***My friend, Tracey Schaeffer, sent out this email describing her experiences during the Kobuk 440. She graciously gave me permission to repost it here*****
We took off in about 30 degrees with blowing snow from the east (right in our faces) which eventually became mixed rain and snow. Had a fast trip to Noorvik, which was a busy stop, lots of dog teams and people, lots of wringing out of soaking clothes. It was a bit stressful for my dogs and I ended up having a dog fight which fortunately wasn’t too serious. Took off for Selawik. The dogs ran really well, I couldn’t see a darn thing because the snow was thick and heavy and I was constantly wiping snow off my goggles and my head lamp so I could at least see some of my dogs. Got to Selawik and took care of the dogs, wrung out my clothes and tried to sleep a bit.
Next I took off for Ambler, a long stretch, 90 miles with one shelter cabin in the middle. The trail was wet, heavy and had been churned up by all the dog teams and snow machines that been in front of me. My dogs got more and more tired, but I was traveling with another musher, so I was cheering them on, kicking and running when I could. Finally, they just got tuckered out so we took a long rest and the other musher went on. After a long sleep they started to perk up and eat. We continued on the slow trail, resting when they needed and eating more and more. Finally the trail improved and we started moving better. We were winding through the trees and feeling good when we came upon a creek, full of water, slush and ice. Of course, the dogs (being far more intelligent beings than us) refused to go through. So, in I went, dragging the dogs a couple at a time across the water, which was up to my knees. Getting the sled out of the slush on the other side was tough, but eventually it came out, running a dog over in the process. My leaders that had fought in Noorvik decided that was a good time to fight again, so I had to break that up. We make it through that creek and the next one (I knew there were two). I change frozen dog booties and move along the trail…everyone was pretty perked up by this time! We then came to a small lake which, of course, was covered with water and slush. Got through that then I started noticing a lack of trail markers….hmmmm. I was seriously wondering if I had taken a wrong turn because it had snowed so much I had very little trail to follow. So I continued on and finally a snow machine came up and let me know that I was
9 miles outside of Ambler!!
In Ambler, I clomped around with frozen snowpants and boots (like everyone else), took care of the dogs, got a beautiful beaver cap for being the last musher into Ambler, and took a blissful two hour nap while all my gear flopped around in the drier of the bunk house we get to stay in. When I awoke I went out to feed the dogs and noticed that all the mushers coming back from the next stretch of trail ( a loop that leads back to
Ambler) were SOAKED again. Groan. I ate and took care of the dogs and was getting ready to head out when I got great news from the last musher to come in…. all the water was freezing. I was able to glide over the trail and see very clearly where everyone else had to plow through a couple of feet of overflow. Made it to Shungnak where I got a very cool neckwarmer for being the last musher in (sometimes it pays to be last). Headed to Kobuk where I got a really warm and wonderful reception, a great meal and headed back to Shungnak. My leaders were getting tired and confused, so it was a lot of stopping and going, but we finally made it to Shungnak ( much to the relief of the very tired checker!) and then to Ambler.
In Ambler, I see Ozzie and Bianca, two Norwegian girls that are working for one of my neighbors, the Itens. They are having leader problems and tired dogs, too and want to scratch. We decide to travel together, since we know by now we won’t make it to the finish line in time to be an actual finisher for the race. We travel though beautiful country on an amazing day (about 2 degrees, sunny and no wind) and get to the shelter cabin half way between Ambler and Kiana, where we overnighted, enjoying ourselves. We wake up in the morning to 20 below temperatures and head to Kiana. A snow machine met us about an hour after we took off with coffee and juice.
About 10 miles outside of Kiana Chuck pulls up and we visit with him and let him know we think we should fly home out of Kiana; my mom is only here for a few more days and the Itens are heading to Hawaii, so we all need to get home. Besides, we say, we are actually running the Kobuk 370, the Least Great Race. When we arrive in Kiana, Chuck had set up the charters and we had time to eat and get on the planes. We flew into Kotz where a friend was waiting with dog boxes to pick us up.
So while I didn’t finish, I did exactly what I wanted to do…I learned a lot about my dogs and dog care and myself. I also got to spend time with great people and their dogs, where as I spend a great deal of time alone with my dogs. So I’m happy, I’m proud of my yearlings that did a ton of growing up in the last few days and I’m very thankful for all the great help and support along the trail.
I can’t wait until next year!!!!
***If you would like to learn more about Tracey and her family you may visit them at Iviq Adventures