December 03, 2007

Don't forget to scroll down!

The top of this blog is relatively recent and there aren't any real "Yukon" pictures until all the way back in late February of 2006. So enjoy these pictures up here but scroll back a long way if you want to see lots of dogs and lots of snow.

April 04, 2007

Floors - shot one

This is peculiar - I'm posting these in reverse order. But here they are:

Floors - shot two

Refinished floors, view 2 - notice the old floors didn't look that bad under the area rug. But the finish was no good anyway. Ivory didn't mind, or at least he didn't say anything bad about it. Neither did Nicky or Annie.

Refinished floors - April 4, 2007

Before and after of one of the rooms.

March 29, 2007

Winter camping on Appalachian Trail, March, 2007

After a fashion, anyway. It was winter and there was even a little bit of snow on the ground and when we woke up in the morning it was 20º and the calendar still said winter - it was March 17th and 18th. It's the "camping" part that's open to a little bit of interpretation. We didn't sleep in a tent or on the ground but we weren't indoors either - we were in a roofed, three sided shelter on the Appalachian Trail. And the only running water was Mill Creek. I'll put up a couple of pictures and write more later.

The top picture - the dogs going into the woods - was after a six mile hike south on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Rockfish Gap. We left the car at around 4:45 and sunset was around 7:30 so it was getting late. And when I took that picture we still had around two more miles to hike.

The bottom picture was taken the next morning. It's looking down the slope from the shelter toward the creek and up the snowy south slope of the valley. It was almost night when we got down there; the creek was flowing high and wide and I'd had to wade the last few feet in water that was about eight inches deep. When I woke up in the morning my boots were frozen so solid it felt like they were made of granite. I made a pot of oatmeal for breakfast and sat it on the insoles of my boots to thaw them out.

Before we left I'd been reading about the Iditarod and I really wanted to spend some time out in the cold with my dogs. Probably my final opportunity for the first half of 2007.

Anyway, I have work to do. Have a great day,


April 03, 2006

Camping on April 1

Ivory and Nicky and I jumped at the chance to run (drive) up to the Appalachian Trail and spend the night on Saturday. We were thrilled to hike down a couple of miles and find a fantastic campsite - with no one there! And the weather was pleasant and the ground was soft so I decided to just lay down my mat and put my sleeping bag on top and sleep under the stars. It's so early in the year there are almost no leaves on the trees yet. In a month if we go back there will be so many leaves you won't be able to see the sky at all. But the moon was almost new so it was great for star gazing and I saw three shooting stars.

I'm putting up three pictures. The first is of a view off the trail as we hiked down there on Saturday afternoon. The second is of my sleeping bag lying on the ground in the little clearing where I slept. The last is of a bleary-eyed beaver that Ivory was barking furiously about when I woke up on Sunday morning.

March 11, 2006

First full day back in Richmond.

March 10, 2006

One of my friends called about an hour after I got home last night and asked if we were going to get together today. So I said what the heck and got up around 7:00 this morning, got dressed and had breakfast then went over and picked him up and took him to the Y for a couple of hours. A good way to start my time back in Richmond. Then I came home and picked up the dogs and headed back down to Pony Pasture for the first time since we’ve been home. The temperature today set a record high for March 10; it went up to 80º. So we stopped at Starbucks on the way down; here’s a picture of my car to compare with the one from January 27 when it was perfect.

So we headed down to the river and had a great hike and Ivory even took a little swim. It was nice to wear shorts again! A woman was walking her dog down there and as usual I got her dog’s name – Spence – and not hers. She said Spence is “part water dog and part dirt dog.” He was taking a quick roll in the mud. She’s the one who took this picture of us. It was a nice change to go from the from the frozen Yukon River to the thoroughly thawed James River.

Then tonight Skye and I went out and had a great dinner at Mama Felicia’s – they were happy to have us back and we were happy to be back. Tomorrow Pat and I go for our first bike ride since coming home! I hope I remember how to ride my bike.

More later,


March 09, 2006

Made it back to Richmond!

March 9, 2006

Finally made it home tonight around 7:15 PM Eastern. Final mileage was 10,322 for the entire trip. Ivory and Nicky and I stopped dinner with Mom and Dad at the Whistle Stop Café at Exit 200 on I-81 on our way home. And as soon as we walked in the door I lit a fire then the three of us headed for Ukrops to stock up on groceries and dog food. Now it’s time for our first Richmond dog walk then get in bed – it’s back to work at 9:00 tomorrow morning!

Just for a little decoration I’m including a picture of Ivory lying on Bear’s chair at Marni and Jason’s. Acting like he owns the place! And to give equal time, of course a picture of Bear too. And how could I leave out Nicky - kissing Jason while Jason holds Zane.

