Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mile 101 - Seventh day - Closing up, with great memories

Boots of the Matthew Failor's handler

 Thursday was our last day at Mile 101.

Dyan Bergen was the 20th musher to come to the checkpoint in early morning with a very happy team! She stayed a few hours while we slowly started packing things.


Dyan leaving Mile 101

Trail breakers following the 20th musher

After Dyan left it took us a few hours to clean the checkpoint. Cabins and the yard looked so empty after packing all the stuff in our cars.

Burning the straw that once kept the dogs, the Yukon Quest heroes, warm

We were the last ones to leave and when we were standing outside we finally realized our Yukon Quest holiday was over and the Mile 101 checkpoint was closed. It seemed our car realized it as well, since after we saw Peter and Lukas driving away and tried to start our old Subaru, it didn't start... But it just needed a bit heating, and soon we hit the road.

Since the race in now over for all the 20 mushers, we can officially thank you everyone at the Mile 101 checkpoint for having us there, working with us and having fun with us. We fully enjoyed it from the beginning when we opened the checkpoint and started getting ready for mushers to arrive, to all the action during the days and nights, and until we closed the cabins and drove away with lots of amazing memories, fantastic photos and many new friends. It was a great pleasure to part of this adventure, one that we will never forget!
The current standings from the first until the end

See you at the Quest Finishing Banquet tonight!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Mile 101 - Sixth day - The mile 101 crew, the 19th musher, and amazing northern lights

Rob Cooke and his Siberians left around 2 o'clock in the morning on Wednesday, howling and ready to go! And then we had a calm day in mile 101. Next musher arrived around 11am, and before that we all had a great opportunity to catch some sleep.
In morning Piia went with Bob and Georganne to drive along he Steese highway to see a huge caribou herd wandering around the mountains. This time we didn't see the herd, though the mountains were covered by their tracks. We also found wolf tracks there, so the caribous might have been in hurry.

Luckily we also captured a moment when Matthew Failor was coming down the Eagle summit. Here's the musher, alone in the wilderness with his dogs.

The checkpoint from the Steese highway

Our last post were mostly about us and our doings since it's the way we usually write this blog. We have been thinking about that and we think it is time to talk a bit about the other part of the team.

The checkpoint manager is Peter Kamper, he makes sure that everything goes smoothly and is part of the Yukon Quest video team. It's great to work with him since he gives us the opportunity to work the way we want as long as the job is done right. And nothing beats the German humor by the way!

Georganne and Kelly

Georganne in the kitchen
In the kitchen we had Kelly (Peter's wife) and Georganne taking care of us. Georganne took over after Kelly had to leave, but we gotta say these women are amazing!

Since we are up whenever mushers are up, the cooks have challenging task to keep all the people, mushers, volunteers and handlers fed. From what we saw we can say that the kitchen is the core of a checkpoint, mushers need their coffee and calorie, as do handlers and volunteers. That is pretty amazing to see how 20 eggs put on a table don't even last 2 minutes, the same with the bacon. The cook shack was always a busy place, and never once did these ladies lose their touch!
Lukas, Peter's son helps around with about everything. He is only 16 but he has been part of the mile 101 crew since he was born, so he knows what he is doing! He is usually the one who spots a clean area for the teams and parks them. Lukas makes also sure that mushers have hot water for the dogs and that the musher cabin is warm enough. Well, he can play cards as well, and make flips from the roofs of the cabins!

At the beginning we had also Travis helping us as well, with everything that needed to be done.

Kelly with Kevin and his girlfriend Ginny
Kevin was here at the beginning and Julien could'nt have done anything without him since he built all the internet network and especially the satellite antenna. He stayed the two first days in order to make sure that Julien was able to take over for him. It was very nice to have him helping. Kevin is the one who launches rockets to the sky, so you are in good hands with him!
Joe, Peter's friend from New York, was with us for a while as well, helping around with whatever checkpoint needed. And whenever you were cold, Joe had a nice warm story from Hawaii ready for you!

