Posted by Sophie, November 2nd, 2016
There is nothing quite like the first snowfall, dogs with their noses to the sky, prancing about as a fresh blanket of white covers the dusty brown earth. Fall was productive and each warm day was eagerly taken advantage of, but now as winter emerges a new chapter is set to begin.
Rewind to September when our jam-packed fall took us to the Lower 48. Our first stop was in Wisconsin, there we spent time with my family and soaked in some much needed R&R before the peak of dog training began. Wade attended his first NFL game and experienced his first waterpark adventure! As always, it is incredibly difficult to leave the company of family and friends, but the next leg of our trip was upon us.
From Wisconsin we traveled to New Hampshire, the most Eastern state Wade and I have both ever been to. There we attend the Northern New England Sled Dog Trade Fair, Wade was a featured speaker at the event. This was going to be Wades first “adult” talk, needing to occupy those attending for an hour and a half each day both Saturday and Sunday. Wade was a little nervous, and I was a little nervous for him! Should he have practiced more? Prepared longer?
As the days came I wish I would have saved the worry…because he ROCKED it. I should have known he would do so well, he was talking about his passion, his career! The whole presentation flowed with ease, charming the audience with his polite sense of humor and vast knowledge of the sport. The first talk was focused on Wade, how he grew up mushing and how that developed into him climbing the Iditarod ladder at such a young age. The second talk was more specifically about our kennel, the dogs breed/lineage, Wade’s training methods, etc. At the trade fair we also had the opportunity to meet in person our sponsors John and Amy at Mountain Ridge Sled Dog Equipment. They are even more wonderful than we imagined and we highly appreciate the support they bring to the team. We had a great time with our host family, Greg and Cindy Barker, and even spent time with our good friends David and Lucy, who traveled from New York to see us! We were truly blessed with a fun, safe, and successful vacation!
Even though we were having an enjoyable time in the Lower 48, there’s always that longing to get back to Alaska. Unlike Wade, I was lucky enough to get a few hours of shut eye on our flight to Anchorage and volunteered to drive us back home. The drive was fairly uneventful other than the occasional aurora saying hello. We returned home to a happy, healthy dog team thanks to our winter helper, Jimmy! Jimmy has known Wade since he was a young boy, worked with him in Juneau and has been a dog handler/tour guide now for 20yrs. Jimmy will be running our second team this year in Iditarod and we appreciate his help around the kennel with chores and dog care. Without missing a beat, Wade and I began training dogs again that next morning, back to the routine! Luckily this fall I was able to secure some time driving the second team as often as I could. I told Wade on our last run, with Jimmy and Andrew (our jr musher) you almost have to reserve a spot if you want some training time! This fall has already shown tremendous personal growth in my own mushing. I can confidently run a large string of dogs by myself, and feel prepared to tackle whatever the trail may bring…to an extent! There have definitely been some moments of courage and learning. I do always appreciate having Wade around to help when needed. As we both say, the training wheels are slowly coming off! There has been some chatter about me entering a race this year, time will tell.
Speaking of racing, Stump Jumpin’ Kennel already has teams signed up in a few races this winter. This will be Andrew Nolan’s last year competing in the Jr. Iditarod, and he will also be completing the last of his Iditarod qualifying races. Hello Iditarod 2018! In past years, Andrew has always run Wade’s main race team in his Jr. Races. That has come with a lot of trust and responsibility from both Wade and Andrew. Andrew always had strict instructions on how to drive the dog team, no matter how close the race may be. Jr. Iditarod is only 2 weeks before Iditarod and there was no room for error. This year Andrew will be training up his own yearling team for Jr. Iditarod and his qualifying races consisting of mostly 1-1.5 year-olds. Aside from the Jr. Iditarod, he will be competing in the Copper Basin 300 and the Willow 300. The Willow 300 is a new dog sled race in the Willow area, this race is being organized by the Willow Dog Mushers Association. Wade will be the 2017 W300 Race Marshall, and we are both actively involved on the race committee.
Just checked the countdown, we are approaching almost 100 days until Iditarod. That doesn’t seem like that much time! Training is full swing around here with some beautiful dog teams emerging. Now we wait for a good dumping of snow so we can hop on our sleds and go mushing the trails!