Thursday, August 30, 2018

Dances With Wolves

Kevin Costner doesn't have anything over my husband, John. He was dancing with a wolf in our dogyard yesterday afternoon. Our daughter Joanna details the account....

"First time ever for finding a WOLF in our fenced in dog yard this afternoon!!!! My mom and I were in the basement sewing so didn't hear what happened til it was all over. My dad heard the dogs sounding off like crazy so went to check things out... finds a wolf laying in our dog yard chewing on a bone! He must have taken it from a nearby dog, which would have been one of my main older leaders Vader... (we give the dogs raw beef leg/knuckle bones throughout the summer, then we haul the old bones to our dump 3 miles away) all the dogs were going nuts except the ones closest to the wolf were quiet and still... my dad didn't want to leave to go get his gun in case it decided to go after one of the dogs so instead he tried to "herd" it out of the dog yard. He was trying to steer it away from the dogs and back towards the upper gate where it must have crawled under. With a new nickname of "dances with wolf" it ended up being a bit of a chase around the dog yard with the wolf bouncing off the fence and was in close proximity to several dogs, one of which was my other main leader! Thank goodness the wolf was more concerned about getting away from the human than attacking any dogs... finally my dad was able to herd him out the gate he was able to open... wew talk about a close call.... Dogs had a busy day with their first run of the season this morning, then a wolf running around the yard..."

Monday, August 6, 2018

All In

I took an unexpected plunge the other day while preparing to take a relaxing ride on our pontoon boat with Jonathan, Reseth and the kids. We had just finished a delightful time around the campfire roasting brats and marshmallows. Jonathan thought it would be great to take his family out on the lake to watch the sun set. They asked me if I wanted to go along too since John and Joanna had to go feed the sled dogs.
I said sure. It was a cool evening so we all had on warm coats with hoods. Once everyone was on the boat and preparing to leave Jonathan said that we were stuck. I thought he meant that the motor in the back was stuck on the bottom of the lake so I went to the front of the boat to try to lift up the back end.
He said no, the front pontoons were stuck in the shallow end of the lake. So I went to the very back of the boat by the motor to lift up the front end.
I knew that Jonathan had already untied the front and back of the boat that was securing it to the dock, so he put it in reverse to back away from the dock and all of a sudden the boat stopped. I wasn’t expecting that and it threw me off balance.
Since I had nothing to hold onto, I went flying through the air in the form of a cart wheel and plunged into the water. I was laughing so hard when I came to the surface that I could hardly swim back to the boat. Thankfully I had left my phone in the house and my glasses were still on my face when I came up.
Jonathan felt so badly that I had fallen into the lake and explained that there was another rope holding the boat in the middle to the dock that he had not seen. Well, we all had a good laugh over that. 
It's been said of me by those who know me well, that I am characteristically an "ALL IN" person when I do anything.  I'd have to say they were right about that this time.  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Trophy Night on Indian Lake

Our son Jonathan and his wife Reseth are visiting us for a week at camp along with the three chilluns, Aaron, Titus and Evemarie.  The boys LOVE to catch fish, so Joanna and I took them out to our favorite spot about sundown, cast our jigheads to the bottom and waited for some nice Walleyes to come along.  We waited and waited and waited and waited.  Not even a bite.  It was about 8 o'clock and from my experience they really start to bite at dusk. 

It's always good to have some walleye chop on the water, but it was very calm and we would see Smallmouth bass swirling on top of the water every now and then  nearby us.  I couldn't take it any longer.  I took off my jighead and put on a top water lure to see if I could snag one of the smallmouth.  Sure enough , one took the bait.  I gave my rod to Titus to reel him in so he could feel the action since he was getting bored with no fish on his line.  Soon as we got the bass to the boat, he spit out the hook and away he went.

On my last cast of the artificial bait, I saw a very large walleye following it about six feet under the boat.  It wasn't long after that that Jonathan felt a tap, tap, tap on his line and his pole bent over double... a sure sign of a large fish.  What a beautiful 28 inch Walleye it was!!

He threw it back in for another day.  We were looking for some eating size walleyes, about 16 to 18 inches. 

Next thing I knew, my rod bent over double with a huge fish.  I then landed a 28 inch Walleye too.  What fun!

