Last year we had the spring that never sprung. It was cold and wet and nasty until finally, summer was here…then gone. Our warmth passes so quickly. I love winter, obviously, or I wouldn’t be able to live here. But when it starts to warm up, it’s such a time of excitement and expectation. It’s almost heartbreaking when it doesn’t happen as it is supposed to such as last year. This year, it seems like Mother Nature is apologizing for last year as we are already in breakup. The snow is melting, the sun is out, life is good!
I know it’s been a long while since I posted anything. Mostly I have been hibernating so there’s been little of interest to write about. I’ll try to catch you up with a few pictures.
Christmas came and went fairly quietly except for the kids got their first guns. They are just little .22s.
Of course, there was always nights of chasing the auroras.
One of my aurora photos was used on a Denver station news program. I was pretty excited.
We did a bit of entertaining and a lot of cooking.
Olivia’s very first home made cinnamon, raisin, yeast bread.
I also taught her how to make home made chicken noodle soup, with home made noodles.
Worked at Checkpoint Mile 101 for the Yukon Quest again. This was my 5th year working there. Needless to say, I love it. I ended up staying an extra night and day after everyone left, just putting wood in the stove and playing my fiddle. I’m going to plan on doing this every year as it was so peaceful and restful after all the commotion and lack of sleep that working there during the Quest brings. I didn’t write about it this year but you can look back over the years in this blog to see some stories if you care to.
I did take some video of the two passes I have to cross coming home from the checkpoint. The roads were actually very good even though in the videos, you can see they were icy. Last year three of our members got stuck or left the road while trying to get out to the checkpoint.
12 Mile Summit
Did a bit of henna here and there.
I love doing bellies the most!
Of course, winter is a time to go visit friends, hang out, have fun, drink some beer, etc.
Here’s my Solstice centerpiece, complete with Yule Log.
While Olivia was working on her roller derby skills.
I got to hang out with pretty mushers in tuxs for the Bunny Boots and Bids fundraiser and Wine Tasting.
And of course, practiced and played my fiddle.
I don’t think I posted this video yet. It’s how I have to unfreeze the drain. Living in a dry cabin, having to haul all our water, makes us really conserve. Of course, if you are only using tiny bits of water here and there through out the day, and it’s -40 outside, the water freezes before it clears the drain. We have a grey water system which means that the water just goes straight from the kitchen sink to the gravel pad that the cabin sits on. I have had to do this a couple of times each winter. It’s not really a big deal but yea, at that cold of temperatures, one’s lungs do not want to inhales so you end up breathing very noisily as you can hear in this video lol.
So, onto the upcoming summer! I have a camping, float trip down the Delta Clearwater planned for the kids and I. I have a trip up to visit my friend Susan in Kavik River Camp planned for later in the summer. I have a zipline adventure trip down near Talkeetna planned with my friend Lori. And I want to take my kids back packing in the back country for the first time. I have taken them camping lots of times but never into the back country. There be bears out there you know. Backpacking has almost always been my special solo adventures. I keep them for myself. But maybe my kids would like them for themselves as well. Of course, you can’t forget my annual Fowl Adventure. Chickenstock Music Festival then a visit to my friends’ Wayne and Scarlett who live off the Yukon River. Can’t wait to see them!
Welcome to my trip report of the 30th running of the Yukon Quest, the Toughest Race on Earth. It’s a long one so get a cup of coffee, throw another log on the fire and sit a spell. I have the honor of working at Mile 101 Checkpoint, named due to it being located at mile 101 of the Steese Highway. You can right click pictures and open them in a new tab or window for a better view. I really enjoy comments and the opportunity to get to know who is reading my blog so please feel free to leave some.
The route started in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada this year and ended in Fairbanks, Alaska. Next year it will start in Fairbanks and end in Whitehorse. There is a 36 hour mandatory layover in Dawson City, the halfway point. This is the only point in which the mushers can have help with their teams (other then veterinarian care).
