Puppies in a Basket!

Last night I went over to SP Kennel to visit with the Izzy x Supai offspring. They’re almost five weeks old now and are motoring all over the place! They go by names like “the Big Fat Boy” or “Tiny Black Girl” or “Shy Brown Girl” or… you get the picture. Aliy and Allen will make their first two picks, and then I’ll have a chance to select two puppies. I know a lot of breeders and mushers have specific personality traits or conformation that they’re looking for (and I should probably do the same), but my 5-year-old inner child comes out and says, “Oooo that puppy is cute!” And there you have it. While good conformation is important, I think it’s the heart of a sled dog that matters more, and there’s no way you can tell that at such a young age.

While I don’t have photos of Scarpa and Petzl, they’re sassy as ever. They’ve mastered the “sit” command, which I’ve found very useful. I had never taught sled dogs “sit,” but one day, my friend Mari at ATAO Kennel said she had taught every single one of her sled dogs how to sit. While sitting in a race isn’t particularly important, knowing “sit” is just one more way you can connect with a dog, and it’s a perfect way to get puppies to focus. At least for half a second. So thanks for the inspiration Mari- I now want every puppy to learn to sit! And Scarpa and Petzl are masters at it. Well, at least for five seconds :)


Cabin Construction Continued

The Wood Stove!

We’ve had a few chilly nights (4F yesterday morning!), so it’s kicked our cabin construction into overdrive! When temperatures start to drop that low, it means the ground is freezing, and any projects that involve dirt work better be about finished. Luckily, Derek finished connecting our water just in time! If you recall from last fall, we pounded a well next to the cabin. The well has supplied us with water all summer and fall, but it hasn’t been connected to the cabin itself. A submersible pump propelled water out of a hose at the top of the well casing, which meant that when temperatures drop below freezing, the hose was pretty much guaranteed to freeze. To connect the cabin to the well, we dug a three-foot trench, cut a hole in well casing, and connected the pump to a pipe going to the cabin. We then insulated the pipe to keep it from freezing in the winter. And truthfully, when I say “we,” I mostly mean Derek. I occasionally gave a hand, but most the time, I was busy running dogs or doing kennel work! I’m continually impressed by Derek’s can-do attitude and patience when tackling these projects with which we have zero prior experience!

Yesterday’s focus was installing our wood stove. We purchased a super efficient, 12-14 hour burn-time wood stove. The stove even has a filter to make the smoke “cleaner!” Air pollution in the winter is a major problem for the Fairbanks North Pole region because many homes heat with wood or coal, and the smoke sits in the valley. Two Rivers doesn’t have the same issue, but we figured we might as well get as fuel efficient of a stove as possible. Plus, it’s nice to sleep through the whole night and not have to wake up to restock the stove :)

The stove is located on the first floor of the cabin, so it was a bit nerve-wracking cutting through our second floor and then the roof to install the stove pipe! After several hours, Derek and I got to enjoy the warm and comforting glow of a fire in our new wood stove!

I promise to write a dog update here soon! The adults have been training 4-5 days a week and are LOVING the cooler weather. The yearlings are doing shorter miles and learning the routine. They, too, are looking strong! Thank you to all of this year’s dog sponsors. Our new dog sponsor gear has just arrived, so stay tuned for the latest Ryno gear!

Insulating the pipe from the house to the well.

Eagle Visit

Over the past few days, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Eagle and boat seven miles down the Yukon River to visit with Matt Hall’s parents, Wayne and Scarlett, in their beautiful, remote home. Wayne and Scarlett live a truly subsistence lifestyle. Their property can only be accessed by bush plane (there is a large gravel bar near their house), dog team in the winter, or boat in the summer. Every summer, they put a fish wheel into the Yukon to catch anywhere from 4,000-5,000 Chum salmon to feed their sled dogs. Several years ago, Wayne ran the Yukon Quest; however, now Scarlett and Wayne own and operate Bush Alaska Expeditions, a remote dog touring business that offers the real deal.

Tyler, Matt, and I drove to Eagle (about an 8-10 hour drive depending on road conditions). We combined it with a trip to Delta to grab our winter’s supply of straw for our kennels. Once we arrived in the small community of Eagle (population 65ish), Wayne and their handler, Greg, picked us, and we took their boat downriver to their homestead. You might recognize the city of Eagle, Alaska as a checkpoint in the Yukon Quest. While the Taylor Highway does go to Eagle, it isn’t maintained during the winter months, so a section of the Yukon Quest trail travels on the Taylor Highway, up and over American Summit, and down into Eagle. From there, the Quest trail goes up the Yukon River to Circle, where it once again gets on the road system. Even though I’ve been to Eagle before, I had never seen it in the summertime. American Summit was known for blizzards, wind drifts, and terrifying conditions, and Eagle was a sleepy little community right on the banks of the frozen Yukon River. It was incredible to see all that country in a different season. The town of Eagle was still quiet and easy-going, but wow- American Summit and the Yukon River are TOTALLY different! It’s hard to believe so much water is rushing under our feet as we mush along the frozen Yukon. Or that American Summit actually has a graded road winding up its summit instead of side-hilling wind drifts and sloping glaciers.

While at Scarlett and Wayne’s house, we helped them move their fish wheel across the Yukon River and stage it in preparation for it to be hauled up the bank and stored for the winter. Moving the fish wheel across the Yukon can be a challenging task. If the fish wheel starts to drift too far with the current or turn crosswise to the current, it can result in disaster. Luckily, Wayne expertly pushed the fish wheel across the river and landed it perfectly in an eddy where it would sit until they haul it on land. After that, Matt showed us around the cabin, taking us grayling fishing, up a cliff to a falcon nest, and around the slough. He shared with us stories from his childhood and growing up in bush Alaska. What an incredible way of life! A big thank you to the Halls for letting me sleep on your floor for a couple nights and giving me a little glimpse into your world!

The view from Scarlett and Wayne’s house.

The view from a cliff overlooking the Yukon River.

The Hall’s fish wheel.

The Hall’s home, complete with old dogs waiting to be let inside.

We're Married!

On March 23rd, Derek and I were married by close friends (Moore/Zirkle clan) who are basically family. On September 23rd (6 months later), we had a big party to celebrate! All my family flew up for the festivities (Mom, Dad, Nick, Cass, and Tom) as well as Derek’s parents (Rick and Sue). What they thought would be a vacation turned into a “work-cation” as they eagerly…or supportively rather… helped us to hang sheet rock in the upstairs and bathroom of the house. Not only that, but my mom and Cass single-handedly planned the party (I’m not much of a party planner). Even though it rained their entire visit, unpleasant weather can’t dampen this family’s spirit! They made our party an evening to remember. Good friend Amanda Brooks took our group photos as well as made that impressive cake!!

A big thank you to all the friends and family who came to help us celebrate!

Olsons and Pattons