Titus and Aaron both caught a few smaller walleyes that we threw back.  And then Titus quietly announced that he felt a fish on his line.  He says it so calmly and quietly that you tend to doubt him.  But when his pole bent over from the weight of the fish, it was all hands on deck, grabbing the net and getting the camera ready for a picture.  He reeled with all his might while I held onto his pole to make sure it didn't go overboard.  It was the biggest fish he had ever caught... a 28 inch Walleye.  Soon after that he caught another 28 inch Walleye.  Maybe we were all catching the same one. 

But then Aaron who was nodding off to sleep waiting for something to happen on his line, felt a tap, tap on his line and his pole bent over with the weight of a big fish.  He landed the biggest fish of all, a 29 inch walleye. 

Later, I snagged a 28 inch Northern Pike.  All the fish got thrown back since they were all to big to keep and eat, but what an exhilarating, fun-filled night of fishing for us all.  It was the only time I can remember that Joanna didn't catch a thing.  She usually out fishes us all.  But she was very thankful the boys had such a super time.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Unique Experience

Joanna and I were driving back from Dryden Sunday afternoon after church and decided to turn onto a gravel side road off Hwy 17 to check out a blueberry patch and see if they were ripe enough to pick. We both were walking along the edge of the path filling our bellies with big, delightful, juicy, blueberries.
After we had our fill, we got back into the car and turned the corner to head back to the Hwy. Suddenly, I saw an animal running along the side of the road that looked like a large dog. It was actually a Timber Wolf. She stopped to look at us, so I stopped the car, rolled down the window and grabbed my phone to take some pictures.
She didn't seem to be the least bit afraid of us. And here we were picking berries without a care with him wandering around near us. We wondered if the people who had been logging in the area might have fed her because there was a trailer close by. It's possible she was a mama wolf with a den nearby. It was difficult to tell whether it was a male or female at first because of the poor lighting, until we could look more closely at the pictures and video.
When she started walking toward our car getting about 15 feet away, I decided I had better move along. I didn't want her lunging at me through an open window. It was a pretty amazing experience.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ya'll Com Back Now, Ya Here?

My brother Rick from Georgia drove up to spend a couple of weeks with us. He just left this morning and we were sad to see him go. We had so much fun with him. He LOVES to fish and tries to make it up here once a year for sure. This year he had a friend from his church in Georgia fly into Thunder Bay where he picked him up and came to stay for a week in one of our cabins. Kelly is a great fisherman too and is pictured holding up the pike. They especially like to catch Smallmouth Bass since they put up such a good fight. We so enjoyed getting to know Kelly and showing him our neck of the woods. One day Rick, Kelly and I went to fish on Heathwalt Lake about 6 miles from our camp. Though it was tough fishing because of extremely strong wind, we were blessed to come around a point and see a Cow moose with her little one eating grass by the water's edge. I'll have to get Kelly's pictures of them to post here too. We also got to see a large linx on the way to the lake. It's a great experience to just be outside and relax in God's creation.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Some Mighty Fine Fish

Our guests have been finding Nemo... well not really Nemo, but other mighty fine fish.  We're featuring Greg Neumeyer and Randy Neumeyer with a few healthy pike and Jason Koskela with his son Wyatt and Grandpa who brought him a variety of fish from different lakes in the area.  All John knows is the fish remain barrels in the fish cleaning house have been getting pretty heavy these days. 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Exploring Mystery Lake

Yesterday Joanna and I decided to take a canoe and do a little exploring in our area.  Some campers that stayed with us this spring found this lovely little lake and had such a great time there that we wanted to try to find it and fish there ourselves.  However, we promised not to disclose the name of it, so we will call it Mystery Lake. 

John loaded our 16 foot Grumman canoe in the back of the pickup truck and we loaded up all our gear, heading out about 8 am. 

As we traveled along the narrow road enjoying the scenery, all of a sudden a young bull moose leaped out of the trees and onto the road right in front of us.  Joanna and I gasped and were amazed as he immediately began trotting down the road in front of us.  We tried to get a picture of him, but he kept disappearing around the curves in the road before we could catch up to him.  We could only travel about 10 mph.  Soon we saw him again, but then he turned into the trees on the right and we lost sight of him.  Pretty exciting. 

We were looking for a certain trail that would take us down to the lake, but accidentally made a wrong turn down another small road and ended up at someone's gate.  Oh boy. Lots of lost time on that one. 