Anyway, more later. Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

March 08, 2006

Actually on line from Motel 6 in Lexington, KY!

For our last night on the road!

Here are a few posts I wrote up but don't know if I posted them or not:
Back in Twin Falls, ID…

March 5, 2006

…and glad to be here. But it’s been a pretty long day. We slept in at Marni and Jason and Zane and Bear’s place in Portland and we didn’t get on the road until around 12:00. Then with the time change en route we didn’t get here until nearly 10:30. But I’m glad we made it this far on our first day even though we started so late; we went around 560 miles. I don’t know where we’ll end up tomorrow but we’re certainly off to a good start. And the weather has been absolutely flawless for the whole day. Hopefully Monday will be a repeat performance. Until next time,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky
Pretty long drive today…

March 6, 2006

We left Twin Falls, ID this morning around 9:30 and drove around 660 miles and made it to Fort Collins, CO around 8:30 tonight. And the dogs and I are all glad to be here! But it was a beautiful ride and it feels like we’re getting back to Richmond. Even though we’ve got a lot of driving to do still. My car passed 120,000 miles a few hundred miles ago and it’s running like a top.

I’m looking forward to actually sitting down and doing a little bit of writing about this trip but at the moment it’s pop into a hotel – go to sleep – get up and drive again. So until later,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

PS A couple of hours ago we were driving on I-80 East between Laramie, WY and Cheyenne WY. And I think we’ve passed two other places that said “Continental Divide” today and neither of them were higher than around 7,200 or 7,400 feet. But between Laramie and Cheyenne the interstate went up to 8,640 feet and I’m relatively certain it’s “all downhill from here,” in a manner of speaking.
Leaving Fort Collins, CO…

March 7, 2006

…and we’re off to kind of a late start. So we’ll see how far we get today. But it’s a gorgeous, gorgeous day in north-central Colorado and if the weather’s like this as we go east, we’ll be able to make some pretty good time. So have a great day and until we talk with you next time,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky
Made it to Lenexa, KS…

March 7, 2006

…which is a suburb of Kansas City, KS, and arrived around 10:30 local time tonight, which is only 9:30 according to the time we woke up. So we drove around 11 hours and we went 655 miles. Which puts our current mileage for the trip at 9,200 and according to the GPS we have another 1,087 to go. But after 660 miles yesterday and 655 today, we can take a couple of easy days and make it back to Richmond at a reasonable (maybe) hour on Thursday the 9th.

We’ve had a great day of traveling, actually several great days, but I think the dogs will be happy when we’re back in Richmond. I know I will. It should only take three or four hours tomorrow to make it to St. Louis and cross the Mississippi then drive another half day, spend the night somewhere and head back to Richmond.

Anyway, until the next time we write,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky
A few images…

March 8, 2006

…from the last few days of traveling, since I haven’t posted any. None are very fascinating but they’re glimpses of a few things I’ve seen as we’ve traveled. One picture is of my car when we got up to leave on a spectacular morning in Fort Collins, CO. Another is of my two fantastic traveling companions hanging out in a rest area somewhere in central Colorado. A third picture is of a train crossing the plains. You see tons and tons of trains out here; there were a lot in Canada as well. The sign is hard to read on another picture; it says “EXIT 32 – Ranch Exit  no services.” I’m pretty certain that was in Utah somewhere. I saw a bunch of those in the past few days – probably around half a dozen. All they are is an exit off the interstate for a ranch – there’s just nothing there except a road. Having grown up on the East Coast, it surprised me that there could be an exit off the interstate just for a ranch. Whose idea was that? Who paid for it? Amazing. Anyway, until next time,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky
Spending our last night on the road!

March 8, 2006

At a Motel 6 (who would have guessed) in Lexington, KY. In my experience, the farther I am away from home, the more I feel like staying there and the closer I get to home, the more I feel like being there. I’m not sure where I passed the point of wishing I was still away and looking forward to being home; I think it was in Kansas somewhere. But we only have to go less than five hundred miles tomorrow, after going 630 today and 650 yesterday so no big deal. But we’re going to miss traveling. The dogs absolutely love it – they never seem to have a bad day. But I think they’ll be happy when they get home. It’s going to be interesting to see how they react when we pass Exit 99 on I-64; that’s where we park when we’re going hiking on the AT and they always get excited there.

Wow. What a trip this is turning out to be. I’ll have to write some more as I digest it a little bit and internalize the lessons. It’s going to be strange to sleep in my own bed tomorrow night for the first time since February 1. I’ll have to bring home some Motel 6 soap to help me make the transition.