This map is not quite accurate. Mile 101 is actually between Eagle Summit and Rosebud.
The very first Quest had 26 entrants, 3 of which were women. 20 finished. On this, the 30th running, there were 26 entrants, 3 of which were women, and 20 teams finished. Pretty neat huh? In the 30 years of the race, there have only been a bit over 300 people who have run it. It’s a pretty exclusive list. About a third of those entering, do not finish at all. It’s not called the toughest race on earth for nothing, although this was a pretty mild year.
The course follows the route of the historic 1890s Klondike Gold Rush, mail delivery, and transportation routes between Fairbanks, Dawson City, and Whitehorse.
The route runs on frozen rivers, over four mountain ranges, and through isolated northern villages. Racers cover 1,016 miles (1,635 km) or more. Temperatures commonly drop as low as −60 °F (−51 °C), and winds can reach 50 miles per hour (80 km/h) at higher elevations. Sonny Lindner won the inaugural race in 1984 from a field of 26 teams. The fastest run took place in 2010, when Hans Gatt finished after 9 days and 26 minutes. The 2012 competition had the closest one-two finish, as Hugh Neff beat Allen Moore by twenty-six seconds.
In 2005, Lance Mackey became the first Yukon Quest rookie to win the race, a feat that was repeated by 2011’s champion, Dallas Seavey. In 2007, Mackey became the first to win both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a feat he repeated the following year. The longest race time was in 1988, when Ty Halvorson took 20 days, 8 hours, and 29 minutes to finish. In 2000, Aliy Zirkle became the first woman to win the race [her husband Allen Moore was this year’s champion], in 10 days, 22 hours, and 57 minutes.”
“I wanted the gold, and I sought it; I scabbled and mucked like a slave. Was it famine or scurvy – I fought it; I hurled my youth into a grave. I wanted the gold, and I got it –Came ourt with a fortune last fall, Yet somehow life’s not what I thought it, And somehow the gold isn’t all.No! There’s the land. (Have you seen it?)It’s the cussedest land that I know, From the big, dizzy mountains that screen it, To the deep, deathlike valleys below. Some say God was tired when He made it; Some say it’s a fine land to shun; Maybe; but there’s some as would trade it, For no land on earth – and I’m one.”
Photo by Julien Schroder
This is our starting crew. A few members had to go back during the week due to work obligations. But it was nice to have everyone there at the start.
“For all you sled dog and musher fans out there! Our film from the start of the Yukon Quest 2013 which is celebrating it’s 30th anniversary. 26 fearless mushers and their faithful dogs on a 1000 mile adventure from Canada to Alaska. We love covering this race, we hope this video goes some way to capturing the heart and soul of this event and the incredible Yukon.
Of Monsters and Men”
I got to the checkpoint on Saturday. I’m glad I didn’t attempt it on Friday because 3 of our crew who did, ended up in either the ditch or a snow drift. Once again, the DOT guys helped us out. I had brought them cookies.
Then it was time to get to work.
Piia collects wood for some of the other cabins.
Travis hangs some lights.
Peter, our Checkpoint Manager
Drop bags are ready for mushers. These are bags previously packed and sent out by the mushers. They contain dog and people food, extra gear, parts and pieces, socks, gloves, batteries, etc. They are put in alphabetical order.
Icicles, it was a warm year.
One of our trail breakers, Kerry.
The other trail breaker Dave, Julienne our Communications Guru, and Travis, one of our yard guys.
Piia and Lucas entertain themselves
Looks like fun though I’m sure it would send me to the chiropractor!
Lukas and Piia kill some time.
“You come to get rich (damned good reason); You feel like an exile at first; You hate it like hell for a season, And then you are worse than the worst. It grips you like some kinds of sinning; It twists you from foe to a friend; It seems it’s been since the beginning; It seems it will be to the end. I’ve stood in some mighty-mouthed hollow, That’s plumb-full of hush to the brim; I’ve watched the big, husky sun wallow, In crimson and gold, and grow dim,Till the moon set the pearly peeks gleaming, And the stars tumbled out, neck and crop; And I’ve thought that I surely was dreaming, With the peace o’ the world piled on top.”