We backtracked the way we came and finally found a turn into the woods that resembled the trail we were looking for.  But it didn't look like it was made for a vehicle.  We decided we'd better walk it first to make sure we were in the right location and see if it would work to drive down it with the truck. 

When we reached the end of the trail, we knew we were in the right place.  What a gorgeous little lake.  We longed to get on it with the canoe to check out the fishing.  I knew I could not begin to carry the canoe that far even with Joanna's help.  The next best thing was to do some road clearing to make it possible to drive the pickup in a bit closer to the lake. 

We thought we did a pretty good job of removing obstacles, but once I began driving the pickup in reverse on this path, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.  Yikes!  What a maneuvering test this was in weaving to and fro to miss hitting branches, small trees and brush along the way.  I'm afraid we did end up putting a small dent in the door of John's pickup and added a few new scratches.  Uh oh. 

I was already exhausted from THAT ordeal when we unloaded the canoe and proceeded to walk down the sloping hill to the lake.  The canoe seemed heavier than ever.  Maybe I have just aged and gotten weaker.  At first I carried the back end of the canoe and Joanna the front end.  But I couldn't see where I was going and kept tripping on rocks and logs on the path.  Maybe the front end would be better for me I suggested.  At least I could see where I was going.  We both wore rubber boots since  there was a muddy spot at the landing. 

Soon we reached the landing.  I safely skirted around most of the mud, silently rejoicing that I could soon set the canoe in the water, when unfortunately, my right boot sunk down about eight inches in the last bit of mud.  Of course Joanna had no idea that my foot was stuck and kept moving forward with the canoe.  It all happened so fast.  Next thing I knew I was face down flat on the ground.  Joanna set down her end of the canoe and worriedly asked if I was okay.  When I finally stood back up, she began to laugh hysterically as I was covered in mud from my waist down.  I walked into the lake and rinsed myself off while we both had a good laugh. 

We got ourselves situated in the canoe, baited our hooks with spinners and leeches and started paddling out in to the lake. ( Note to self-  check the weather forecast before venturing on a lake in a canoe.)  Once we got a bit further onto the lake, a gale force head on wind pushed hard against us.  We paddled ferociously to get a little ways up the lake.  Soon Joanna felt a tug on her line and began to reel in a large walleye.  Yahoo!!  She got it near the canoe, grabbed the net and without warning, the end two feet of her fishing rod bent over and broke off!  As soon as the rod broke, the line broke and away went the walleye.  Joanna was aghast that we had finally gotten to the lake only to have a broken fishing rod.  Well, at least we got to see the fish and knew we would have released it anyway because it was well over 18 inches.

We couldn't figure out why her rod would have broken, but then surmised that the canoe must have bounced on it in the back of the pickup truck and damaged it enough to break it when pressure was applied with a fish on the line.  She managed to use it without the tip, but I think it hurt her ability to feel the fish on the line and she was only able to bring in a northern after that.

We decided to try to get to the other end of the lake, but fighting the wind made it almost unbearable.   Two beautiful trumpeter swans were floating nearby, softly playing some deep trumpet sounds from time to time.  Joanna attached a five gallon pail to a rope and threw it in the lake to help slow down our drifting from about 15 mph to 10 mph.  No walleye could keep up to that speed.  Soon, we had drifted back down to a bay that was too shallow to fish.  We paddled back to where we started and Joanna had caught her nice walleye.  We even tried to still fish with an anchor, but found we did better drifting.  I was able to get four more walleye, all nice size, keeping the smaller ones and throwing back the bigger ones. 

We've got enough for a meal we said and headed back to shore to call it a day.  It was a memorable adventure to be sure, but we unanimously decided we didn't have a hankering to ever to go back to Mystery Lake. 

Friday, March 16, 2018

Champion of the Midnight Run in Marquette, MI

Joanna set a new record this racing season by becoming the champion of two out of four sled dog  races.  It sure has been an unusual winter, however, with lots of difficult situations happening all at once.

Joanna won the first race of the season, the Gunflint Mail Run, then came in 6th place at the Beargrease having to drop two of her eight dogs because of injuries.

The third race was the Midnight Run in Marquette, MI.  I always help Joanna at the races, driving to the checkpoints, and helping with the care of the dogs during the race.

