Monday, October 28, 2013

The Dogs Of Run4TheRed......

I thought it might be nice to introduce some of our key canine athletes. After all, they are the stars of the show, without which we would not be on this crazy adventure. Here are a few of our babies, in no particular order!
Here is Elvis. He is a steady worker, happy to run in any position on team. He will lead when needed but prefers a life of less stress in point. He is quite the love, too. Always happy to give smooches and climb in your lap. Below is a picture of him doing just that with his good friend, Ron (at a much younger age, of course)

This is Tori. Tori will be joining the team in the future, for now we just use her as ballast! Tori is short for Torrent, and we named her that because she was born during the flooding that SW Colorado experienced this fall.

And here is Boss. Boss is, well, Bossy. But that's not where the name came from-he is named for Bruce Springsteen. His fancy name is Ch Quinault's Born To Run WTDX, but we just call him Bossy-Boss. He is the hardest working dog on the team, always pulling and never happy to be still. He is the first one to be ready to go after a rest period, and the last one to want to stop. He is also the sire to many hard working dogs, both for us and on other musher's teams.
And BTW-Boss is available for sponsorship! 
Boss-hollering, which is his "default" when he is not running
Boss wearing his crazy-face at the start of a race
And here he is, all cleaned up so you can see that he can look pretty too!

More later....I will try to feature one or two dogs each week.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Still Training.......

What happened to “The Run 4 The Red”? The answer for the past 18 months has been the same, still training... But we did need to take a break from the schedule, an interlude for us to take care of some emergent family needs, including but not limited to an epic move of 1200 miles with a semi trailer full of possessions plus 5 other vehicles with dogs and other livestock. So now we are here in SW Colorado, near where I started running dogs 25 years ago. Our break from the schedule is over, training is in full swing, and the dogs are stronger than ever.
The team taking a water break on a recent training run

I was never really sure of attaching a firm date to our dream of running the race, I knew that 2014 was optimistic, but completely out of the question now since we were not able to get our qualifiers in last season. This season seems to be a stretch as well, especially now that they cancelled The John Beargrease Marathon, one of only 3 qualifier races in the lower 48. So our focus this year will be to run some 100 and 200 mile races to get the young dogs some race experience, and possibly get one of our qualifiers out of the way.  

A beautiful & sunny but cold morning in SW Colorado

Some of our tried and true older dogs that ran the longer races in 2011 will be retiring over the next couple years, allowing the youngsters to develop and get some race time. I do not ever want to forget what these dogs did for our team!! Boss, Kinky, Eve, Marsh, and Kaos-the core of our A team, and ALL of our current A team dogs are direct descendants from these dogs. Even though they will be retiring over the next 2-3 years and not be directly involved in the race, I will be leaving them on our sponsor list because without them not only would we not have finished any races, we would not have a race team now! These dogs are the reason that we are still running, and it should be considered the highest honor to be one of their sponsors.

Morgan and Ashley returning from a long run-tired team!

Morgan is our amazing head guide and lead musher, but we also have a new young apprentice that we are very excited about.  Ashley Thaemert has been involved in mushing and the malamute breed for over half of her life. She started at 10 years of age with an interest in sled dogs and a home made wooden sled that she crafted with her grandfather. By the time she was 13, she had 4 malamutes and was running them in team. She has since added three more malamutes on her own team, and is currently training with us to learn how to run larger teams. We are thrilled to have her join us-her passion for this breed is obvious to everyone who meets her.

