Sunday, February 17, 2019

Yukon Quest 2019

For one week in February I become completely obsessed with dog sledding; that's when the Yukon Quest comes through my neighbourhood. For those not familiar, let me explain..No, there is too much. Let me sum up. The Yukon Quest is a 1,000 mile dog sled race between Whitehorse, Yukon and Fairbanks, Alaska that takes place every February. It alternates the city it starts in every year: Whitehorse one year, Fairbanks the next. This year it started in Whitehorse, which means the finish line was in Fairbanks. How fun for us! Instead of seeing all the teams pass by within a couple of hours, we get to see them spread out over a week. During Yukon Quest week dishes remain unwashed, beds go unmade, laundry piles up, and dust bunnies are given free rein all because I spend my days tracking the sled dog teams as they make their way towards the finish line. Winter gear stays right by the door, ready to be put on at a moment's notice. Several times a day I "suit up" and walk down the block to the river. It takes me longer to walk down there than it does for the team to pass by. I stand on the frozen river, take pictures, and cheer for musher and his dogs as they pass - if you cheer, they will wave to you. Sometimes they will talk to you and give you high fives (if you are close enough). Unfortunately, this year the ice isn't as thick as it should be, especially near the banks. People are being told to stay off of the river. This week I have to stand on the bank and watch, which means no high fives from the mushers. Sacrificing high fives is a small price to pay for not falling into a frozen river. This year I took my obsession to a new level. After I saw some of the teams pass by my neighbourhood, I got in the car and drove a couple miles up the river to watch them go by again (I think I might need an intervention!). 

The winner this year was Brent Sass. This is him coming through our neighbourhood, just a few miles from the finish line on Monday, February 11.

Over the next few days, more mushers came through. Most of them came in hours apart. A few came in during the night. I didn't make it out for those teams. I may be obsessed but I still need my beauty sleep.

Allen Moore, 3rd place 

Michelle Phillips, 4th place (and Canadian!) 

Torsten Kohnert, 7th place

Denis Tremblay, 8th place 

Kohnert and Tremblay came down the river less than 10 minutes apart, which was nice for me. It meant I didn't have to get all bundled up twice.  For these two mushers, I drove to see them go by again. I think I am getting close to being considered a dog sled stalker!

Jessie Royer, 9th place 

Brain Wilmshurst, 13th place.
I tried to get to the finish line to watch him
cross but I was 5 minutes too late.

Because of unsafe river conditions, on Wednesday the finish line was moved from downtown Fairbanks to a spot on the river about 15 miles before the finish line. I once again attempted to meet a musher, Martin Apayauq Reitan, at the finish line, and once again I was about 5 minutes too late. I really wanted to be there for Reitan because he was our tour guide for our polar bear tour at the end of August. I remember him talking about how excited he was to participate in the Yukon Quest. It was a cool little connection to one of the mushers. Even though we didn't see the team cross the finish line, we were able to pet the dogs and talk to Reitan. Jessie Holmes, the Rookie of the Year for the 2018 Iditarod and one of the stars on the tv show "Life Below Zero" was there to cheer Reitan on - Reitan was named Rookie of the Year for this year's Yukon Quest. To be honest, I had no idea who Holmes was so I didn't get any pictures with him. A friend told me who he was, but I still had to google him when I got home. I think this means I am officially no longer one of the cool kids.

You can see Jessie Holmes in the green jacket behind me.  

On Thursday, I attempted to catch a musher at the finish line again. I was tracking 2 mushers coming in within 10 minutes or so of each other so I figured if I missed one I would most likely get to see the other one. I finally timed it right and saw both mushers cross the finish line. Andrew Pace came in first, followed by Rob Cooke.

Andrew Pace pulls into the finish

Rob Cooke coming up to the finish line.

After Pace and Cook crossed the finish line, I was unable to watch the rest of the teams come in (I had to get back to real life at some point). They all made it to the finish line by 11pm Thursday night. As you can see, it takes days for all the competitors to finish. I am absolutely devastated that this is my last year to watch the Yukon Quest in person. It has become on of my favourite things about Alaska. What an amazing experience!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Anchorage trip

Last weekend I went to Anchorage. A friend was getting a big promotion at work and I went down to celebrate with him and his family (because this is a public blog, I won't post any pictures of the promotion ceremony, as the pictures would show his name, and where he worked. That seems like too much personal information to put on a public blog post). It was great to be there to share in a such important event with some wonderful people. It was also great to be in civilization again! Long time readers will be shocked to read that I spent 4 days in Anchorage and didn't step foot in Target. I was just too busy having fun with great friends. On one of the days we headed to the Wildlife Conservation Center. This is hands down my favourite place to visit in Anchorage. If you ever find yourself in Anchorage, make sure you visit this place. You won't regret it!

Because it is winter, we thought that the bears would be hibernating. The bear cub and the black bears were sleeping in their dens, but much to our surprise, the brown bears were out and about. A worker told us that the bears will sleep through most of the winter, but that they will wake up for a couple days here and there. We got lucky and caught them on a day they were awake and out playing. One bear had some fun playing with a chunk of ice.

We even spotted a couple of wild eagles in the trees above the wolf enclosure! It doesn't matter how many times I see an eagle, I still get excited. It never gets old.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Christmas Trip Part 3

The last stop on our Christmas trip was a visit to the Shorters, friends of ours who moved from Virginia to Arizona in the summer. Gary the elephant was happy to meet up with his old friends and we were happy to spend time with this fun family. There was mini-golf, wrestling, movies, a tumbleweed Christmas tree, ice cream, many pictures, and lots of laughs. 

Husband was pulling money out of K's ear all night long.  

 These girls make the best Hobby Lobby shopping partners.

Christmas tree made of tumbleweeds

In what was an amazing coincidence, another family from our Virginia days, the Ayres family, happened to be in the area the same time we were. They were able to make some time to spend the evening with us eating pizza, playing Kubb, sampling Buddy the Elf's breakfast recipe, and reminiscing about our Virginia days. Fun fact: Dacy was the first person I met in Virginia (besides our landlords). The friends we made during our 5 years in Virginia are like family to us. It was wonderful to be able to see these two families again.

 Husband had a hard time saying goodbye. 

Me, Jessica, and Dacy, with M in the background trying to photo bomb