Time Flies!

I normally pride myself on keeping up with the blog, but the month of April was too fast. I truly value everyone's commitment and support, so I'll try to keep everyone better informed!

IMG_5228.JPG

Our last expedition ended on the 5th of April. For the final night of the expedition, we stayed in our Mongolian Yurt on Trapline Mountain. The winds were HOWLING. Since this is our first year with a structure on Trapline Mountain, we don't have barriers to keep the dogs out of the wind. While the dogs are more than capable of surviving a night in 30F and 20-40mph winds, it's the end of season. Even the dogs like to enjoy some relaxation and fun mushing. Camping for 16 hours in 40 mph wind is not necessarily the most fun. Our options were to mush back down into the Chena Valley or bring every single dog in the yurt. Well, can you guess which option won? Haha- yep! All the dogs came into the yurt. It was so much fun to bond and cuddle with them all; however, the only issue is that the yurt is truly an authentic Mongolian yurt. The felt surrounding the framework is made from animal fur, and horse hide binds the lattice together. I was woken up regularly during the night to the sound of one dog or another chewing on the yurt. Of course I couldn't blame them. It's basically a big stick/rawhide chew toy. But alas, eating our yurt is not allowed.

IMG_5247.JPG

Immediately after the expedition, we began the move from our old house over to the new homestead. Tyler and Liz had routinely dug out the dog houses throughout the winter to make sure that they were relatively easy to get out of the snow. With all the dogs now over at the new homestead, Derek and I moved into the handler cabin, which is adjacent to the dog yard. The handler cabin is equipped with a wood stove for heat, propane stove for cooking, and an outhouse. For electricity, we have a generator (which we rarely run-it's so noisy) and a deep cycle battery that allows us to charge our beloved technology, like my computer! The photo below of the handler cabin is a bit dated, and the cabin has since been spruced up with shelves and hangers. For water, we're pulling delicious drinkable water right from the well that we pounded last fall. Derek placed a pump into the well, and we fire it up with the generator about once a day for dog and human water.

IMG_5260.JPG

Shortly after we had all moved over to the new homestead, Liz left for her journey towards her PhD and Tyler headed to Eagle, Alaska for a short visit. I also left on a two-week-long vacation to the Lower 48 to visit my family. Derek watched the whole kennel while I was gone! He's the best!

On my travels, I visited family in Birmingham, New Orleans, and New Haven. When you make a trek from Alaska, it becomes common practice to just do all your visiting in one fell swoop. I visited my Grandmother in Birmingham, attended an incredible wedding in New Orleans, and visited my older brother and sister-in-law in New Haven. I was hoping to time my visit to span Alaska's infamous "break up season," but unfortunately, I came home just in time. I loved seeing all my family, but I was ready to return to my canine family as well.

 Ducks waiting for the ice to thaw in the morning.

Ducks waiting for the ice to thaw in the morning.

Break up is (in my opinion) the worst time of year. Yes it's getting warmer and there's lots of sunlight, but the snow is melting (sad) and all the water just collects on the surface. Since the ground is still solidly frozen, the snowmelt has nowhere to go. If you live on a hill or slope, the water can drain downhill. You won't be left with puddles, but the ground will still be soggy and muddy. If you live in a flat area (like us), then the water creates massive puddles. Or bird sanctuaries, as I've decided to call them. So on a positive note, several different species of ducks, geese, and a swan now call Ryno Kennel a temporary home. At least until Jezzy and Sasha run them off.

With the ground being so mucky, you might wonder, what does the dog yard look like? Drum roll..... platforms! This is the first spring with the new platforms, and we all love them. At the muddiest times, we basically all hang out on them. Jezzy, Sasha, Stormy, Derek, me, sled dogs- the whole family.

 Dogs nice and dry on their platforms.

Dogs nice and dry on their platforms.

Even though I'm whining about the mud. It doesn't slow the dogs down on our walks! All the dogs charge through the massive puddles or romp in the muck. Spring time at its finest!

IMG_5446.JPG
 Me and Mako

Me and Mako

IMG_5404.JPG

In the meantime, we're still chipping away at the main cabin. We're cutting out and framing the windows, finishing up the rafters, and getting everything prepped for the tin. At the moment, our driveway is impassable by cars, so everything is being brought in by ATV. Groceries, supplies, dog food, clothes- everything by the ATV. Hauling a roof's worth of tin by ATV would be pushing our patience, so we're waiting for the ground to thaw, water to seep into the ground, and the road to become passable for our truck once again.