However, I received a call from my sister in Franklin, NC that my dear 93 year old Dad had fallen and was not doing well.  They believed he may have had a stroke as he was unable to talk much after that.  On February 14th, Valentine's Day he went to his eternal home in heaven.  That was Wednesday.  I hastily booked airline tickets from Minneapolis to Asheville, NC and left Thursday morning with Joanna.  I was meeting up with our daughter Cherish who was accompanying me to the funeral while Joanna drove on by herself with the pickup and trailer full of dogs to Marquette, MI for the race.

The day before we left we were wondering how Joanna was going to manage at the race without me when a friend suggested someone to call who could possibly help.  Sure enough a handler was found to help Joanna who would meet up with her in Marquette and also be able to drive the truck to the checkpoint.

John came down with the flu about a week before we left.  Joanna and I were trying to stay clear of him so we would not get it.  But I started feeling sick two days before we left and then I heard Joanna start coughing the day we departed.  Not good.

Once Cherish and I finally arrived in Franklin, NC on Thursday all I wanted to do was go to bed.  I managed to rouse myself the day of the funeral, but then it was back to bed for the next two days.  Eagerly I checked the Midnight Run facebook page to find updates on the mushers and their positions.  Joanna was running the race in honor of my Dad who greatly supported her racing and was always excited to hear every detail.  I saw she was in second place after the first leg on Friday night.  I would have to wait till after Dad's funeral to see the end results.

What a perfect addition to a very special day celebrating Dad's life on this earth to find out that Joanna had indeed won the 100 mile race.  I could imagine Dad cheering her on from heaven.  She said the team was on fire and she was able to finish with all 8 dogs.  I was not aware of what happened before the race.

After Joanna and I met up with Cherish on our way down to Minneapolis, Joanna continued on to Superior, WI to spend the night.  She became very feverish and felt terribly sick with all symptoms of the flu.  She called her Dad and talked to him, knowing she could not race in such a condition.  She decided to see how she felt the next day.  Thankfully, after taking some Tylenol, the fever broke and she thought she could go on to the race.  She still had a bad cough but was feeling strong enough to press on.

In addition to winning the race, she received the coveted Best Cared For Team Award, given to a high placing musher whose team was in very good condition at the finish of the race.

Floating on cloud nine from a successful race, she received a phone call from John informing her that a severe snowstorm was headed for Marquette and instead of spending the night there, she should leave right after the banquet and at least try to get to Superior, WI or she could be snowed in for days.  Here she hadn't had any sleep for two days and she had to press on again, driving by herself.  Joanna was determined to drive all the way to Chisholm, MN where she could spend the night at her cousin's house.  We were all praying she would get there safely and thankfully she did at 2 am.  She stayed there for two days but was getting sicker with the flu with all the exertion and lack of sleep.

In the meantime, Cherish and I had planned to fly back to Minneapolis on Monday after the race so that I could meet up with Joanna and we could drive home to Canada together.  Monday morning came and I was so weak I couldn't stand up.  I was trying to get ready to leave for the airport and my sister marched me right back to bed, changing my tickets to the following Saturday to give me time to recover.  So Joanna decided to head back to Canada and try to get well for her next race the Copper Dog in Calumet, MI.

Once we were all home again, Joanna filled me in on more details of the Midnight Run.  She had planned to run conservatively on the first leg so as to save the team for the return trip. She doesn't use a GPS to rate her team's speed like most racers do, going by instinct and how the team looks instead. It's a balancing act as you do need to go fast enough to be competitive and be within reach of winning, while still not running too fast to where the team would not have as much "gas left in the tank" for the final 50 miles. It was nice for her to see the team in 2nd place after the first 50 miles, approximately 7 minutes behind the team in first place at the checkpoint. Many top teams were stacked up behind her with the team in 3rd place about 3 minutes behind her and teams after that 1 minute apart so anything could happen on the 2nd leg depending on how good of a run you had.

The dogs looked great after their five and a half hour mandatory rest plus the extra 12 minutes of start differential. They are fed snacks and a meal upon arriving to the checkpoint, massaged and then bedded down on straw with jackets and blankets to help them rest comfortably. Roughly an hour before their scheduled departure they are watered with a warm meat broth to aid in hydration. Taking off, the team was fast and powerful.  The dogs seemed full of energy, giving Joanna hope they could catch the team ahead and hopefully not let the teams behind catch them!

