, austere, beauty. These two pictures are much better appreciated at full size.

Box o flamingos, trail markers, cliff (I mean trail).

Me, installing a flamingo on a tripod. Photo by JanDenapoli.

Me and Jan, flamingoists!

Photo by Jan Denapoli.

It was great fun but it IS frosty work! Photos by Jan Denapoli.

It took us two days to put out all the flamingos.  Then we also caught some eggs outside of the cook shack.  

DOT guys brought my plugged tire to me.  How is that for service!  We had been using everyone’s personal generators to run the cook and comm shacks since we had yet to get the big one from the Quest.  I think we blew 3 or 4 of them.  So, there was no plugging in of cars and they had frozen up.  Jan had to work on Monday and Carol needed to move on to Circle/Central to get pictures of the team/s as they came in but no one was going anywhere.  It was about -40 or colder.  So while they were there, they also jumped off several vehicles.

Comm Shack
Incoming trail
The big generator FINALLY arrived.
Cook shack
Weather report
Drop bags

 

Race Marshal Hans Oettli and Head Veterinarian Alan Hallman

Josh Cadzow and crew

Sebastian Schnuelle trying to eat while being interviewed.

Here’s a video of Sab going over Eagle Summit (which is right before our checkpoint).

Step, step, rest, step, step, burning lungs, step, rest.

Happy handlers!

Dallas Seavey

Kate and Wesley Schaefer, awesome people.  They brought us 10 pizzas, cookies, cough drops and oranges, just because they are coolness!

Brent Sass and Kelly Kamper

Kelly Griffin

Allen Moore and Joe

Hans Gatt

 

We had a long break between mushers so some of us decided to see if the showers in Central were in working order and to have a cheeseburger.  They weren’t, but it was a nice break anyways.

Got snow?

 

We took a detour to check out Circle Hot Springs.  It’s been closed for years but people still use it.  But not recently it appears as it was snowed over.

 

 

That night I went down to the lower cabin for a while to visit with Mike and Joe and to share in some of the “101” while we waited for the next team to come in.  They are the checkers who check the mushers in.  Both of these guys are fun to visit with.  They have lots of stories to share.

Mike can sit on his bed there and look out the window to see teams come in.  We had a “doorbell” installed about 1/2 mile down the trail that would beep us on our radios when they passed that point, but it wasn’t full proof.

Jodi Bailey and her handler.

Jodi feeding her team.

Mike Ellis’ beautiful team of Siberians resting in the sunshine.  While the sun at this time of year doesn’t offer much heat, it’s better than the alternative!

Mike Ellis.  Poor thing had an upset stomach since food from a previous stop so bacon and eggs where not a real good choice for him.  I offered him some yogurt but it was frozen so still not appealing to a touchy stomach.  And yet, here he is smiling for the camera.

 

Dave Dalton and Jodi Bailey.  In the background is a sweet Vet named Annette who spent quite a while with us waiting for teams to come in.  Also in the far background is Sue Ellis, so much energetic fun from that girl!  She’s the type of person that people like me just want to be around.

We still had a few teams out on the trail when it was time for me to leave.  I had been away from my kids for week (and they were out of school all that time.)  The second set of snowmachiners showed up and went and got our flamingos for us.  It looked like they had fun.  They were all smiling anyways.

I wanted to wait and see Jodi off down the trail towards home but I wanted to get back over 12 Mile Summit before dark more.  So I left for my solitary trip home.

 

I made it home just fine though.

The finish banquet was awesome.  Thank you to Jan for buying my ticket.  I wouldn’t have been able to go otherwise.

Funny that this is image 101 on my camera.

Jan and Eric.

Annette, Jodi, and Donna

Sorry these pictures are not very good.  I didn’t want to get up and get in other seated people’s way to get better pictures.  I also didn’t get pictures of everyone.  In no particular order other than how they came out on my computer…

Hugh Neff

Kyla Durham, Brent Sass’s handler and runner of his puppy team.  11th place.

Dave Dalton 9th place.

Allen Moore 6th place.

Kelley Griffin, 5th place.

Dallas Seavey 1st place, finishing in 10 days, 11 hours, 53 minutes!

Among the top awards bestowed at the banquet was the inaugural Silver Legacy Award, named after its first recipient — Silver, the lead dog for Fairbanks musher Brent Sass. The award will recognize dogs for “incredible deeds and feats of bravery and (honor),” according to race officials.

In 2006, during a storm on Eagle Summit, Silver was instrumental in assisting a musher in trouble and helping another team over the pass. This year, Silver performed double duty on American Summit. With Hans Gatt and his team in trouble, Sass hitched Gatt’s team to his sled and let Silver pull both teams over the pass.

http://www.adn.com/2011/02/19/1712597/yukon-quest-wraps-up.html

Here is the video of that, taken by Brent.  In his words, knarly!

“After coming across a near-hypothermic Hans Gatt during a storm, Brent Sass lashed their teams together in order to make it over American Summit. Thanks to his lead dog, Silver, they made it safely over and into Eagle checkpoint.”

Veterinarian’s Choice, Mike and Sue Ellis.

Sportsmanship Award (chosen by racers), Tie: Mike Ellis, Allen Moore, and Brent Sass.

Well folks time to wrap this up already.  I did want to say at some point in this post that being at Mile 101 is a bit like being on the front lines of the Quest.  Certainly we are witness to what can and does happen occasional on Eagle Summit.  While there are stories worthy of a good storyteller that comes from that, they are not my stories to tell.  It is an honor to be keeper of these stories and I take that responsibility to heart.  The position I hold for this blog is to simply not share in the exhaustion, heart break, and plain old bad luck met by some of the mushers.  But some of those stories ARE out there, told by the people who need to tell them such as Sab’s Yukon Quest Recap and the CKRW interview of Hans Gatt, both very worthy of a listen.

I want to also thank my friend Morgan and her kids for keeping my children in a home they are familiar with while I was gone.  I couldn’t have done this without you guys!  I hope you enjoyed my story and look forward to any comments you may leave.

 

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9 thoughts on “Yukon Quest 2011!

  1. […] Here is last year’s fine adventure, Yukon Quest 2011.  […]

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  2. Excellent recap, Georgeanne! I loved reading your descriptions and seeing all the great photos! And we heard about that shrimp feast – and the flamingos – all the way up in Circle!

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  3. Deka says:

    I’ve been following the Iditarod for the last 7-8 years and the YQ for 2-3 years.
    I really enjoyed this post because it gave me a visual of what a checkpoint is all about. All the preparation, wood, food, sleeping quarters, hardships and friendships.
    Thank you for the opportunity to understand a small snipet of what it takes to put on a long distance sleddog race.

    Deka

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    • cloud9doula says:

      Thank you Deka. I really appriciate it. You might be interested in my post Adventures in Handling. It shows how this set of volunteers also make it possible for a musher to just concentrate on his dogs and his race. It might be a page or two back.

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  4. Anthony Mckinley says:

    Thanks of sharing your wonderful experience at checkpoint 101 2011 🙂

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  5. Carmen says:

    Great reading, Georganne. What wonderful experiences!!

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  6. pamela coss says:

    G If it wasn’t for wonderful people like you we would never have seen or known any of this.I am glad you are one of those story tellers..Thank you that i truly know you and I can see all these wonderful pictures..

    Like

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