Thursday, February 28, 2008

Birkebeiner Rookies

With the 35th Birkebeiner around the corner, I flew down to Wisconsin to compete in the race along with my mother, brother, sister and soon to be sister in law, Heidi. The Conditions for the race were premier and the field of nearly 7000 competitors were welcomed by cheering spectators on our way towards the finish line on Main Street in downtown Hayward.

This years rookie class: Myself, Heidi, Danielle,Nathan and Mary Ann.

I really enjoyed the race and finished in the top 20% in the classic division but my brother stole the show by blowing away the competition in the Carhartt class.

Danielle finishes her first ski race.

Ma hardly broke a sweat on the trail.

We were fortunate enough to stay with Heidi’s parents at their cabin on Island Lake in Northern WI. My brother Nathan and I got out ice fishing a couple times and had a few crappies flopping on the ice after each outing.

Once the race weekend came to an end we traveled south, I got to spend some time with my Pa and Katz at the Home Farm. I did not have much time, but we made the most of it. We played some ping-pong, kept the horses fed, poured some cement in the basement remodel job, got out on a great pheasant hunt, and caught up with friends and other family members.

I even shot straight for a change!

Nugget made several nice retrieves througout the day and we ended up with 9 nice roosters.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Man in the White Pajamas

My Buddy Luke and I had planned on hunting caribou on the North Slope of the Brooks Range together this past weekend, but when his lower back locked up on him he was forced to back out. The weather looked promising and I figured that this might be my only chance to put some red meat in the freezer, so I jumped in my truck and headed about 160 miles north of the Arctic Circle in search of caribou, or at least a good story.

I woke up because of cold feet; I got out of my sleeping bag because I was filled with anticipation. Once I knocked the frost off of my sleeping bag and crawled out of the back of my truck the first thing I saw was the pipeline illuminated by the moon. The slope provides a a truly unique landscape this time of the year.

I started seeing caribou less than a mile off of the road. I was never alone after I spotted this little group; there was always a small herd within eye shot somewhere.

The moon was still visible at 10:00 A.M. This is a fairly representative picture of the area...wind blown exposed rock and fields of wind packed snow.

Once I got past the invisible "five mile marker", which makes it legal to harvest caribou with a rifle, I started reading some sign. Above are some caribou tracks, and below are some....

...caribou turds.

I made several unsuccessful stalks throughout the middle of the day but I was having a blast...the sun was shining, the temperature hovered slightly below zero and there was a light 8-10 mph breeze.

After dropping down into an expanse of lakes and moraines called "The Fog Lakes" I was able to make a successful stalk on a herd of about twenty caribou. One clean shot dispatched this young cow and it was time to get to work field dressing her. The wind picked up to 25-30 mph and made cutting her up a fairly painful experience.

Once I had the animal quartered out and loaded into my sled I made my way back to the Haul Rd. It took about three and a half hours of post holing and cussing to get back to the truck, but after I enjoyed my first steak last night it all was well worth the effort.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Left Behind

The 2008 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race left Fairbanks on Saturday. It was a great day for most, but this pup did not make the final roster and was left in his dog box while the rest of the team started their 1000 mile odessey.

Luke volunteered to handle dogs at the beginning of the race to insure that everything went as smoothly as possible. Here he is helping a fellow cheesehead with his team of malamutes.

The temperature on the river was hovering around -30 F, so everyone donned their polar gear to watch the start of the event.

Lance Mackey gears up for an encore performance to last year's domination of the distance mushing world. He was the first person to ever record victories at both the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod sled dog races in the same year.

I got to wish Brent Sass good luck while he waited under the Cushman Bridge. This is Brent's second Quest and he is planning on making some noise this year.

These next few shots are just some different images from the race.

After the field of 22 competitors rode down the river the crowd thinned and the racers left us all behind to go live out another normal week. Meanwhile they are just getting started on a fantastic journey that will make memories for a lifetime.