"I train dogs around 6 am (sorry, neighbours) in order to make it to the old office by 8:30."
|Yukon Quest, Dogsledding, Musher race history, Dog Sled Race||
Click on an image below for larger view
"I go into the dog yard 730 times a year just to feed and pick up poop, so it's good to see we are getting somewhere!"
September 26, 2004
We are now training steady, temperatures are around freezing and it rains quite often, so the trails haven't been dusty in a while. There is snow on the mountain tops around us, and I hope it'll come down the hillsides pretty soon.
Currently I train dogs around 6 am (sorry, neighbours) in order to make it to the old office (I have a year-round job managing a museum) by 8:30. It is still too warm to train after work, and I try to avoid overheating the dogs at any cost. If it is warmer than 5 degrees C/40 F we won't go. Each dog runs about 3 to 4 times a week, and I always try to put new leaders up front. Out of 25 adult dogs 14 are only two years old, so we are still a year away from reaching prime. But many of the young dogs show the ability to lead, and 18 of 25 dogs run up-front without problem. How they will turn out under harsher conditions and on longer runs will have to be seen, but they will have lots of time to get used to it.
Other than that I spend my time on finishing the cabin for the handler. I tried something new (well, new for me) with this one - dovetail corners. The cabin is 14 by 21 feet and quite roomy for one person. It will be quite simple: Propane lights and burner, wood heat, blue-jugged water, outhouse. That's how I lived when I started mushing years ago, and often I think back to those days when life was easier: No bills for power, phone, and utilities. Simplicity has immense advantages.
Gotta go and put the woodstove in.
welcome to the first ever Blackjack newsletter. Browsing through these pages will show you what this is all about: Sleddogs, Yukon Quest, being out there with a team of dogs, travelling the subartic wilderness and the competition with other mushers.
I would like to give you the opportunity to follow along, at least on the screen. And maybe one day you'll find yourself on the runners behind a bunch of dogs, zooming down the trail.
As you can read from my biography I've been running dogs for a few years, but did not really get started until Leslie and I bought this property near the south end of Lake Laberge, 20 miles/30 km north of Whitehorse in the southern Yukon. We did not select this property because it was especially suited for dog mushing - it simply was available. As it turned out there are a variety of trails for fall training nearby, and once the Yukon River (2 miles away) and the lake (40 miles long, 6 miles wide) are frozen I cross on the ice and can go 60 to 80 km one way - right from our door. I usually am on the sled by November (I train with an ATV before that) and can run until mid or late April.
There was nothing on this property when we bought it, not even a driveway. We built an access from the near-by North Klondike Highway, cleared a building site, put in a septic field, power line, and a mobile home for starters. In January 2001 after 2 months of work we moved in. A few weeks later I drove down to Atlin and bought Icy and Dwarf, two Wyoming and Iditarod veterans from Hans Gatt, who at that time hadn't been three time Yukon Quest Champion yet. Later I bought Jack, Maggie, and Lori, then Blue and Rainbow from him as well. Four more dogs came from William Kleedehn. From our neigbour John Gibson came Babe, a dog who taught me some of my first mushing lessons in 96 at William Kleedehn's yard. I then bought her in 97, sold her to John a couple of years later. When I got her back from John she was 9, and started her job as trainer of my soon-to-be-leaders.
That first summer was busy, we were just building: A fenced dog yard with 36 stakeouts (not more, in order to limit my yard to that number of dogs), 2 roofed puppy pens with large runs, a greenhouse, a workshop, and a walk-in freezer big enough to store 25.000 pounds of meat (it turns out the freezer could be bigger!). In the following years we never stopped building, and now also have two guest cabins, a handlers cabin (not quite finished, but the roof is on), horse shelter, more fence around the horse pastures (we board other people's horses), and a half-finished cabin (construction on that one is on hold for now, until we decide if this should be another cabin, a sauna or something else).
Three seasons of racing are now behind me and the dogs. 30 pups have been born here and now 75% of my dogs have never lived anywhere else and have never run for another musher (unlike some pet dogs, sleddogs adapt very quickly to new owners and environments and are often traded between mushers a few times during their lifetime). The first races were local 30 milers like the Carbon Hill and the Sourdough Rendezvous. We were mighty green, despite my two years of mushing from 96 to 98, and the learning curve was steep. But in 2004 we finished the 1000-mile Yukon Quest in 12th place, and are starting to see the fruits of our labour. (I go into the dog yard 730 times a year just to feed and pick up poop, so it's good to see we are getting somewhere!)
The 2005 Quest is the main goal for this winter, and this newsletter is designed to keep you up-to-date on our race season. I hope to have time to update this page at least once a month, and I will try for bi-weekly updates starting November.
Gerry and the gang
PS: Ever heard of Gerry Boyle? Keep reading these newsletters and you'll find out who is behind the name!