Ashley holding one of her young charges

We are shooting for a 2016 entry, but this time I am not being talked into setting a firm date. We will run it when the dogs are ready, with the expectation that it wont be the only time we run it!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Taking Care Of "Business"

Ok, so now that I have introduced myself and you (my blog readers) and I are no longer strangers, let’s skip the courtesies and get into the nitty-gritty, the not so glamorous side of mushing. Hollywood epitomises sled dog mushing as a somewhat glamorous sport, but we all know there is a lot more to it than just standing on the runners and looking pretty while our brave and loyal companions bound through the snow, frolicking. When I was introduced to distance mushing last winter and we were beginning to up the miles and start spending much of the day on a sled, there was a rather insistent concern I had regarding logistics: how does one go to the bathroom? With a handler, the problem is much simpler – one person holds the brake and keeps an eye on the dogs, while the other goes and takes care of business. Sounds simple, right? Well, the other day I realised that despite the number of measures we take, the dogs always manage to catch us with our pants down… quite literally.
Take my run from a few days ago. Conditions were a little hairy – we had 4 inches of snow on the ground from the previous night which was just beginning to melt, and the road was SLICK. I had just amped up my team from 16 dogs to 18, and they were raring to go. I know the trail well and the turnaround at the end of the loop is not too technical, but preferring to take the safe route, I brought my handler, Dean, along with me for the ride, just in case I got myself into any awkward situations. Oh boy, did I ever. 

Cali and Sumo in lead
Cali is our new leader and at 3 years old she is just beginning to tap her potential. She shows a lot of promise, but generally we run our young leaders with a more experienced leader to show them the ropes. I had her running with Sumo, one of our Alaskan huskies, who tends to be a little… innovative... when it comes to taking directions on the trail. We approach our turn-around at the end of the loop and prepare to run up to the front of the string in case I need to deal with any ‘funny business’.  Sumo takes the corner nice and wide and the whole team completes the manoeuvre with a 10.0 score. Perfect - couldn’t be more proud of them...  I’m happy (and relieved!) with the result and of course I make a big deal out of this and the team is inundated with praise and affection before continuing our merry way down the trail. By this point we have been on the trail almost 2 hours and of course… well... nature calls. I call a “WHOA!” and stop the team – it’s a good chance for them to take a break for a few minutes and allow me to do what I need to do, and I have Dean there to keep an eye on them for me. No dramas. I choose my tree and make my way down the bank to assume the position. Just at that point, I hear Dean call out, and he’s saying something along the lines of, “Uh oh… uh oh!” I look up, and I see my team completing a perfect 180-degree turn in double file, led by Sumo with Cali trotting alongside because she simply doesn’t know any better. Not one disagreement, not one tangle – just my team lined out on the trail silently waiting for me to get up there and drive them forward… EXCEPT THEY’RE FACING IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION. Honestly, I could not replicate a more perfect about-face even if I tried, and I would never even DREAM of turning my 18 dog team around on such a narrow section of the trail unless I absolutely had to. I am still replaying this scene in my mind and shaking my head in disbelief. 
Heading out with 18

Now that my team has turned around perfectly, of course there’s no way I’m going to be able to replicate this again without any issues. Driving the ATV around is the easy part, and fortunately there is a clearing not too far down the road where I can improvise my own trail and get them back on the road, facing in the correct direction. With some creative driving and just a little ‘encouragement’ from myself and Dean, I get the team back on the road, facing in the correct direction, without any terrible snafus. 
Now, on top of all this… I still need to pee. So I march right to the front of the team, drop my pants and assume the position while staring my leaders right in the eyes. “You guys aren’t going ANYWHERE!”
Of course right at that moment a truck full of hunters comes around the bend…

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

G’day, everybody!
First-allow me to introduce myself… my name is Ashlin and I am a true-blue Aussie musher! Yep, all the way from Down Under. This is my second season of mushing/handling and I am absolutely thrilled to be involved in Quinault’s Run for the Red Lantern. Even though I spent all of last season training at a racing Siberian husky kennel in Minnesota, malamutes have always had a special place in my heart (and my home!) and I simply cannot wait to show the world how amazing these dogs really are. 