Anyway, until next time,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky
So, forgive me if some of that's been posted before. We passed 9,800 total miles on the way here tonight; we'll hit mile 10,000 sometime tomorrow in West Virginia. Then I'm having lunch with Mom and Dad somewhere off 81 then heading back to Richmond.

I'll have a ton of pictures to go through when I get home and I'll post a few more. But I couldn't resist putting up a post without at least one picture. When I was in Portland getting an oil change I got done a little early so I went across the street to a coffee shop for a snack. The first shop I went in was a little too stuffy; I looked at the menu while the waitstaff converged on me and I bolted out the door. I ran across the street and this shop had a dog in front of it so I decided to go in. I ordered up this breakfast - observe it closely - and sat it on a table in the corner while I went to look for more reading material. I'm standing by the newspaper rack when a guy walks in the front door and taps me on the shoulder. He's very highly caffeinated, or at least extremely enthused. "Are you sitting at that table?" I replied that I was. "Do you realize you've created the perfect breakfast? The selections are right, the quantities are right, there's not too much, there's not too little - it's perfect!" Who knew. It's a double espresso, a cup of coffee, a cup of fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, a banana and a hard boiled egg. If oatmeal had been on the menu I would doubtless have spoiled "the perfect breakfast" but fortunately I was spared the embarrassment.

Talk with you soon,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

From Motel 6, Columbia, MO, for a minute or two


There. Four images. Back on the road. One more stop for gas then on to Motel 6, Lexington, KY, spend one night then head to RIC! See you soon,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

Thanks La Quinta!

For graciously allowing me a little time on their net. Typed earlier:

A few images…

March 8, 2006

…from the last few days of traveling, since I haven’t posted any. None are very fascinating but they’re glimpses of a few things I’ve seen as we’ve traveled. One picture is of my car when we got up to leave on a spectacular morning in Fort Collins, CO. Another is of my two fantastic traveling companions hanging out in a rest area somewhere in central Colorado. A third picture is of a train crossing the plains. You see tons and tons of trains out here; there were a lot in Canada as well. The sign is hard to read on another picture; it says “EXIT 32 – Ranch Exit  no services.” I’m pretty certain that was in Utah somewhere. I saw a bunch of those in the past few days – probably around half a dozen. All they are is an exit off the interstate for a ranch – there’s just nothing there except a road. Having grown up on the East Coast, it surprised me that there could be an exit off the interstate just for a ranch. Whose idea was that? Who paid for it? Amazing. Anyway, until next time,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

PS Cutting it down to one picture - really slow connection. See ya.

PPS OK, maybe no images until later.

March 06, 2006

At a rest area in northwest Utah!

I'm standing at a kiosk in the rest area! It's around noon Mountain time. The dogs are in the car. We left Twin Falls, Idaho around 2.5 hours ago and our tenative destination for tonight is the Motel 6 in Fort Collins, CO.

Anyway, back on the road. Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

March 05, 2006

Hiking in Oregon…

March 4, 2006

…with Marni, Jason, Zane, Bear, Nicky and Ivory. We went up the Wind Mountain, right near Wind River, relatively near Mount Hood, etc. I’ve got about a million pictures and I’ll put up more later. We had dinner tonight at a restaurant in Mount Hood that’s owned by friend of Marni and Jason’s from NOC. It was a fabulous dinner. More later. Ivory and Nicky and I are headed east tomorrow morning, Sunday, March 5, 2006. We look forward to seeing you all soon. A very nice person on Wind Mountain took this picture of us. Talk with you soon,


Jay, Ivory and Nicky

March 03, 2006

Coming from yet another Subaru dealer!

March 3, 2006

This one is Wentworth Subaru in Portland, OR. Yesterday Ivory and Nicky and I drove down from Nate’s place in Longview, WA to Marni and Jason and Zane and Bear’s place in Portland, OR. And it’s 8:55 AM and the service rep just walked in and told me my car’s finished! Wow! Including my Subaru dealer in Richmond, Moore Subaru, this is the fourth Subaru dealer I’ve visited on this trip and I’ve gotten outstanding service at all four! But now I’m out of here so fast I’ll barely have time to put up a post! So here it is real quick, and I’ll post again at the earliest opportunity,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

PS One picture of Zane having a fabulous time hanging out with everybody and one picture of Ivory and Nicky and a bunch of other dogs charging around a park in Portland, thrilled to be out of the car for a change.

March 02, 2006

Overlooking the Columbia River...

...from the Oregon side.

March 2, 2006

Nate and I were cruising around Longview, just getting a tour of the place. We crossed a bridge over the Columbia River and checked out a view of town from the Oregon side. We talked with a man and his wife who were heading up to visit her 92 year old mother in a nursing home near here and the guy took this picture of us. Very nice couple and had a nice chat. Have a great day,


Commond grounD on Broadway...