I love our pink hills.
Lukas, keeps the fires in all the wood stoves going as well as doing what ever else needs to be done. He is Peter’s son and has been coming to work at the checkpoint for years. He’s pretty handy to have around and a great Farkle player.
We normally have some very interesting skies at least once while there.
Julienne doubles as chainsaw mechanic.
Kevin Abnett is our normal Communications Manager. He came to help get us set up then had to go back to work. He brought his fun girl friend Ginny for us all to meet. Good luck you two. You make such a cute couple and it’s nice to have your cheerful happiness around.
“Hugh Neff arrived five minutes ahead of Allen Moore at Mile 101 and left four minutes after him.
Interview by Emily Schwing (KUAC Fairbanks)
Video by B. Dannenhauer, M. Grosch, P. Kamper and S. King”
Hugh Neff, first into the checkpoint. He only sat there about 2 minutes total and finished eating standing up on his way out the door after he saw that Allen was going on through.
Emily Schwing, Reporter for KUAC. She’s a regular here at the checkpoint. Piia updating the leaderboard.
Brent’s dad , Mark Sass. Mike Ellis and Joe Krueger (another part time yard guy).
Being a handler can be lonely business if you are doing it alone. Their job is to meet the musher when s/he comes into the checkpoint, direct them to where the straw, hot water for dog food, drop bags, and dog parking is if the checkpoint personnel doesn’t tell them. They cheer their musher on and pick up after them when they leave. All the straw has to be picked up as well as any drop bags left. They also care for any dogs the musher drops.
Brent Sass and Jake Berkowitz being interviewed, all while eating our famous bacon and eggs.
“Brent Sass lends a hand to fellow competitor, Jake Berkowitz to help get his team over the infamous Eagle Summit in the 2013 Yukon Quest.”
“A Go-Pro Camera view of Brent Sass helping Jake Berkowitz to bring Jake’s team up the final stretch of Eagle Summit. We are posting this simply for the ‘high five’. The camaraderie between mushers is rarely better shown than here.
Go-Pro footage by Kerry Barnes (Mile 101 trailbreaker).”
“Brent Sass and Jake Berkowitz arrive at Mile 101 and talk about their climb up Eagle Summit and the final miles of the race into Fairbanks.
Video by B. Dannenhauer, Michael Grosch, Peter Kamper and Sui King.”
The view out of the Comm Shack window.
We have a generator to run the lights in the cook shack, another one to run the comm shack and a final one down at the checkers’ cabin to run the lights where the incoming trail enters the area and the checker checks in the mushers. Occasionally they would run out of gas or be off while the guys performed maintenance on them. No problem though as we would just fire up the Coleman lantern. It lent a nice ambiance lol.
“Darin Lee and Cody Strathe help each other to bring their teams up the steep northern slope of Eagle Summit on their way to Checkpoint Mile 101. The weather on the summit is rarely as nice as it was on that day. The sound has been muted because of loud wind noise.yil
Video B. Dannenhauer, M. Grosch, P. Kamper, S. Kings”
One gets rest where and when one is able!
We have a sleeping cabin for the mushers but this one didn’t want to walk all the way down the hill when he really just was planning on a short nap. Besides, as he said, if he had an actual bed, he’d be out cold. These guys get very little sleep.
The bottle of “101” next to my head was completely coincidental hahah. Yes, I also have a bed in the back room but I was waiting on a musher who had just come in. They get checked in, take care of their dogs, come in and eat, then take a nap themselves. I feed them then as well as once again before they leave if they have the time. If they only get a two hour nap, so do I. The one above was 45 minutes. Any longer then that and I would have laid down in my bed.
Abbie West arrives in Mile 101, talks about Eagle Summit, her team, her hopes for next year’s race and past the last great hurdle: How to get her dogs past her kennel along the YQ trail in Fairbanks to the finish without a dog team strike.