 The view from the front, upstairs window.

The view from the front, upstairs window.

 The upstairs.

The upstairs.

 The view from the bedroom window.

The view from the bedroom window.

 Cutting out the downstairs window.

Cutting out the downstairs window.

 Derek climbing the rafters.

Derek climbing the rafters.

Expeditions and Cabins and End of Season

Spring has been an absolute blast. We've begun the move to the new property, soaked up the sun on our longer days, and met lots of new folks on our tours and expeditions.

Over the course of the next 10 days, we'll move all the dogs over to the new property. Derek and I will live in the handler cabin while we finish construction on the main house. Liz will be moving on to start her Graduate Program with the University of Miami. She'll be studying ducks in Alaska, and over the course of five years, she'll earn her doctorate. Tyler will be returning to the Denver Glacier in Skagway, Alaska accompanied by 35 dogs from Wayne and Scarlett Hall from Bush Alaska Expeditions. He'll be giving tours up on the glacier, so if you have a trip planned for Alaska, be sure to swing up there and say hi! We've had such an incredible crew this year, so a big thank you to Tyler and Liz!!

Olga and Irna being good sports.

IMG_5117.JPG
 A night in the Mongolian Yurt

A night in the Mongolian Yurt

Starting the move!

Handler Cabin

Handler Cabin

 Sun bathing- AK style

Sun bathing- AK style

IMG_5119.JPG

Denali Highway

 The crew at the ice cave.

The crew at the ice cave.

To help distract ourselves from clicking the refresh button on the Iditarod tracker (ok, ok this trip was actually planned for more than that), Derek, the pups, and I took a couple folks on a wonderful Denali Highway trip! The weather was perfect. We had everything- picturesque clear days, occasional low hanging clouds, fresh snow. It was fantastic. On these longer trips, I like to bring the youngsters so that they get extra camping experience. The canine crew consisted of Cooke, Lefty, Flash, Crunch, CJ, Jana, Cartel, Coot, Fish, Vanessa, King Louie, Goblin, Perm, Katy, Boone, Elmer, and Badger.

We mushed 15 miles in and stayed in an arctic oven tent. Then we mushed another 25 miles to Maclaren River Lodge. We stayed there for two nights, spending one day mushing up to the Maclaren Glacier Ice Cave. We had such a blast with our guests, Kibba and Peter, and love using these trips as a way to top off a season!

Camp site on the Denali Highway

 Jana and Cartel leading the charge.

Jana and Cartel leading the charge.

Teams patiently waiting as we explore the ice cave.

 Cooke and Crunch leading my team.

Cooke and Crunch leading my team.

Expeditions

With the Iditarod about to begin, the Ryno athletes have been keeping busy exploring Interior Alaska. The snow is falling non-stop, making for some incredible scenery and memorable trail breaking. Tomorrow, we hit the trails for the Denali Highway and guess what- it's snowing! Luckily, we have just the mode of transportation for such conditions.

Colorado Creek Trail on the one sunny day.

Frosty Trees

 Climbing mountains and breaking trail.

Climbing mountains and breaking trail.

 We made it to the top of Trapline Mountain!

We made it to the top of Trapline Mountain!

This will be our third spring leading expeditions, and I feel so fortunate to be able to explore Alaska and visit incredible places with incredible people! Of course, rarely do trips go as planned (for instance on the last one, we were breaking trail all three days! We covered 5 miles in 2 1/2 hours!). From being blown off the Denali Highway to breaking trail to being stuck on a frozen lake deep in the Alaska Range, it's always an adventure. Here's a video from two years ago when Maliko and I were trying to put in trails for our incoming guests. I got the snowmachine stuck in overflow and decided a 24 dog team was the only way to get it out. If you haven't read the whole story, here is the link: http://rynokennel.com/blog/2016/4/24/the-time-we-drove-a-24-dog-team

 

These incredible trips are made possible by Derek (my number one support and logistics manager), Liz (caring for all the pups and dogs staying at home as well as helping pack and prepare), the Last Frontier Mushing Co-op, and the fun folks who want to experience a different type of vacation.