This is one of Joanna's favorite races due to the fact that the race mostly uses curvy, narrow trails groomed and maintained for the race.  It was exciting zipping through the trees and flying up and down small hills and around corners, catching air in some places with her head inches from trees! Both the dogs and mushers love an interesting trail! The team was flying and caught the lead team about 15 miles from the checkpoint, having made up the seven minutes already! They pulled away fairly quickly and the dogs just were driving, even when they were on the last 17 miles of more boring wide, flat and straight snowmobile trail.

Often, Joanna and other racers use a ski-pole to help the dogs out if they slow down a bit on flat stretches but Joanna said the team was moving right along, too fast for a ski-pole to be of any aid so she just squatted down to offer less wind resistance and let the dogs run. She and her team finished a little over 13 minutes ahead of the 2nd place team, having a faster 2nd leg then on her first, averaging just under 12 mph for the whole race!!! The dogs were still jumping to go when she stopped them past the finish line! What a race! This is her second time winning the Midnight Run, having won it for the first time in 2012. She is so proud of how well her dogs did, especially since all but one of the dogs on her team was bred and raised by her.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Spring Beauty

I just love these bright, sunny, longer days we are having lately.  John, Joanna and I decided to get outside for some exercise.  Joanna and I went cross country skiing on the lake.  John wanted to ski too, but he had exchanged his cross country ski boots and they were sitting in a store in Ely.  So he decided to go snowshoeing to the overlook of Indian Lake and snap some shots of Joanna and I skiing on the lake along with some pretty shots of the river.  And then a final shot of Joanna running a puppy team.  Can you make out the skiers down below?

Copper Dog 150 in Calumet, Michigan

Here is Joanna's rendition of the Copper Dog 150 mile race in Calumet, Michigan last week.  I was unable to be her handler at this race because I was still trying to regain my strength from the flu, so my son-in-law, Patrick graciously accompanied her and was a great help to her.

Had a super fun time at the Copper Dog 150! The weather was beautiful and I am just glad I got to go as my mom was still too weak getting over the influenza to go with and handle so my amazing brother in law Patrick Knudson came with to handle at his first sled dog race ever and did an awesome job!! He was advised by other handlers to take every opportunity to eat and said he was full the whole time!!!  He is quite the backing expert with our big trailer too!!! We were so grateful to JR Anderson andAnna 'Chapman' Anderson and Elizabeth Chapman for them inviting us to stay in the house they had rented for the weekend!! Thank you also to Rebekah Chapman for helping me get my team ready before each leg and helping out when we came in!!! So fun to get to be with them again even if it was short, almost like old times when I used to go 4-H dog shows with the Chapman family! They are the ones who gave me my first dog sled ride and got me addicted to this wonderful sport!!!!  So its all their fault  lol I am truly grateful because its the best sport ever, what could be more fun then traveling with your 4 legged best friends over beautiful trails in the Northland, sharing the trail with such a wonderful mushing family? 
It is full of adventure however I would have preferred not to have been dragged for a ways on asphalt Sat. morning leaving the checkpoint when the sled flipped on its side and shredded the front of my jacket, causing me to lose the contents of my front pocket (keys, knife ect.) as well as abrasions on my arm/elbow and the worst on my right knee which looks like a cheese grader shaved some flesh off... (But I saved my new runner plastic!!  ) its healing up well but others in the race had more serious things happen... another musher was also dragged on Friday night on gravel/asphalt, shredding their new jacket (and getting some pretty good abrasions I am sure) and was dragged/slammed into a parked car, also sustained a deep gash on their leg as well!!! Yet another musher had a snowmobile, going way too fast on a blind corner, slide into two or more dogs on their team (also Friday night) throwing the dogs violently backwards but thankfully other then soreness and bruises are ok! And yet another musher on Sat. had a dog choking on a chunk of ice(?) that it accidentally scooped up when grabbing a mouthful of snow and stopped breathing! Another musher close by at the time happened to be an EMT and gave it mouth to mouth and got it breathing again and it was ok!! Tragic incidents and yet so thankful it was not worse!
Sat. night Patrick and I stayed with our amazing host family that have hosted my mom and I every year we have come to Copper Dog!! Suzi being a nurse patched up my knee and we were fed like kings! They have become dear friends, so grateful for their over the top hospitality!!
I ran 9 dogs for the 1st and 2nd legs, placing 10th Friday night and 6th on Sat. moving up to 8th place over all. Ran 8 dogs on Sunday and was the 3rd team in placing 6th for the day and moving up to 6th place overall! Super proud of the amazing season my team has had winning 2 of our 4 races and placing well at the other two races, all in very tough competition! They sure finished strong at Copper Dog sprinting up main street when I called them up! I was getting over a horrible influenza virus that hit me really bad after Midnight Run though I was sick at that race also. Also pulled a muscle in my side that was very sore (thank you Beth and Kendra for taping up my ribs it really helped!!!) from coughing so bad before I left home so very thankful I was well enough to race as I was kinda a wreck coming into the race! I was joking at the awards banquet that my new speed up cue should be coughing because every time I was coughing/hacking at the last two races my one leader would start squealing/barking with excitement and the whole team would speed up! Quite nice zooming up hills that way!!!  So wonderful to see all our friends at all the races, really a great group of people!! Seems the weather has chased me back to MN the last two races so with snow/yucky weather coming we decided to pull an all nighter and head for Ely Sunday night after the banquet. Maybe I have inherited some trucking blood from my dad? Dry, safe roads are wonderful so we made it back to Ely at close to 3 in the morning. At least this time we had a full nights sleep Sat. night lol:) Living the adventure! So thankful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ being with me and the dogs everywhere we go!!!
"But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