Video by B. Dannenhauer, M.Grosch, P. Kamper and Sui Kings.
When a musher enters a checkpoint, they sign in on the clipboard. Their arrival time in entered next to their name. The Checker (Piia) supervises this as well as checks off that all mandatory gear is in the musher’s sled bag.
The following items must be presented to the checker before checking in at each checkpoint:
1. Proper cold weather sleeping bag.
2. Hand ax with an overall length of at least twenty-two (22) inches/56 centimeters.
3. One pair of snowshoes with bindings, with an area of approximately two hundred and fifty (250) square inches/1612 square centimeters each.
4. Veterinary records (loss will incur a five hundred dollar ($500) fine.) The veterinary book must be returned to a Race Judge upon completion of the race or when withdrawing for any reason.
5. Any promotional material that YQI has asked the driver to carry…
6. Functional cooker
7. Eight (8) booties for each dog, either in the sled or in use and in the sled, are required when a driver signs out of each checkpoint.
This is an emergency shelter off the road up Eagle Summit. The road is often closed in the winter due to drifting across the road.
There is a musher coming over the saddle. Right click and open in a new window for a larger view.
Every year many people see hundreds of caribou that come through here. I never see more then 3 or 4 at a time. I assume by these wolf tracks that they ran off to a new area when they were being hunted. That’s a pretty big paw print. This is the same pack that Dyane Bergen talks about being chase by in her video below.
The hill side is covered with caribou tracks!
Make sure to tell Ivory Jacks thanks for sponsoring us with bacon, eggs, and halibut.
Kerry brought some veggies which I threw in a pan to fry up with some butter. Yum. Asparagus, red, yellow, orange peppers, jalapeno, onion, a lemon, a clove of garlic… After a week of no fresh veggies, this was a real treat. Next year I’ll bring some myself, a lot more though. This little panfull didn’t go far hahaha.
I buy sky lanterns by the case. We have started a tradition of lighting them off on the anniversary of Justin’s passing. I had a couple left over and I think I’ll bring some every year. I know we wont have as still of a night every year but we can try. They are beautiful as they float away, a wishing light in the sky.
We also got quite the light show!
I put my pictures together so you get a bit of a time lapse.
“Dyane Bergen reaches the finish line in Fairbanks to claim the red lantern award. 26 mushers started the 1600 km/ 1000 mile trek and 20 teams pulled through to the finish. Congratulations Dyane !
Video by B.Dannenhauer, M.Grosch, P. Kamper and S.King”
I brought my fabric glue with me so I could put my newest volunteer patch on my fiddle case before I even got it home. I can hardly wait till I have no more room! Next year will be my 5th year up there. I’m looking forward to it and trying to think of something special to do while there. Do you have any ideas? Come on, I know I have some very creative followers.
“The summer – no sweeter was ever; The sunshiny woods all athrill; The grayling aleap in the river, The bighorn asleep on the hill. The strong life that never knows harness; The wilds where the caribou call; The freshness, the freedom, the farness –O God! how I’m stuck on it all.The winter! the brightness that blinds you, the white land locked tight as a drum, The cold fear that follows and finds you, The silence that bludgeons you dumb. The snows that are older than history, The woods where the weird shadows slant; The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery, I’ve bade’em good-by – but I can’t.”
This is the final leader board. It keeps track of which musher came in when, with how many dogs, and when he left and with how many dogs he left with. Then it shows what time he reached the next checkpoint and the finish line. Of course I could not pass up a big empty spot on the dry erase board without decorating it with a bit of henna type design.
“This is the ‘live’ version of the Yukon Quest Finish Banquet including sponsor recognition, all awards and musher talk. Enjoy…, you will find a lot of stories and humor in this 2 1/2 hour audio.
PS: No, …. you don’t want the video version. It would take us a day to upload it from where we are.
Until 2014: Happy Trails from all of us at the Yukon Quest!”