March 2, 2006 the name of the coffee shop in Longview where Nate and I are having a cup of coffee at the moment. Including the capital "D" at the end. We're going for a tour of Longview then hang out for a while then the dogs and I will be driving about and hour south to Portland. Then we'll hang out with Marni and Jason and Zane and Bear for a few days and get an oil change then start back east.

If you're ever in Longview, or if you're even within a hundred miles or so, see if you can stop in and get Nate to fix some meatloaf and real mashed potatoes for you. Then take a nap. He also fixed excellent asparagus; the first decent vegetable I've had since leaving Richmond a month ago.

Anyway, more later,and have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

March 01, 2006

Coming from Longview, WA... (again)

March 1, 2006

…where the dogs and I are stopping at our friend Nate’s for a break before heading down to see Marni and Jason and Zane and Bear tomorrow. We took a great walk today at Lake Sacagawea Park here in Longview. We met a nice woman who was walking a 6 month old Bichon-Frise named Jolie and she took this picture of us. More later. The dogs ate a little while ago and Nate just left for a class. And I’m about to sit down to the meatloaf and mashed potatoes and fresh asparagus that Nate just made! Real food! For the first time in a month! More soon,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

From Nate's house in Longview, WA

We made a quick trip (216 miles) down here from Bellingham this morning and took the dogs for a great walk around Lake Sacajawea - pictures soon. Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

February 27, 2006

This just in... at Toad River they told me it was -32º C (-26º F) a little while ago, the coldest temperature of the trip. Glad my car's plugged in! Now it's gone up to a comparatively balmy -28º C (-18º F). T-shirt weather!

Breakfast in Toad River

February 27, 2006

It's a little bit lighter out but still gray and cold. Looks like a good day for drifing, though. I think we're going to try for Prince George, BC tonight. But who knows. The dogs are in the room having their breakfast and I'm in here having a delicious bowl of oatmeal! We hope to be on the road in an hour or so. Well, goodbye until our next post. It may be a more interesting post (or maybe not) but the place sure won't have a more interesting name! Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

February 26, 2006

Coming to you from Toad River Lodge…

February 26, 2006

Toad River, British Columbia. Seriously. Pulled in here around 8:00 PM Pacific time after leaving Whitehorse around 10:00 AM. Mileage when we left Whitehorse was 117,185 and it was around 483 to get here. Not sure what tomorrow’s goal is – perhaps Prince George, BC. This connection says 100 Mbps; I’m skeptical.

So, quick post with quick picture. It’s way too dark here right now to get a picture outside and besides, it’s -7º F and not getting warmer. I’m plugging my car in tonight for the first time! These buffalo… or bison, or whatever – were standing in the road in two different places on the trip down here and believe me, you go around corners very gingerly. The camera’s “auto-fix” brightened up the image a lot too – it was really dark and at first you just saw lots of eyes glowing in the headlights.

Don’t know where or when my next post will be from. And I’ve got a lot of cool images left from Whitehorse; I’ll put them up when I have a faster connection. Anyway, until then,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

PS We're at: N 58º 50'49.9" x W125º 13' 55.0", elevation 2,312'.

If I had to drive 5,000 miles…

February 25, 2006

…just to see a chef serve steak on a silver platter to two dogs in the ballroom of a fancy hotel, the trip was worth it just for that. That’s Lance Mackey, winner of the 2006 Yukon Quest looking on as the chef of the High Country Inn in Whitehorse serves steak to his two lead dogs Larry and Hobo, recipients of the 2006 Golden Harness Award. A city where one of the nicest hotels in town serves steak to dogs on a silver platter, right in their ballroom – does it get any better than that?

February 25, 2006

I’m not sure it’s even LEGAL…

February 25, 2006

…for one person to have this much fun. Besides being the weekend of the Quest banquet, this is the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous festival. They had several streets closed off. One of the events was a single dog sled pull. We got there just at the end of the middle weight class – and they were pulling – with one dog – 544 pounds! This monster standing behind Ivory was in the heavy weight class, since he weighed over 100 pounds. He was half St. Bernard and half Bernese mountain dog. We didn’t stay around for his pull. He was a real sweetie, though.

I had to include Nicky with this little kid; Nicky was being a perfect gentleman, the kid was kissing him, he was the perfect dog. I was so impressed. Nicky was just loving every minute of it.

The third picture is one of probably thirty or forty incredible pieces of snow sculpture. I got a big kick out of the clever name.

All that stuff – and there were at least four F-18’s doing takeoffs and landings out of the airport and practicing maneuvers right overhead and right over the river. It was just too much fun. They were difficult to photograph – as soon as you’d hear them and look up, they were gone.