Her brother-in-law, Patrick had a few thoughts to share about the race too and some more photos:

Copper Dog 2018!!! Upper Michigan! I was able to handle for my amazing Sister-in-law as she raced this weekend. She took 6th out of around 20 teams which was tough competition. She was tough herself even to the point of hanging on to her team as she was pulled across pavement. She got back on and ran the rest of the run that day. Her Dogs did great and I was so honored to meet them and see them in all their glory. I’m so proud of her and all she has done. Placing 1st in two out of four races this year! 
We had so much fun and getting to meet Mushers from all over was exciting. Lots from Minnesota ,Michigan ,Wisconsin ,Colorado ,Canada and more!! I had a blast!!! Thanks Joanna Oberg!!!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

CHAMPION of the Gunflint Mail Run

Joanna started off her racing season with a bang, winning the Gun Flint Mail Run 8 dog class 64 mile sled dog race in Grand Marais, MN.  The race was full of different surprises and challenges for the mushers, with the dogs and with the weather.   It makes the victory much sweeter when you know you have beaten a good number of very tough competitors in the mid distance field. 

Her biggest challenge was Martha Schouweiler, a 62 year old grandma, along with her son Chad who trains the dogs and has a very impressive small kennel.  Martha and Chad have won about every race they entered in the last three years with Martha making history and winning the difficult Beargrease race along the north shore of Minnesota for three years in a row.

The race started on a chilly Saturday with temps ranging from 30 - 35 degrees below zero.  Even so the fifteen teams had a good start and were off to the races.  Meanwhile, I was patiently waiting at ground zero, Trail Center, which is a restaurant for the resort where the race began.

It requires at least 100 volunteers for this race in addition to the judges, time keepers, sponsors and trail officials.  Without these wonderful people who self sacrificially give of their time and energy, there would be no race.  From what I understand, as soon as the race is over, they start planning for the next year.  Amazing!!

During the race, several women are manning computers in the lodge, busily recording the times of each musher, called in by ham radio operators stationed at each road crossing.   I look over the  shoulder of these record keepers from time to time to see how fast Joanna is traveling in comparison to the other racers.

Joanna had the good fortune to be the second racer out of the chute, so I knew she would probably be the first one back in about two and a half hours.  The mandatory rest time between the two 32 mile legs is three hours, but those mushers who leave first end up getting a bit more time added to their rest because the teams leave in three minute intervals for the second leg.

You never really know how well each musher is placing until they all come back in from the first leg.  Chad is excellent at times and numbers and had figured that his mother, Martha and Joanna were pretty even that first leg.  As it turned out Martha beat Joanna by two minutes.  So, after the rest period, Martha took off first with Joanna leaving two minutes behind her.  But there were about five more very competitive teams behind Joanna leaving about two minutes apart.  It was going to be quite a race to the finish.