“A video/slideshow of the 30th running of the Yukon Quest that captures the mushers, dogs, handlers, volunteers, sponsors, vets and directors that made it all possible.”
“There’s a land where the mountains are nameless, And the rivers all run God knows where; There are lives that are erring and aimless; And deaths that just hang by a hair; There are hardships that nobody reckons; There are valleys unpeopled and still; There’s a land – oh, it beckons and beckons, And I want to go back – and I will.They’re making my money diminish; I’m sick of the taste of champgne. Thank God! when I’m skinned to a finish, I’ll pike to the Yukon again. I’ll fight – and you bet it’s no sham-fight; It’s hell! – but I’ve been there before; And it’s better than this by a damsite –So me for the Yukon once more.There’s gold, and it’s haunting and haunting; It’s luring me on as of old; Yet it isn’t the gold that I’m wanting, So much as just finding the gold. It’s the great, broad land ‘way up yonder. It’s the forests where silence has lease; It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder, It’s the stillness that fills me with peace. ” R. Service
Then all of a sudden, it was over for another year. This is always a bit of a melancholy time for me. I love it so much out there and have such a good time. The lack of showers and sleep quickly fade into vague memory while the friends and camaraderie, as well as the stark, extreme wilderness remain sharp and clear.
I did see a few caribou grazing down in a valley so peacefully.
This is overflow. It occurs when the weight of the ice on top of the water grows so heavy it sinks. Liquid water then flows over the top of the ice and the top layer freezes too. Rinse, repeat. This is what mushers often have to go through on the trail. It doesn’t show very well in the picture but the ice is really a beautiful sage green.
The drive home was uneventful though I did stop and take a few pictures of the lovely sky and scenery. I take my time when I have the opportunity to “commune with nature”. I also pulled my fiddle out at a lovely little pull out. I play the best when by myself. It was too cold to play for long but it was certainly good for my soul.
We love it here because it forges a toughness, an ability to survive and, most importantly, it forms a bond of friendship and camaraderie among us that I believe is stronger than anywhere else in the world.
This state is special, in an unforgiving, brutal cold and dark sort of way. As my friend once said, “summer is the beautiful lie that Fairbanks tells us,” and we suffer through the winters to hear that lie once again.
#1 Chicken! #2, 25 Anniversary of the Quest, #3, 2009, I handled for Wayne Hall, the Quest started in Whitehorse so we stayed at Sebastian Schnuelle’s place. He won that year, and my patch is signed by him. #4, 5, and 6 are for years 2010, 11, 12, Volunteer patches. I thought my fiddle case was a perfect place to put them.
We do have a shower but it is a “grey water system”. That means the drain is just a straight piece of pvc that empties out onto the gravel pad under the cabin. It gets a bit chilly. Now we put a lid over it.
Thanksgiving was a nice holiday shared with friends. Above is dates wrapped in bacon. It’s my new favorite special treat.
Of course, we’ve had some Northern Lights.
Sorry, there is just too much noise in these pictures. My friend Jan has since loaned me her Nikon D200 so now I will be learning how to use that. For the last month or so though, we have not had any lights and have had lots of over cast. No worries dear friends, they will come. Bring on March!
A bit of simple henna.
We had a cold snap.
The forecast above was saying -78 with wind chill, -58 without. The one below says either -62 or -82. I forget what it said and can’t see it well enough to tell at this point hahaha. Sucks getting old sometimes. Either way, we didn’t get these temps though it did get to -50 around here. We hung a blanket over the door for a few days because there was just so much cold coming off of it.
I tried making some salmon jerky. Next time I’ll cut it into strips but I wanted some bigger pieces.
We got 2 foot of snow at one fall. That was fun.
Christmas in the cabin was really good. This was probably the best Christmas we’ve had in years. Life is getting better again. Oh yes, we also rescued a cat from the shelter. This is the first time I’ve ever had a cat. Her name is Angel. She is a female orange tabby which I have found is pretty rare.