Anyway, maybe another post after the Quest banquet – we’ll see. Except for the food, I’m normally not that fond of banquets. But the lead dogs of the winning team get the "Golden Harness Award" which includes a steak dinner at the banquet. So that will be worth seeing, if nothing else.

Anyway, maybe more later or maybe more next time we get on the net – outside of the Yukon :(

Until then, have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

Last full day in Whitehorse!

February 25, 2006

Last night I went to the "Meet the Mushers" get-together at the Westmark Hotel, just up the street from where I’m staying. I didn’t take any pictures because it was relatively non descript. Just a bunch of people hanging around and shooting the breeze. But what it lacked in flash and appearance it made up for a hundred times in personality and character. This mushing culture is absolutely different from anything I’ve ever experienced. Each person involved is entirely unique – they’re like no one I’ve ever met. I’ll tell you one thing – if you want to talk about dogs, go to one of these things. That’s all people talk about. They don’t talk about the weather, the sleds, the cold, the prizes, the snow, the people – they talk about dogs. And they just never get tired of it. I don’t either, so it’s perfect.

It’s going to be strange that this is our last night in Whitehorse. I’ve felt very, very at home here. But I’m eager to travel again and I think once I get back to warm weather, or at least warmer than this, it’s going to be pleasant. Also, no telling when will be the next time I get to post a blog entry. Sunday night I’m staying at the Toad River Lodge in Toad River, British Columbia. Where internet access may be limited. But you never know up here; I’ve found internet access in some very peculiar places. But if I don’t put up a post for a couple of days, it’s because I’m out in the woods somewhere.

By the way, if you want to read about the Toad River Lodge I’m pretty certain their internet address is:

Anyway, believe it or not today is colder than yesterday, or at least it was when we got out for our walk at 9:45. We started out at -22º F (-30º C). And it didn’t warm up much while we were walking. It was funny, I noticed this yesterday too – it was -20º F when we went outside early in the morning but after we had breakfast and got ready for our walk it had gone down to -22º. But it was a gorgeous day and the snow was crunchy and it was great for our last long walk in the Yukon.

The first picture is of the frost building up on the trees where the steam blows off the river. At first it looks like snow but it’s on the bottom of the branches too.

The second picture is of the entrance to Bert Law Park, which is where I took the picture of the sign that says if we told you where the good berry patches are, we’d have to kill you. In the background to the right you can see the little footbridge that leads out to the island. It was from that footbridge, looking left, that I took the picture of that huge lump of blue ice the other day.

The third picture is of the SS Klondike, a Canadian National Historical Site. In the lower right you can see Ivory and Nicky running down the path, headed for a bridge. We walk under that bridge and then it’s about ten more minutes walk up to the hotel. When we start our walk in the morning, we walk under it (coming the other way) then up steps onto the bridge. There’s a sidewalk with a guardrail on the side and that’s how we cross the river up at this end. Then it’s a mile or so down the river to a footbridge that crosses to the other side.

Anyway, I’m going to begin packing up and generally organizing things. Then I go to the post-race banquet here in town tonight, then tomorrow morning we’re off for Toad River and points south!

Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

February 24, 2006

Coldest day so far…

February 24, 2006

When we got up to go outside this AM the temperature was -30º C (-22º F) and that was around 8:00. So we came back in and got cleaned up and the dogs had breakfast and I had breakfast and the sun was coming out – sunrise was around 8:15 – and about 10:00 I decided it was time for our walk. And the temperature hadn’t gone up even one degree! So we waited around the hotel for about an hour and organized things around here and by 11:00 it was only -28º C (-18º F)! But it was still and it was sunny and the temperature was rising slowly so we decided to head out anyway. Nicky had his booties on and neither he or Ivory had any problem at all.

After we’d only been walking for five or ten minutes I heard an enormous roaring sound, by far the loudest thing I’ve heard in around two weeks and I looked up on the plateau and a Canadian Air Force F-18 was taking off from Whitehorse Airport! And before he’d even leveled off another one took off behind him. They flew north for fifteen or twenty seconds then did a hard bank to the right and headed back downstream over the river. Then they banked right again and touched down on the runway and took off again, same loop. Only this time, a third F-18 comes streaking down from the north and gets in behind them and all three of them headed south. It was kind of a startling thing to watch after being so immersed in dogs and running around in the woods for two weeks.

Dogs, snow, a big river, a great park and now F-18’s – this place has everything! The cold’s been fun, though – I’m glad we had a chance to experience a very cold day. Of course it gets a lot colder up here, but I was satisfied with that little taste. The pictures weren’t very fascinating today; I just took a couple of the river steaming in the cold. It’s amazing when you’re walking out of the hotel and down toward the river. You look up in the sky and it’s crystal blue with not a cloud to be seen, but down where the ice is broken on the river there are great clouds of steam billowing off the water. Then we walk down there and the steam is blowing right across the path, coating the leaves with frost. Figure the water is around 35º or 40º F or something like that and when it hits that -22º F air it just fogs right up. It’s amazing.

