Photos are on the french version.
YUKON QUEST 300 – ENGLISH TEXT.
We are already February 2nd. I am with my team ready to start with bib nr 4.
My dogs get used to the crowd. They speed up until the Yukon River.
The first 30 kilometers, the trail is soft. We move slowly but it is the same for everybody. The snow is like spring snow. It looks like salt.
We pass bib nr 2, Colin Morrisson. His sled is overloaded. It seems he is going for a week trip in total autonomy. It looks like my sled during my first races. The weight of my sled was twice the other sleds.
We are now 3 teams from Annie lake road, one behind the others : Tamra Reynolds, Yuka Honda and me.
In fact, I don’t mind about the other teams. I am here to train my dogs and give them the best experience I can. It is a training run for my project to run the Iditarod in 2014. I want that my dogs finish healthy and in good shape. I will try to learn as much as I can to improve my training and my planning.
Today it is the 87e birthday of my friend Robert. I take him mentally in my sled and I tell him tales and stories about the dogs and the trails.
When we arrive on the Overland trail, the trail is in better conditions. It’s perfect. We are rewarded by northern lights.
The first day it’s the passing day. We pass and pass again many teams. It’s a good exercise for my leaders, Mr. X and Morrison because they are not good. They have to learn.
When I see teams discouraged 10 km before Braeburn check point, I realise how great it is to have dogs that know the trail. Mine speed up.
I have to move Morrison from the lead. He is smelling Pluton behind him. She is not in heat. It’s only in the Morrison’s head. From now, Pluton will lead with Mr. X.
In Braeburn, my three handlers, Juliette, Phil and Cecile are waiting for me. In the parking lot, I am near the end. I walk a lot.
Many teams from the big race are still here.
I am satisfied with my dogs. They know the routine. The straw is here, they rest. The food is here, they eat. I cover them with the blanket, they sleep.
My A plan that usually does not work, is to give a 6 hours rest in every check point and a short 3 hours rest in the trail to give a soup and to change the booties.
Braeburn check point, it is a special ambiance. I eat well and find a bed for 2 hours.
We leave Braeburn as planned. On the first lake, 10 miles lake, the wind is blowing. We don’t see the trail. The markers are very useful. The dogs are slow in this soft snow. I think that the road to Carmacks will be long. I have to change the booties quite often.
When we arrive on Coghlan lake, I am happy to see that the wind is blowing on our back.
Coghlan cabin is occupied, but this time Mr. X agrees to keep going.
We are travelling from one lake to another lake. I admire the work of the rangers. They choose the good place to make the trail. It should be a lot of work, because there are a lot of overflows on these lakes and we travel all the time on a dry trail.
At Clair lake cabin, Mr X. tries to go there. People and snowmobiles are here...
I camp at mid way, on Chain of lakes. I realise that I lost my meal. It was in the pocket of my parka and it is so hot that I took off it several times. My meal should have fall down.
After Mandana lake, we go through Ping Pong alley, many short and steep down hills with a sharp turn at the bottom. I slow down. I am afraid to injure a dog.
From the hill, we go down 3 times to the Yukon River. We travel on jumbled ice. The third time, the dogs realise that Carmacks is not far. They speed up.
At Carmacks, we have a 6 hours mandatory stop and the layover. I have to stop about 6 hours and 30 minutes.
It is the routine check point: Straw, booties off, feeding the dogs, massage. It is also the veterinary check up. My dog Carmack vomited his last snack. I decide to drop him here. Vomiting + working hard can dehydrate the dog. My handlers will take care of him. The other dogs are in good shape.
I eat and take a rest. Then, I prepare my team for the next run.
When I leave Carmacks, I think about my 2005 Yukon Quest race. We go up hill for about 20 km. In 2005, the dogs were slow, watching me: “Where are we going?” Today the dogs run well with a steady pace. I am happy.
We go down 4 times on the Yukon River before arriving to Mc Cabe farm. A beautiful sundog is around the sun.
In Mc Cabe, the welcome from the Kruse family, the farm owners, is still great. I give a soup to the dogs and I go to eat and drink myself. It’s hot and sunny. I take a rest outside. Then I prepare the team for the next run to Pelly Crossing.
We leave Mc Cabe under the beautiful color of the sunset. We follow the power line for a few kilometers and we go through burnt forests. The worst overflow is down a slope. I dont’ have time to realise that there is a big hole of water in the middle of the trail that Mr. X leads us on a dry area near the trail in the willows. Further on the trail, usually we cross some ponds with a lot of overflow deep to the knees. This year, the ponds look so deep that the rangers made a new trail to avoid these ponds.
It could seem strange that with 6 weeks under minus 30 Celsius, these ponds are not frozen. It’s because they contain methane sulfur and warm water.
We cross over 4 lakes, then we arrive in the forest over Pelly Crossing. Mr. X speeds up. He knows exactly where we are. We go down the slope promptly and we arrive in the village of Pelly Crossing.
The dogs are in good shape. They eat and rest well. Normally, we go to Stepping Stone by the river and come back by the road, but this year, the river is too bad with the overflows. We will go also by the road.
We leave Pelly before 2 am. It will take 12 hours with a 2 hours rest at Stepping Stone.
The road is very hilly and it is a slow pace. I slow down in downhill because I don’t want to injure a dog. If we go too fast in downhill, they can have shoulder problem.
My little girl Olive looses heart. I decide to take her to put her in my dog bag and in my sled. But when I try to put her in the bag, she is afraid and I escape her. She runs heading to Pelly Crossing. I think that my race is finished right here because I have to catch her. Finally, she comes back. I take a meat snack and she comes near me. I catch her and put directly in my sled. Olive was not born in my kennel. I adopted her last spring and she is very shy. She stays in my sled until Stepping Stone. The last kilometers on the river are grisly, it is dark and foggy. It is difficult to see the markers.
Stepping Stone is a private cabin where volunteers take their vacation to come by snowmobile in this remote place to welcome the mushers, to warm up the place, to prepare food for the mushers and water for the dogs. We can rest, we can dry our clothes, we can eat good food. For me, these cabins like Stepping Stone, forty miles, Scroggie creek in remote area are the soul of the Yukon quest. I appreciate a lot this stop even if 2 racers pass me. Anyway, I would not run the dogs for 10 hours without giving a soup and changing the booties. My little girl Olive is in better mind. She wants to run again.
We leave Stepping Stone by the Great River Journey road, we go along the farm, then we arrive on the road again. When we arrive at the crossing between the 1000 miles race and the 300 hundred race, Mr. X wants to follow the 1000 miles trail. He must know my feeling because me too’ I would go on that trail...
We are now in the last 50 kilometers. I meet a few teams. It means that I will not be the last one.
Trees fallen down on the road. I am too lazy to cut these logs, I go under the trees.
A few hours later, we arrive at Pelly Crossing in 6th position.
I realise that when the dogs know the trail is a lot more easy. They don’t watch me and asking me where are we going. Finally my A plan worked.
The award banquet is at Pelly Crossing. We are welcomed by the native community. At school, the kids make drawing about every musher. They also prepare the food and everything.
The Yukon Quest it is also all the organisation. The marshalls, the veterinaries, the volunteers, the rangers and the handlers are like a big family around the musher and the dogs. Thank you.
Thank you my dogs : Mr. X, Pluton, Morrison, Cochise, Olive, Beaver, Lola, Beige, Cheyenne, Baikal, Arkell and Carmack. He is fine now.
Thanks to everybody.
Let’s go to our “Iditarod 2014 project’’.