Olivia’s plate for Santa and her note explaining about how it’s much more balanced then cookies and milk. Celery, smoked salmon, cheese, and a brownie along with some cool, fresh water.
We had Christmas dinner at friends. While I love my friends and so do my kids, we probably wont do this again. It just felt weird not having leftovers to raid later that night or the next day.
Angel got a box for Christmas.
We don’t have fireworks for 4th of July as it is light all night in the summer. We have our big display for New Years. Our tradition is to have a car picknick. We splurg on a few extra yummy goodies for our picknick.
Wow, finally got to the post office to find a gift from my sister Cheryl Wolfe and brother in law, Mike Kuhlmann. They are gardners and chefs! I can’t stress enough how good this box smelled as we were opening it! Whole Tarragon, Whole Mediterranean Oregano, Bell Pepper, Stevia, Paprika, Lynda-Leta Chipotle Pickled Garlic, Sprigs of Rosemary, Corn Relish, and a sage smudge stick. Oh now, what to cook, what to cook? Thank you so much you two!
Anyways, that’s about it so far for winter. We’re just plugging along.
Why come up with a new name every year when this one fits so well.
Yes, once again we are home from another amazing adventure to Chickenstock (a bluegrass festival held in Chicken, AK) and visiting our bush living friends outside of Eagle, AK. Wayne and Scarlet Hall of Bush Alaska Expeditions are so much fun and I am glad they are my friends.
It’s a 6-7 hour drive to Chicken, but when the view is as beautiful as this, I don’t mind.
When we got there we saw that the “Big Ass Chicken” had been moved to the top of the hill. Cool. It made a really interesting silhouette in the evening sky.
I love all the colors of tents up on the hill with the Big Ass Chicken.
Yes I had a lit Christmas tree at our tent. Don’t ask me why. In Chicken you can be as funky as you want to be.
The days were sunny bright and hot. We had a torrential downpour about 20 miles before getting to Chicken. It was coming down so hard I had to pull over. But it only lasted about 15 minutes and from then on it was sun. Needless to say we got a bit lobsterized. Walking around “town” we finally found some sunscreen. We don’t normally have any because we normally don’t need any. But I was proud to pay the $20 for one of the last three 16 oz bottles in town.
We stopped on top of American Summit and I just played everything I could remember. It was an awesome feeling.
I found it is a bit more difficult to play when it’s windy.
After 100 mile drive between Chicken and Eagle that takes 3 hours, Wayne and Scarlett pick us up on the river. Another friend also came to visit.
Catherine takes a little rest on some lumber for a new cabin being brought home.
Jordan stayed with friends this year. There’s a lot to be said about quality family time but I dare say, if I had forced him to come, there would have been little quality to our time. Eh, 13 year old boys… Olivia and I had a lot of good quality time though..
Fish wheels used to catch salmon.
Boat parking spot.
Sweet spot view of the Yukon River from Wayne and Scarlett’s house. This is the most peaceful, gorgeous view.
And here’s a video of it. The sounds of the breeze shushing through the trees and the creek burbling below help but yet simply can not fully convey the peace I feel in this spot.
Ahhh, good friends, good food, even good wine.
Another trip to town to drop off Catherine and pick up more lumber for the cabin.
Eagle Bluff. There is an American flag flying from the top as well as a cross. I asked if there was someone specific who put those up there and was told it was mostly teenagers who go up there. Cool.
They showed us the bald eagle’s nest that has little ones in it. Scarlett had told me about the eagle pair they used to watch but when the big flood of the area occurred in 2009, the nesting tree was wiped out along with all trees along the river in the area. They have kept their eyes open for the eagles to come back and this year they found the new nest. That makes me happy.
Here’s a short video of the Taylor Highway. Most of it is not marked with handy orange cones!
On our way home we had to stop by the 40 Mile River which is where I want to retire to when the time comes.
Crossroads. These are certainly some of the “Roads less Traveled”.
Home again, home again, jiggity jog. Now on to Summer Solstice!