Two trail breakers, Dave and Kerry also spent the week with us, making sure the trails were open and properly marked for the teams. They also took us for a ride along the trail with their snow machines. Their work requires lots of skills but it provides the most beautiful workplace!

We had also a pleasure to meet many vets and race judges all around the world, who were all great people and we learned a lot from them.
Piia with Yukon Quest finisher and now YQ race judge Bob McAlpin
The vets checking Matthew's dogs
For sure the dogs were taken care of
And that is what it takes to make this checkpoint work, besides the Yukon Quest managing part of course. And our experience wouldn't have been anything like it was without these great people! Everything went amazingly well, thanks to great teamwork!

Today we had just one musher, Matthew Failor, who wasn't in hurry and was amazing with his dogs. We never saw a musher spending so much time massaging. He clearly enjoyed being here and being with his dogs. He was really open and talkative so we spent lot of time with him. Sadly he had to drop one of his leaders, we were all sad for him and tried to cheer him up. He left with positive attitude on Wednesday and we were very happy to witness him reaching the finnish line in Fairbanks earlier today. 


The weather was again incredible today: sunshine and blue skies. At night we got some incredible northern lights, colors changing from green to purple, dancing in the sky and covering it completely, just awesome! We had nice dinner with the crew, lighted some wishing lanterns and enjoyed the last night.



Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Mile 101 - Fifth day - Back of the pack

Once again the night was full of events, mushers prefer to run their dogs by night since it's usually cooler. The action started around midnight when Ed Hopkins showed up. We had to wake up Georganne and the people in charge of the dog yard (Lucas who leads the teams to their parking spot and Piia who checks the teams in), plus the race officials like judge Bob and vets. And since it is pretty hard to know exactly the time that mushers need to cover the distance between Eagle summit and Mile 101, we spend the first part of the night awake.

Further the race goes on, things get a bit less serious, mushers take the race a bit less seriously and are usually full of funny anecdote. 

David Dalton came in 40 minutes after Ed. Julien spend some time talking with Ed Hopkins and Michelle Phillips while Piia was resting. One of the hardest tasks during the night is to respect the wake up call that the mushers ask. That night Ed asked to be woken up at 3:00 and David at 4:30. So we didn't get much sleep. In order to provide food and warm coffee for the mushers the cook crew has to be woken up 30 minutes before a musher comes in or wakes up, you better not oversleep when you are in charge of that!

Julien went for a nap between 05:00 and 07:00 but ended up chatting with David and do some chores (filling the generator, keeping the musher cabin warm, making sure there is hot water). He finally got some sleep while Piia replaced him at the communication desk to watch the times of the next mushers coming in : Crispin Studer, followed closely by Denis Tremblay around 8 am. Both of them took a pretty long rest which lasted all the morning, a perfect opportunity for Julien and Piia to take some pictures and send them to the Yukon Quest Facebook page. We rested one hour on a couch but didn't really feel like sleeping. Outside the air was cold and the sun was shining, and the surroundings of our checkpoint showed us how beautiful it could be.

Both Denis and Crispin left around 2pm, by the meantime Cody Strathe and Darren Lee came in. With so beautiful weather we tried to shoot as much pictures as we could so this time of the day was super busy between the update to the Headquarters and the pictures sorting and sending on the Facebook page. We got to see beautiful landscape and amazing dogs pulling and barking while being checked in, a lot of them were waging their tails, rare fact after an exhausting run like Eagle summit.

Brian Wilmshurst came in around 5pm, at this time Cody and Darren were already thinking about leaving. They left around around 7pm followed by Brian who apparently wanted to feel once again the excitement of racing.

The checkpoint was empty, we enjoyed a long dinner, talking with vets, handlers and visitors, then we went back in our com shack to follow Rob Cooke's climb. Then Rob shows up with his good looking Siberian dogs, too bad it was dark and we couldn't take better pictures!