Joanna wasn't sure how her dogs would perform on the second leg because they looked tired after the first leg.  She also had two young dogs who had never raced before and two who had only been in one race previously.  But when we pulled them out of the trailer to hook them up for the second leg, they seemed full of life and ready to roll.

I spent the time waiting for Joanna in the Trail Center lodge reading a good book, trying to distract myself from the race.  Then Chad came over to me and blew me away by saying "they are neck and neck". 

I nearly fainted.  "What?  You're kidding me." 

He said Joanna had a fast time crossing the four miles of lake and caught up to Martha roughly halfway to the turn around. 

I could hardly believe my ears.  Now I could not distract myself and my stomach was in knots.  When I got up to walk over to the computers to check on times, my legs would barely hold me up.  Is it possible Joanna could WIN this race?   Every once in a while Chad would come over to me to update me, always saying  "they are neck and neck".   What a nail biter this race turned out to be.

Finally we got word that the first of the 8 dog teams would be arriving in 20 minutes.  I hurriedly went to the trailer to heat up water for the dogs so Joanna could feed them a hearty, warm supper once they arrived.  Then I beelined down to the lake to check for the teams coming in.

 It was dark by now and I could see headlamps of spectators out on the lake and headlamps of 12 dog teams that were just leaving for their second leg of the race.  I strained to see the mandatory red flashing light on the lead dog of a returning musher.  Finally I saw one and ran back to the shore alerting Chad that they were on their way in to the finish line.  In my mind, I imagined Martha and Joanna running side by side each hoping to make it to the finish line first.

Chad hollered out to me that it was Joanna.  I was shocked.  I asked, "How do you know that?"  He said he just knew.  I was rapturously shouting for joy as I ran up the hill preparing to greet Joanna and the team and lead the team back to the trailer.  Sure enough I watched Joanna's team come cruising across the finish line and I saw with my own eyes that she was indeed the Champion.

After unhooking the dogs, removing their harnesses, rubbing them down and feeding them, Joanna and I went back into Trail Center to grab some supper.   She recounted to me what happened on the trail.  As it began to get dark, she pulled her headlamp out of the pocket of her sled and turned it on.  To her dismay, the battery was not showing green , but orange which indicates there is not much battery life left.  Every musher has to have at least two working headlamps in their sled, so she pulled out the second one and it too was on orange.  She couldn't figure out what happened because they both had good or new lithium batteries in them.  It is required for mushers to wear their headlamps at dark for their safety, the safety of the dogs and other mushers on the trail.  She knew she would definitely need her headlamp on the lake before the finish line and decided to conserve by not wearing it until full dark. 

She had caught up to Martha by this time and even passed her.  They enjoyed each others company as they traveled along the trail and Joanna explained to Martha why she wasn't wearing her headlamp yet.  Martha kindly offered to let her use her spare headlamp.  Joanna thought it might be a good idea and they ended up stopping side by side to make the exchange and turn on the light.  Then Martha went on ahead of Joanna.

After traveling down the trail in this position for awhile, Martha suddenly put on the brakes to deal with some problem with her dogs.  Joanna waited behind her with the brakes applied but her dogs were gradually still pulling her alongside and past Martha's team, so she let them go and passed Martha again. 

This time Joanna took off and never saw Martha behind her again and zoomed on in to the finish line.  We found out a bit later that Martha had trouble keeping her leaders on the trail.  On the lake, the trail is marked with slender four foot sticks with reflective tape on top and about a mile apart.  They call them confidence markers to assure the musher they are on the right path. 

We found out the next morning at breakfast that Martha, who ended up coming in second, eight minutes behind Joanna, wasn't the only one who had trouble coming back on the lake. One 8 dog team was lost for two hours on the lake and many teams were zigging and zagging all over the lake trying to find the trail markers.  Snowmobiles had left tracks every which way, causing the dogs difficulty in knowing which trail to take.  Later that evening it started to snow with gusting wind making it difficult for the twelve dog teams coming back to find the trail as well.

When the trail crew back at Trail Center heard of the trouble mushers were having they went out on the lake to put out more markers and snowmobilers assisted teams by finding them and showing them the way back to the finish line.  Apparently the judges and vets didn't get to bed till 4 am. Unbelievable.!!!

The end of January we head to the Beargrease race near Duluth, MN facing the same competition as this race.  Who knows what will happen in this challenging 130 mile race?  You'll have to stay tuned for my next update on the Blog to find out.  :)