Sunday, February 17, 2008

afternoon with anna

on sunday, i got to hang out with anna-banana. her papa was headed out for a ski and her mom was, well, her mom was competing in a 100 mile race south of Fairbanks. don't ask - this is normal for her. either way, we got lucky and hit the anna-jackpot. it started with lunch (turkey, raspberry pancakes, sweet potatoes, and hummus)

dirty face. clean face. no tears. check that out.

you might have noticed the presence of the phone. it will be a common theme in this post. anna gets the phone - if you accept this, then it's smooth sailing. Anna will take almost any phone-sized object and put it up to her face while saying the 18-month old version of "hello?", but she has an uncanny ability to tell the difference between a real phone and a real, but dead phone. only the live ones will do for the long haul. we attribute this early skill to ourselves, her mom's friends, keeping her mom on the phone for hours, sometimes even after we've spent the day together, much to the bewilderment of our respective spouses. here i'm learning how to dial.

and Cobbie learns the finer points of chatting with a friend.

and also long distance.

Anna found Cob's down cabin slippers and they are apparently GREAT phone accessories. this is baby-boo in action. (my apologies on the blurriness of these pictures - it's hard to take clear pictures of an active little kid.)


on the phone. taking care of business.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

a long wait

so the Quest started on Saturday and Cob and i were supposed to head north on the trail to take some pictures of the mushers and their dog teams on the trail. however, a hiccup in the race thwarted our plans. the trail between Chena Hot Springs and the Mile 101 dog drop was blown over, leaving little snow for a snow hook and miles of hard trail on dog paws. for safety reasons, the Race Gurus decided to suspend the race in that part of the trail and truck the dogs to Mile 101, where we were going to take pictures. Cob quickly reorganized to head to the next spot between Circle and Central, but i couldn't go on a work day. Our friend Teresa volunteered for the job of helping Cob trek out to the trail on snowshoes....and wait for a musher.

they made it to Central and got some cool pictures of dog teams readying for the next leg.

Dog trucks are a pretty common scene around these parts, and taking on the Quest means lots of supplies. piles of straw means instant beds for tired pups. this was Monday in Central and it was still around -40 to -50F - brrrrrrr!

to get some pictures of mushers in action, Cob and teresa snow-shoed out to the trail on the river where they got a little frosty in the cold temps.

that means cold fingers when taking pictures...

they waited and waited....and waited and waited...and then....

a musher!! this was Jean-denis Britten, a 41 year old rookie originally from Nova Scotia and now living in Whitehorse, Canada. his dogs helped him skid logs to build his cabin in the off-season. now that's cross-training.

the visitor

ok, for those of you who haven't been obsessively checking the Yukon Quest website, Phil made it to the half-way point, stayed his mandatory 36 hours, and took off around 5 am this morning, with all remaining 8 dogs. the trail reports promise smooth sailing compared to the US portion of the trail, so my paws are crossed for him and all 8 of his dogs!!

speaking of paws, Nuchie had a little date with the vet to take off a nasty, but (thankfully) benign tumor and has had to lay low to let his paw heal. i couldn't stand for him to be a cone-head (if you own a dog, you know what i'm talking about...), so i worked from home most of last week to keep an eye on him.

on one of these rare days at home during the light hours, we got an unexpected visitor.

this is a yearling bull moose. Cob saw him loitering around the yard the other day with part of one of his antlers still attached, but he's now lost it, as you can see from the fresh blood just above his eye there. Bull moose shed their racks every winter around this time or a little earlier and then grow them back in the summer.

this guy is young and so is pretty small as far as moose go. this is probably his first winter on his own. we just emerged from a cold snap where we didn't see any moose around, but now that it's warmed a bit, they're starting to move again. these pictures were taken out my kitchen window where he was helping to clean up the old dried up trollius and delphiniums i left from the summer. see him down on his front knees? so cool....

he wandered around our deck sampling the rose bushes - i was less psyched about that since they come back every year. every year, that is, except when they get munched by moose. a moose biologist friend of mine once described a moose's eating habits as having to stuff a huge sack full of plants every day, so they spend a good part of every day foraging. hmmmm.....but here's a lesson in perspective.