Later today we were taking a quick walk in town. It had warmed up to around -17º C, or around 1º F and it actually felt comfortable. Anyway, this couple was walking their baby in a stroller and of course Ivory had to go up and say hello and the whole family was loving it so I asked them to take a picture of us. We certainly have been depending on the kindness of strangers!

Tonight I’m going to a "Meet the Mushers" dinner at a hotel right up the street from here – it should be fascinating. Also, I’ve made reservations for Sunday night at the Toad River Lodge in Toad River, BC. According to one of my maps it’s around 58º 50’ north and around 125º 13’ west, so we’ll be driving pretty far. According to my GPS it’s a little over 475 miles to get there and it will take around eight and a half hours driving time. If we get on the road by 10:00 on Sunday morning and don’t make a ton of stops, we should arrive at a reasonable hour on Sunday evening. Hopefully the weather will cooperate!

Anyway, have a great day,

Jay, Nicky and Ivory

PS In that picture I’m wearing the new parka I got for becoming a member of the Yukon Quest 1,000 mile club. It works great at -22º F but it may be a little too warm for Virginia!

February 23, 2006

Road trip reading, and more

Remember, if you want to see a larger image - i.e., to read the "fine print" - click on the picture.

February 23, 2006

When you’re on a journey like this, great reading is essential. Especially when you’re way up north here and it’s night for a really long time. One book I chose is an old favorite and I’ve read it many times. It’s called The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen and it was first published in 1978. It’s introspective and thoughtful and it’s about a long journey in a cold climate – perfect reading for an adventure like this.

I also brought along a book about sled dog driving that I’d never read before. I’ve read a whole, whole lot of books about sled dog driving, both about the Quest and about the Iditarod and just general books about being around sled dogs. But this one was written in 1990 by a Scottish guy named Alastair Scott. The title is Tracks Across Alaska: A dog sled journey and it’s been a real treat. He’s taking a long trip up to Alaska, similar to mine but about ten times longer and he’s getting a dog team together and mushing them eight hundred miles in thirty days or so. Early in the book someone is asking him why he’s taking this trip, a question I ran into a lot before I left – even while I’ve been on the trip. He says "I found it hard to reply because it seemed that anyone who had to ask the question probably wouldn’t understand the answer." Which is exactly the response I think is appropriate.

He has one quotation in Chapter 20 – actually the quotation is Chapter 20. I am particularly fond if it. It’s credited to Henrik Ibsen, "(Quoted in Sir Vivian Fuchs, Of Ice and Men)." Anyway, this is the quote: "There is always a certain risk in being alive, and if you are more alive there is more risk." Absolutely perfect.

Also, when I was driving up to Pelly the other day, I stopped in a little village called Carmacks to top up my gas tank. I went in the general store to pay for it and they had a little bookshelf and I found a little copy of The Call of the Wild and Selected Stories by Jack London. I could hardly pass that up on an adventure like this. I took it home and immediately read To Build a Fire and The Call of the Wild. To Build a Fire will make you a little bit nervous even on a comparatively tame expedition like this one. The book had an introduction by Alex Kershaw, a biographer of Jack London. In the introduction Kershaw quotes London as saying "It was in the Klondike that I found myself. There, nobody talks. Everybody thinks. You get your perspective. I got mine." I’ve definitely been getting a lot of perspective while I’ve been here.

When I was over at Muktuk earlier this week I picked up another book. It’s called Treat People Like Dogs! Six tasks for passionate leaders and the author is Robert Norton. He’s a management consultant and he was so impressed with the organization and functioning of Frank Turner and Muktuk Kennels that he used it as a model for working with people. It’s a pretty fascinating book.
This morning we took our long walk down the river (what a surprise). There was a group from Switzerland pretty close to the hotel and they were all taking pictures of each other so I asked if they’d take one of my group – and that’s this picture. I have no idea what Nicky is doing in this picture; we had just gotten outside and he was wildly excited. He loves these long walks. About a second before that he had been over there leaning against the people who were standing there, schmoozing and begging for attention. Perhaps his antics were a further ploy for attention.

Anyway, we headed down the river and this time I took my GPS with me so I could figure out how far the walk was. We added the walk around the little park on the island again today and it came out to almost precisely 4.5 miles. This unusual looking blue thing was lying on the same frozen riverbed I posted a picture of yesterday. It was lying in a large expanse of unbroken snow so there was nothing to use for perspective but it was around the size of an attaché case. It was just a big giant block of ice that had been broken out of the river somehow. I thought it looked pretty amazing. It’s a little bit grainy because I used the zoom lens to bring it in a little bit closer.

