Saturday, March 14, 2009

Stori: a very Alaskany week

For as long as I have lived in Alaska, I've not paid too much attention to the dog sled races. I, myself, don't approve much of the whole sled dog sport. If taken care of properly, I have no issues, but like most things, there is some bad apples willing to ruin the whole bushel. My brother had a team for quite a few years here so I had the chance to be around the sport a little bit. Now my brother's dogs weren't like the majority of sled dogs that are used, his were pretty big, 60 plus pounds. The average sized racing dog is only about 40 to 50 lbs. They are called Alaskan Huskies which is code for rangy mutt. They aren't of any particular breed, or color. Some look like labs while others range from border collie to greyhound. My brother's team was not meant for speed, nor distance, they were made for pulling weight. Those who know my brother understand the reasoning behind this. These dogs really are not the pet type. They are hyperactive, and as close to wild as a dog can get while still being domestic. They still pack howl, like wolves, still run in packs, like wolves, still have pack mentality, like wolves. This is, in fact, what makes them amazing at their sport. They love to run. And run. And run.

So in the years past, I haven't been into the races much, except for this one. This year I have started hanging around someone actually competing in the Iditarod. Her name is Jessie Royer and she is, by far, the MOST competitive person I have ever met. Jessie and I both belong to the same Cowboy Mounted Shooting club. My family has been in involved in mounted shooting for the last several years. At first, Paige was riding Jake in the wrangler (kids) division while I was pregnant with Sunni Sue. Last summer was my first year competing, and Jake's (my horse) first year being shot off of. We had an absolute blast, came in dead last for the most part, but had fun doing it. Jessie on the other hand has been riding in the mounted shoots for several years and is damn good at what she does. Last season she was the top cowgirl in Alaska. This all said, it's a heck of interesting race when you actually know someone trying not to get them selves killed racing it! The race itself is over 1,100 miles long, across totally remote Alaskan wilderness. Jessie was in 11th place for awhile but has since dropped back to 16th, but the race isn't over yet. The top 20 finishers of the Iditarod finish in the money, so she's not doing too bad at all. So says the lady sittin on her butt at her kitchen table NOT freezing behind a team of crazy dogs.

Also this month, the World Ice Art Championships are being held over in Fairbanks. This is when a large collection of ice sculptors get together and compete for the world title. These temporary pieces of art are AMAZING. They have several different divisions to compete in, single block/ multi block. The ice is harvested from a nearby pond and hauled to the ice park. The ice on the pond is close to 4 foot thick this time of year. This common thickness of ice is the reason that the rivers are used for roadways during the winter. Now although the sculptures are incredible, the honest real reason we go is for the the kids park. We took the kids on Friday afternoon. They have small ice slides, houses, tunnels, mazes, spinning cups. Almost like a miniature amusement park made entirely out of ice. The kids have a total blast at this thing. They get to play and blow some steam off, I get to haul all the gear, pull the 3 sleds we bring along for the sled hill, work the camera, wipe noses, police Sunni Sue, and make sure all cold weather gear stays where it should be. After we make our way through the kids park, and hopefully get a quick glimpse at the art, we head over to the sled hill.

This is not just a hill, the folks there have built these huge hill long slides made totally of really slick ice! The kids can shoot themselves down the runs on their bodies, or cardboard, or their sleds. What a time we had! Even little Sunni Sue found her self being luged down the hill on her folks' laps or at one point, even on her own little back, giggling like a fool the whole way. By the time we get the kids gathered up and herded back to the car, they are tired, and sweaty, and hungry, and happy. Sometimes it's a pretty cool thing to live in the cold.

No comments:

Post a Comment