Nuchie watches as his new buddy walks of into the rest of the yard making a beeline for the birch sapling we planted last summer. i had to draw the line there when he swept his great snout through the twiggy branches of our baby birch trees. i came hollering out of the house, the moose slowly turned to look at me and sauntered off across the driveway to the woods on the other side.

and to let me know what he thought of me and my hollering, he left this behind:

moose poop. hey, you're welcome for the dried delphinium and rose bushes. come back any time.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

by the fire

the other day, Cob put a little feature on my computer which tells me the temperature outside. as i sit here, it says -30F, mostly sunny. that seems true as i look out the window on a brilliant, but cold day. this morning it said -45F. yesterday, it said -35F. the day before that (and the 3 days before that, also -40F) and before even that, Cob was getting up in the morning and checking the temperature because he doesn't have to go to work if the temp hits -50F. (it was close, but he went to work). by my count that's over a week of sub -30 and -40F temperatures.

we get cold snaps throughout the winter, but when they drag out like this, it gets old. i get cabin fever, i get tired of my brakes feeling like i'm pressing against a piece of hard, unyielding concrete, i get tired of having to warm up my car for 20 minutes before driving it, i get tired of my lettuce freezing in the 5 seconds it takes me to walk from the store to my cold car.

as far as i can tell, this is what cold, cold weather is good for:

knitting baby sweaters. actually, i'm indiscriminate about what i knit on really cold days, as long as it's by the fire. one of the first years i lived here in Fairbanks, we had a cold snap that lasted so long and dropped the temps so consistently, i actually brought the thermometer in just to make sure it was still working and that the mercury hadn't got lodged in some permanently condensed state.

here's the detail, for those interested.

the weather folks tell us that this will break soon. i say bring it on.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

the Joy of Phil

it's race day in Fairbanks - the start of the 25th annual Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race. this 1000 + mile race, considered by most Alaskans to be the "real" sled dog race (as opposed to the glitzy Hollywood race they call the Iditarod), runs between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, alternating direction every year. This year the start was in Fairbanks and Cobbie and i braved the -35F temps to see my friend Phil Joy take his place in the starting line-up.

the race starts in downtown Fairbanks, on the Chena River. folks, i mean ON the river, which is frozen of course. rivers make great highways in the winter. when i arrived on the scene, this is what i saw: legions of hardy Fairbankans clad in fur, fleece, parkas, and all manner of chunky warm boots out there to cheer on the dogs and their mushers.

dog teams start 3 minutes a part, and are lined up in a staging area behind the starting line, waiting their turn. i made my way to the staging area to see how Phil and his dogs were doing and to give him my best for the long journey.
the staging area is a fun place to be, surrounded by dogs whipped up into a barking frenzy excited to start their race. if you've ever been around sled dogs, you know that sheer joy is defined by a dog about to run. and this was Team Joy. these guys looked good, they looked happy, and they were ready to go. Here, Phil checks a bootie on one pup while his handlers deal with the rest of the dogs (that's his fiance Kumi behind him in the blue, ruffed parka).

Phil's a cool guy. he's about my age, has been running dogs for about 8 years, and reminds us all that working with these dogs is an honor and a privilege. i met Phil through work, where he is a fishery biologist. two years ago, Phil made the same attempt at this race, but was thwarted by a nasty blizzard on Eagle Summit. while he was able to weather the storm safely with his dogs, he and several other teams were evacuated from the mountain. As he looks toward the starting line, Phil hopes to cross the finish line in Whitehorse behind his pups and he has a gaggle of supporters here in Fairbanks to help him.

one final check of things up and down the line, a few well wishes from friends...

and Phil's off! check out the yukon quest website to track Phil's progress, look at the race course, learn about sled dogs, and other cool stuff.

good luck, Phil, and we'll see you in Whitehorse!