We woke up this morning to a light dusting of snow in the Goldstream Valley, and it’s been snowing all morning since. It appears that the winter weather switch has been thrown, so it won’t be too much longer before any snow that falls will be with us until April. Most stations in Fairbanks haven’t been above 40°F since Tuesday, and the snow on the ground will help keep the temperatures low. The last four days at our house on the Creek have been warmer than the rest of town, so I’m guessing that we’re experiencing a warming effect from the warm (relative to the air temperature) Creek water. Once it freezes over, we’re going to be one of the coldest spots in the region.
The photo shows Buddy, Kiva and Koidern waiting at the door to the deck. It’s a sliding glass door, which isn’t exactly optimal when the dogs want to go in and out every fifteen minutes, but it’s great to have all the light from such a large glass surface. We put a piece of 1/8" Lexan over the lower pane of glass to protect it from dog toenails.
Spring in Fairbanks is often a long, muddy season but this year we got less than a third of the snowfall we normally get and early spring was remarkably cold. So on April first, when the temperatures suddenly rose above freezing, it was like the springtime switch had been thrown, toggling us from winter to summer. Ten days later and the roads are dry and clear, the dog yard is more than half melted out, most of the snow on the roof has turned to water and run down the gutters, and even our driveway isn't too bad.
That also means that it's summertime for the dogs, so they've got to find other ways to occupy themselves since they're not training or racing three or four times a week. As you can see on the right, Kiva and Buddy* have already started their grueling schedule of non-stop sleeping, broken by occasional bursts of activity around dinnertime, and periodically racing around the dog yard after Piper when she plays keep-away with a stick.
As for us, it's time to start replenishing the firewood supply with five or six trips to the woodcutting area, making repairs to the exterior of our house, and getting our garden going. This year's garden will hopefully contain lots of cabbage, beets, potatoes, and maybe some leaf lettuce and broccoli.
*The orange spot on Buddy is a bit of paint from one of the races.
It was colder on the second day, -15°F when we got up, and around -18°F when we got to the race track at 8:00 am. By race time, the sun was out, and the official temperature was up to 0°F. The wind was calm, so the sun started warming things up pretty quickly.
Andrea and the dogs had a clean run on the course, finishing in 17 minutes 46 seconds, 14 seconds faster than yesterday, and her best time in Tok. That finish time, combined with a bad tangle between two earlier teams allowed her to move up to 18th place (out of 30 teams), one second behind the 17th team and six seconds ahead of the team in 19th place.
It was a fun trip. We left Tok after the awards ceremony and made it back home around 9:30 last night.
The first day of racing is now over. The skies cleared from last night and it got down to -10°F before the time the sun came up. The six dog class started at 9:00 am, so it had only warmed up slightly when the first team went out. There was still enough of a breeze to give you a chill if you were facing into the wind and my feet and cheeks got cold from standing around outside most of the day.
Andrea drew the fifth position last night, and the racers go off at one minute intervals from each other, so Andrea went out at 9:04 am, just a few short hours after we got up for breakfast. By 9:30, the race was over for our team. Andrea and the dogs had a finish time of 18 minutes even, which was 55 seconds better than her time on the first day last year. All the dogs did really well, and Andrea was very happy with them. She borrowed Elway and a yearling named Tsuga from her friend Bonnie, who was racing in the eight dog class. In the middle photo you can see Buddy and Elway in lead (closest to the camera), Piper and Koidern in swing (the middle), and Tsuga and Kiva in wheel.
18:00 was good enough for 20th place in a field of 30, but Andrea is only 3 seconds behind the 19th place team, and 4 seconds behind the 18th place team. With a good run tomorrow and some luck, she could move up a few places in the final standings.
Bonnie and her team did really well, coming in fifth place in the eight dog class. She ran a team with four of the yearlings from the same litter that Tsuga came from. The last photo on the right shows one of them, a dog named Salix, who flops on the ground after a race to cool off.
A good day of racing. We're relaxing before dinner, maybe catching some sleep before tomorrow, since it'll be another late night tonight taking care of the dogs.
We've had Koidern almost a year now, but as much as she loves being in the house, she's never felt comfortable enough to sleep on the dog beds we made. When she first came, she'd pace around and finally lie on the rug in front of the couch. A few months later, she started sleeping on a small commercial dog bed away from the other dogs. Within the last few weeks, her favorite spot has been the stair landing.
But today, when I came home from work to let Piper and Nika out (it's been too cold outside for them to ride with me to work), Koidern came in and went right for the middle dog bed, traditionally Kiva's bed. Kiva stood above her and gave her the stink eye, trying to get her to move but finally gave up and curled up right next to her.
Getting a new dog integrated into the family is a challenging and stressful process, and I think this marks Koidern's full membership in pack Swingley.