Yukon Quest, part 2

Its incredible how much 2 hours of sleep can help out on the trail. Well, Im not really sleeping. Several teams wichd stopped at the last hospitality stop, where I blew through, are now passing me, including Lance Mackey. Dan Kaduce passes my parked team, and parks his own dogs just 20 feet ahead, and as I later run passed him, I see he has made a nice camp fire. If my memory serves me correctly, it is a 4 hour break I took at this camp. We are now coming into the early morning hours, wich is always a motivating thought. The dark and tiring night is coming to an end, soon the sun will rise. On the way to Scroggie Creek hospitality stop, we climb some beautiful hills, just as the sun rises over the mountains. It is breathtaking, literally! Im running up the hills, to help the dogs preserve power. Im throwing some trail mix in my mouth as we run down in a valley, and I can enjoy some easy sled driving before we close up on Scroggie. Just an hour out I pass Lance Mackey, he have parked his team on the side on the trail, and made a big bon fire. This is definitely not a planned stop, Lance is having trouble. Im so perplexed by the sight, so I forget to ask if he needs help. He comes in to Scroggie a couple hours after me, not in a good mood.He is having some problems with the team, and ends up scratching in Dawson a day later.

Scroggie is a small cabin, 4 beds in the corner and a table by the wood stove. I get a hot meal, before I go to bed. My legs are aching, and it feels wonderful to lay down for a moment. My feet have been soaking in sweat for the last two days, Im never staying long enough at any checkpoint to get them dry. An hour before Im scheduled to leave, I get up. Another cup of coffee, five of water and a biscuit is all I want. While I get my wet boots and gear on, I talk with Abbey West, and Susan Rogan, who is also sitting at the table. Susan is running behind, while Abby is in front of me. One visit to the outhouse, it is cold outside! The temperature have dropped considerably since I got in to the checkpoint, at least it feels that way. Cold and tired I walk down to my team, and start getting booties on the dogs. Fellow musher Cody Strathe is parked next to me. The dog lot is getting crowded, and he jokes about how he left me a tiny whole between his dogs for me to run out of. He also comments on how good my dogs look, as they start barking, and pulling on the line as Im getting ready. I get booties on my leaders, detach the front hook and start walking back to the sled, on the way grabbing a wrist wrap and a shoulder coat, throwing them in the sled bag. Pull the hook and off we go. Abbie left while I was booting dogs, probably 15 minutes ahead of me. Not long after departure, as we hit some big cross back hills, I see Abbies headlamp, just as Im getting something to eat. I shake my head, irritated because this means Ill have to wait with eating for another hour. We got alot of hills ahead of us, and I want to run all the way, to pull away from Abbie. And so we do, I start kicking and skipoling, we pass, and slowly pull away as we climb the hills. The parka gets ripped off and stuffed in the sled bag, Im getting hot. Finally on top, and after a five mine "catch the breath while the dogs continue to run", I find my snacks again, and continue the eating that Abbie "disturbed".

One more camp
I have one more camping scheduled before I will arrive to the safe haven called Dawson. A 4 hour stop, around halfway from Scroggie Creek to Dawson. The people at the checkpoint says it should be good camping at a creek, with a road crossing about half way. The front pack was planing to camp there, so I should see straw along the trail. At this point, Im slightly unsure of the trail ahead. We have already climbed a mountain, where I passed Abbie. But there was supposed to be a big summit, was that it? King Solomons Dome is the name, and its the highest mountain along the whole trail. I camp halfway, unsure whats ahead, more mountains, or a flat and easy trail. To be honest, I think its a flat trail. I camp along a closed road, and it looks like it will be a 5 hour run on some old unmaintained roads into Dawson. We are so close to Dawson, a long rest, good food, dry boots. Im having problems getting some needed rest for my self, and Im very eager to get going again. The dogs get a easy fish broth, before we rattle the forces for a last run into Dawson.

One more mountain, a big one
Well, surprise, I still had King Solomons Dome ahead. I really should have brought a trail description with me in the sled, but any who. After another hour maybe, running on the flat road, we start climbing, and climbing, and climbing. It is the tallest mountain, but not the steepest climb, Eagle Summit has that one. But, no point in making a big deal of it, just keep on trucking. We make our way up the mountain, just a short ways from the Summit, we pass Kelley Griffin, she is parked on the trail, resting her dogs. She says something to me, but I cant catch what it was. Later, in Dawson, I found out that Kelley scratched before arriving in Dawson, not fun. We spend some time on the summit, before actually getting over it, and finally start the long way down. Im tired, very tired. I drink a 5 hour energy shot, and eats a thing of chocolate. It is dark, and a long time of down hill, not easy to keep awake. We are making our way down the mountain, stopped towards the bottom by a fallen tree, if covers the whole trail. I stop the team, and is not totally sure what to do. Should i get my axe out, or get my team and sled over it. We cant get under it, and the tree is right under my chest in hight, so we cant just jump it. I pull my team over to the left side, where the hight is smallest. I start lifting one dog after the other over the tree, carefully so the dogs don't get there feet stuck in between branches. With the whole team over, its time for the sled. I give the dogs the go command, and we role. Over the tree with the sled, and back on the trail.

Suddenly I see street light, Oh Glory! We are approaching Dawson City, the halfway point of the Yukon Quest. Not long after I start to recognize buildings from last summer when I was here. Coming of the Yukon, there is a short and steep climb, that turns quickly around some bushes. Only half a mile out of the checkpoint, and we have to deal with this stupid thing. Luckily it isn't to big of a problem. The sled got stuck in the bushes, with the steep turn as we were going slow up the climb. I have to go off the sled, and try to drag it to the opposite side of what the dogs are pulling. Not the easiest, but after a couple of minutes, we are running along the road, and can see the Yukon Quest banner. People are cheering, and I can only smile, halfway. I sign in, and immediately gets asked if I know anything about Kelley Griffin. I tell them that I passed her at the summit, and that there is a slightly inconveniently positioned tree blocking the trail. I sign in, complete the gear check, axe, cooker, heat, booties etc. Everything is there, Im good to continue to the campsite. Oh, and the 36 hour mandatory rest is now extended to a 40 hour, because of logistical problems with getting people out on the trail ahead. I have no problem with that, I can handle a 40 hour brake. The dogs gets bedded down under a tarp, protected from the surroundings. Everybody gets a thorough vet check, a good meal and massage. Every couple of hours they get walked, fed and massaged. This is the time to really take care of the team, before its back on the trail. After my vet check, I head over to Jake´s campsite. He is laying in his Arctic Oven tent, and havent left the campsite since he got in, several hours ahead. We talk about the race so far, and he gives me some tips on how to do things coming up. Back to my dogs i gather up everything I want to dry out in the hotel room, and empty the sled, so it can dry out in the local fire hall. For the next 40 hours I have several good meals, a lot of sleep, and spends several hours treating the dogs as best as I can. I came into Dawson with 14 dogs, it is a sad decision I have to take and drop two of my dogs here. Frosty, one of my main leaders and best buddies. I waited until the absolutely last minute with dropping this guy, it was not fun. Rock, a big and red dog from John Baker, also one of my best friends in the team. I was more ready to drop him though, so that wasn't as big of a hit. Leaving Dawson with 12 strong and well rested dogs, after 40 hours of siesta. They are barking and tails are wagging. We are ready!