The little park on the island is called "Bert Law Park" and yesterday I mentioned a sign on the island. The big sign says "Temptation Island – the berries of Bert Law Park" and it talks about the ones that are okay to eat and the ones that are poisonous. The little saying at the bottom just cracked me up. Here I am in the frozen north, deep in the Yukon and I find the origin of the phrase "If I told you, I’d have to kill you." Who knew?

When we were walking back up the river – that’s north – I felt compelled to cover my face for the first time on this trip. When we walked out of the hotel it was -4º F (-20º C) and the wind was blowing out of the north around 4 mph (6 kph). When we were walking downstream it was at our backs and I didn’t even notice it, and when we were walking around Bert Law Park we were in the woods so we didn’t feel it. But when we got out of the park and started heading back up that river with the wind right in our faces, I definitely began to notice it then. My coat and hat and jeans and gloves were plenty comfortable but at -4º F, even a 4 mph wind turns your face to a block of ice in pretty short order. You definitely see why lots of guys wear beards up here. Also, I was gratified to see for the first time that many locals were wearing face masks today.
Anyway, another fun walk. This afternoon I’m going to the Yukon Visitor Reception Centre to watch a movie about the Quest called "The Lone Trail."

Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

February 22, 2006

February 22, 2006

When I first started learning about mushing several years ago I learned that many of the dogs wore "booties" to protect their feet during long distance racing. So I thought I’d see if I could get my hands on a few pair for Ivory and Nicky before our Great Adventure. Since I google everything, I found a web site, believe it or not, called "" and that’s what they sell. So I bought several pair and played around with them with Ivory and Nicky. I ran them around with booties on at Pony Pasture on the very rare occasions it snowed in Richmond. I gave a couple to my Mom once when she was down for a visit and she took them home and sat down at her sewing machine and made several sets for Ivory and Nicky. The whole time we’ve been here the only snow has been packed down and solid and hasn’t bothered their feet. But it snowed several inches the other night and when I took Ivory and Nicky for a walk down the Yukon in the AM, Nicky got ice balls stuck between his toes. They’re about the size of marbles and they make him limp like crazy and he constantly stops to pick them out with his teeth. Ivory doesn’t get them at all but Nicky gets them constantly. So last night we experimented a little bit with his custom made dog booties and they were perfect. This morning I put them on before our walk and we went for a really, really long hike, maybe our longest walk in the Yukon and he was perfect the whole time. Here’s a picture of him grinning from ear to ear after we’ve been walking for a while.

We also went into a new area along the river this morning, a little park on a small island near the side of the river. Their was a sign on the island I thought was humorous; I may put in a picture of it tomorrow. I’m attaching a picture of Ivory and Nicky hiking on the island today. The island was very secluded and the paths were narrow and there was just snow everywhere. It’s only around six or seven inches deep but it’s so cold out here the snow is just the lightest and fluffiest powder you can imagine. And I was juggling leashes at one point this morning and I dropped one and it just disappeared – completely. You could see a little disturbance in the snow but the leash was entirely out of sight.
Just before we walked out the door this morning I looked at the weather for Whitehorse and it said the temperature was -4º F. I know that sounds cold – or anyway, it sounds cold to me. But I was dressed warmly and the sun was shining and the wind wasn’t blowing and you’ll just have to take my word for it – it’s really not that cold. That’s incorrect; -4º F is cold. But it wasn’t at all uncomfortable. We walked for two solid hours and it was never even mildly uncomfortable.

I’m putting in one other picture of a wide, flat area of snow with trees on both sides. That’s just a frozen stretch of river with snow on top of it. So you can see how they used the rivers as "highways" for dog teams in the old days. And that’s what they spend a lot of time racing on too. Unfortunately for the dogs and the mushers there are a lot of hills between the rivers, but the fast parts are all frozen river beds.

Sorry if you’re getting tired of pictures of dogs and snow – but that’s what I’m spending a lot of time with on this trip. And it hasn’t gotten boring yet! Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

February 21, 2006

Flurries, Yukon Style

February 21, 2006

Hopefully everyone’s not getting bored with yet another picture of my car. But I thought this one was particularly telling. According to the weather here we had "flurries" last night. In Virginia after flurries perhaps there’s a flake here or there or maybe a little bit of snow on some leaves. Cars don’t look like that after a "flurry."

