21 February 2009

just a normal day

so, a story about what you do at 20 below - if you're  me, you put on about 7 layers of wool, polypropylene, and polar fleece, and head outside to "put in a dog lot".

Race season is upon us - when after 3 months of winter, these f'ing cabin-fever crazed citizens will race just about anything over the snow - snowmobiles, dogs, skis, bikes, outhouses (yeah, that's not a joke).  We've been a host/checkpoint for a few different races the past few years, but two have been consistent : the Susitna 100 and the Jr. Iditarod.

The Jr. Iditarod is fairly self explanatory, it's a dog-mushing race for teens (14-17) who run their own teams, completely self-sufficient over a 150 mile course (we're a major checkpoint).  It's a pretty cool thing.

The Susitna 100 happens a few weeks earlier,(Feb 14th this year), and it's much nuttier.  It is a "human powered" race - meaning you can ski, bike, or snowshoe the race -  which is 100 miles, all wilderness trails.  100 f'ing miles - completely on your own, through some absolutely frozen, desolate landscape.  These people are total nut-jobs.  We're the halfway point for this, and there is some serious comedy as shell-shocked bodies start rolling in.

But back to the dog lot - it's needed for the Jr. Iditarod, so that racers can rest their teams, and any injured dogs can be checked out by a vet, dropped off, flown back into town, etc.   We also have a lot of adult mushers who come out for weekends to do practice runs for their teams, stay overnight, etc. I knew practically nothing about dog-mushing before I came up here -  not that I know all that much now - but I am amazed at how much care these people take with their animals.

So, "putting in a dog lot" consists of first finding where you stashed the dozen posts you used last year (these are wood, about 8 feet long, 6-8" in diameter).  After you realize they are against the back of the tool-shop with about 6 feet of snow up against them, you take half an hour to shovel them out and move them out onto the frozen lake, into a couple hundred foot oval area that you've previously spent an hour packing down with a snowmobile.  You then take a chainsaw and cut two foot deep holes in the ice to drop the posts into, each about 20 feet apart. 
This is about the point where I step back and reflect on the moment: I'm standing on a frozen lake,  chainsawing holes into the ice, so that people have a place to rest the dozen animals that brought them in a sled through 50 miles of snow. 
Then you pack the holes back in, connect some strong chain between them for the mushers to hook their teams up to, let it freeze overnight and bingo, there's a dog lot.  all while it's about -22 degrees out. 
That was my Monday.  My life is ludicrous.
but it's worth it, as happy doggies are the result  - the  photo is an "action shot" from 2008's dog lot

for more info on races in the AK, visit your local library, or check the links:

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