I met Twila last February at Race to the Sky held right here in Montana. I was handling for my musher for the 350 mile race and had heard rumours that there would be a working malamute team also competing. Of course I had to check this out for myself and went investigating; sure enough I found them. I mean, they’re malamutes – they’re a bit hard to miss! I really had to struggle to talk to Twila though – I had to fight my way through the masses of people who had come to pet and play with the dogs. I can’t exactly blame them though; puppy Gracie, Ozzy and Alanis were absolutely irresistible. In the end I think Twila found me, contentedly playing with the dogs amongst all the chaos. We didn’t get a lot of time to talk – preparing for a race is a stressful time for both mushers and handlers, and I didn’t want to neglect my duties for too long. Fortunately I ran into Twila again at the local bar and grill (where else!) and we hit it off almost instantly. Races are a lot of fun in that way; they give you a chance to meet new dog people and talk about dog people things. At a dog sled race almost everybody there is “the crazy person with all the dogs”, so we’re all on an even footing!

Anyway, at that point Twila invited me out to her kennel in Garrison, MT at the end of the season to attend Malapalooza. I had no idea what a ‘Malapalooza’ was (“Is that some weird American thing?”) but when she put it to me as a whole bunch of malamute people getting together to camp, run trails and train together, why WOULDN’T I go! So I made plans to road-trip out to Montana at the end of the season for Malapalooza, and of course had an absolute blast, met some amazing people and gathered an invaluable array of information. I had intended on spending two weeks out there… a month passed and I was totally disinclined to leave. Twila and I had become very good friends by that point and when she offered me a position at Quinault for the following season, I did not hesitate to snatch it up.
Me with Cass and Slayer at Malapalooza
Thus began my frenzy of returning home, finding a job so I could earn enough money to get me back to the USA, and fast-tracking my visa application to allow myself to get back to Montana ASAP. 3 months and 42 hours of planes and airports later, I made it back and nothing was going to stop me from hitting the trail – not even jet lag! 
I have been here 2 weeks now, and it’s been on the go since then. We have had our first ‘Learn to Mush’ camp for the season and I believe it was a huge success. It really is satisfying being able to help people understand and grasp the fundamentals of running their dogs – we were all in that position at some point and I know I would have LOVED to take advantage of the wisdom and invaluable experience of someone like Twila if I had the opportunity to do so. We have steadily been putting miles on our teams (weather cooperating) and focusing on our individual ‘one-on-one’ training sessions (weather not cooperating). The next few weeks are going to be very exciting with the arrival of the Eve x Boss litter due in the last week of October, our second Learn to Mush camp in early November followed by our Fall edition of Malapalooza, which I know will be equally as fun (if not more) than our previous one. We also have a few other exciting plans in the works to be revealed once the details have been ironed out.
Working with a leader prospect at my first Learn To Mush Camp
In the meantime, we have a lot of preparation to do before winter hits us. Twila insists that we are not ready for snow, but personally I can’t wait to get back on the runners of a sled! We are gearing up to do some tours in the Kalispell area, something I haven’t yet had a lot of experience with, but will be an invaluable (and essential!) opportunity to nurture our Run 4 the Red savings fund. Not only that, but it’s always fun to meet and talk with new people and have the chance to show off our beautiful Alaskan malamutes.
Running the main string!

I would love to hear some feedback from you, our loyal supporters! If you have any questions, please forward them on to me and I shall endeavour to address them in my next blog… I’ll be stuck for a topic otherwise!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Crazy Summer!!

So-what a crazy summer it has been! First of all, we moved. Yep, all dogs, goats, sheep, cows, horse, chickens, turkeys, ducks, goose, cats and humans. Our new place is not quite as far off the grid as the last place, but pretty close. Incredible trails here, and since the terrain is a little more level we have more options for running dogs.

One of our new trails runs along this waterway
Summer has been spent trying to get set up here; we put in a new dog yard, remodeled a cabin for the handlers, installed our own energy system with new solar inverter and batteries, and fenced off about 35 acres of pasture for our livestock. We put in a new chicken yard and coop, and we still need to build a barn.

Our New House

Interestingly enough, even though we are much closer to civilization at the new place, we have been having our first ever predator problems. A grizzly has been terrorizing the area chicken coops and finally made it over to our place. He carried off my favorite rooster before the guardian dogs got on him, but he has been taken care of now. We have a very active wolf pack nearby. Fish & Wildlife have been trying to trap one or two of the pack so they can collar them to track their movements. We've been told that the pack has pups this year, denned up about a mile from our house. We have seen a couple lone wolves but no pack sightings, winter will be better for wolf viewing.