I took Ivory and Nicky for our wonderful river walk after we had breakfast. I may have already mentioned this, but the park where we walk is very similar to Pony Pasture, only probably twenty times larger and at least right now it’s solid snow. Plus the park is on both sides of the river (the Yukon) and there is one car bridge (with sidewalks on both sides of the road) and then around 1.5 miles downstream a beautiful foot bridge called the Centennial Bridge. And like Pony Pasture, tons and tons of people are always walking their dogs there, and you even get to know the "regulars," just like at Pony Pasture.

I took one picture of Ivory and Nicky on the path right beside the river and another of them both on the trail. I liked the one on the trail because they had run off into the woods chasing after something and Nicky was covered with snow. We walked for nearly an hour after that happened and the snow was still on his back when we got back to the hotel. Ivory had snow on his back too but it doesn’t show up like it does on Nicky.

At the moment I’m writing this it’s around 3:00 PM Pacific Standard Time and the Quest mushers are going to be finishing soon – even though it’s in Dawson and not down here as originally anticipated. So I think I’ll head over to the Quest office.

Have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

February 20, 2006

Describing the "indescribable."

February 20, 2006

If I say something is "indescribable," that’s what it means. It’s like being pregnant or dead – either you are or you aren’t, and if something is indescribable, it can’t be described. That doesn’t stop people from trying to describe things like the Grand Canyon and the Northern Lights and some of those descriptions are fantastic. And some of the photographs and videos you see really give you a very close approximation. Then you see the real thing and you say – "Oh – so that’s what that looks like."

I was around seventeen years old when I first stepped to the rim of the Grand Canyon and in seventeen years I had seen dozens of pictures in books and magazines and National Geographic and so forth. And I’d seen it on plenty of movies and documentaries and television shows. So as I stepped toward the rim of the Grand Canyon I was quite certain I knew precisely what I was about to see. And when I looked out over it I just sort of said to myself "Oh… " It was as if I’d never even been aware of it before that moment.

This morning around 6:30 Pacific time I was finally outside when the Northern Lights were in their full display. I’m forty four years old and I’ve seen every possible representation of the Northern Lights, even in an IMAX dome theater. And I’ve heard people rhapsodize about the way they look for my entire life so obviously they would come as no surprise when I finally did see them. In one sense, the Northern Lights and the Grand Canyon came as no surprise – the second I laid eyes on them I knew precisely what I was looking at. But still after all those years I didn’t know they would look like that.

My experience with watching an elite dog team head out of a checkpoint under full steam was similar. I haven’t had a lifetime of watching sled dog racing like I have of the Grand Canyon and the Northern Lights but I’m relatively familiar with the sport. I’ve spent a lot of years around a lot of dogs and I’ve seen some fast ones. But I stood there and waited for that team to start, stood there watching them twitch and hop and get ready to take off and then Lance Mackey gave whatever command makes those dogs go. I just had no idea that something that was that large and powered entirely by animals could move like that. He had twelve dogs left at that point, six pairs of two plus his sled, so I guess the whole thing was forty feet long, or in that neighborhood. As long as a semi. I was about fifty feet away so maybe there was a noise but I did not hear one thing – not a click or a jingle or a yip or a scrape – silence. And that forty foot long monster was standing still then it was gone – like that. I will never, ever forget that.

It’s been fun writing this and maybe you’ve enjoyed a sentence here or a paragraph there. But if you’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or the Northern Lights or a fast dog team, the only way you’re really going to know what it looks like is to see for yourself.

As for these two photos, nothing too exciting. Just as we were leaving Pelly, two more teams had arrived – Gerry Willomeitzer and David Dalton. And Sebastian Schnuelle was on his way in but we were on our way out. The picture with the fence in the background is Willomeitzer and Dalton’s dogs bedding down for a brief rest. See the snow shoes packed on the side of the sled? They’re part of the mandatory equipment that every musher has to have. The other picture is of Ivory and Nicky getting out of the car for a minute against the backdrop of a landscape that I can only describe as forbidding. Their water bowl is on the ground beside them but they’re ready to get back in the car.

Anyway, have a great day,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

Got to see a team in daylight!

This team came in around 10:15 AM local time; my car thermometer still says 1º F (around -17º C). This is Gerry Willomitzer. His dogs looked great and looked like they were having fun. I think it's a little bit disorienting for them to come off the trail and in here with all these people and cars and buildings. If I were them I think I'd like to be back out on the trail - nice and quiet and relaxing. Who can say. I've been meeting tons of nice people. I think we're heading back to Whitehorse soon. Anyway, more soon,

Jay, Ivory and Nicky

PS One picture is his two leaders, or at least the leaders he was using coming into Pelly. The other picture is his dogs over by the holding area. Last night, Lance Mackey only stayed here long enough to scarf down some food and snack his dogs. William Kleedehn and Hans Gatt stayed for six hours or so. I'm not sure how long Gerry Willomitze will stay.