Running the trails near our new home

We have a new guardian pup, an Akbash male named Simon. He is a cutie, and is living & sleeping with the chickens and piggies. Also joining our pack is a malamute puppy from Nancy Russell of Storm Kloud Kennels. He is out of our boy Havok so he is family too. He is supposed to have a name that begins with an “X” (thats how Nancy keeps track of litters), but I am not having a lot of luck finding an X name that I like. I discarded Xavier, Xan, Xander, and Xanadu-they just don’t fit him. If anyone has suggestions, please forward them along.

Simon and X Puppy resting in a kennel after a play session

The next big news is that we are going to run tours this winter! It has been many years since I have run tours, but we have to feed the doggies and put money into the Iditarod fund.  What better way to make a living than to run dogs?? 

More to come....I will try to keep up better this fall!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

End of April

Well another big chunk of time with no update. I’m afraid that this one will be relatively devoid of mushing material, as the last couple of weeks have been packed with plenty of other action.
Towards the beginning of the month, I spent a week at home in Chicago for family reasons, and as soon as I got back, Morgan and I took off for a few days of camping and hot springing, which was a pleasant surprise. Our friend Scott came up for a week to learn the lay of the land from Morgan, and then took on the ranch by himself so that we could get away. Even though it rained throughout our trip, we were both excited about the relaxing (and free!) vacation.
Once we got back, we managed to get in a few days of running the dogs. We ran teams of 16 on quads and got some good, slow miles on almost everyone in our yard. I’m starting to see how the increased level of control on quads plays into some pretty strenuous training for the dogs. Hopefully the high expectations we’ll be asking of them this off season will make a big difference once the snow starts sticking again.  
This past weekend, a friend and former employee of Twila’s came up to show Morgan and me the finer points of grooming the dogs. With Shandi’s help, we managed to groom nearly 30 dogs, which was quite a feat. I never knew how involved the process of grooming Malamutes was, much less an entire yard.
Since then, we’ve taken several days to prepare for two upcoming events here on the ranch. The first is a mushing boot camp with our friend Gery Allen, which is going to be put on by musher extraordinaire Jamie Nelson. I’ve gotten to hear quite a bit about Jamie and her expertise, so I’ll be looking forward to lots of learning while she’s here.
Immediately after boot camp will be Malapalooza: a chance for people from around the country (world, possibly?) to come together to run their Malamutes, share secrets and enjoy each other’s dogs and company. I’m not sure how many people will be on the ranch all at once -- latest number I got from Twila was around 20 --  but I’m sure the cabins will all be past capacity. It will be a different scene from the usual four person party up here.
On top of everything I’ve just covered, we’ve been adjusting to the barn morphing into a nursery. Almost all of our ewes have had their lambs, and three of our four goats have had their kids. In addition to the 20 or so adult stock in the barn, we now have over 20 young’ns running around, as well as the rescued Great Pyrenees that still remain. That’s a lot of energy happening under one roof right now.   
Hopefully that should catch you up to speed. I hope I’m caught up too; Jamie is arriving tomorrow evening, which is when the real work will begin. I’ll be sure to post some pictures of the babies (including more of the puppies, which I forgot to mention amidst all the other babble – they’re doing great, getting cuter and squirmier by the day). Until next time!
-          Peter 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Puppies and mud!!

Well, Kinky had her babies and they are finally ready for their blog debut. Presenting the Eagle Cap Extreme Litter: (da da dada daaaa)
Quinault's Bite Me "Tasty"

Quinault's Squeeze Me "Juicy"

Quinault's Lil Bit O' Feel Good "Floozy"

Quinault's Playing The Field "Hef"

Quinault's If Looks Could Kill "Slayer"

Quinault's Come To Papa "Cass"
And it is officially muddy season here at Quinault!! Check out our latest training run video:

Still getting some miles in, I love spring training. It is where you get to correct all the bad habits you let your team develop over the winter:-)