ECX Sled Dog Race–Part 2

IMG_0015With such a late night, I emailed to warn work I wasn’t coming in Friday. I turned off my alarm(s)  and slept in. I treated myself to a good breakfast and hot shower. Feeling a little sore, I was still jazzed to start my final shift, as I would get to see teams on their way to the finish!

Yesterday’s gas issues gave me pause, so I decided to throw my 5 gallon can in the truck. It only had about 1.5 gallons, but figured that would be lots of generator time, if needed. When I checked in at Race Central, I overheard some traffic regarding gas. “I’ve got a can in my truck,” I offered. IMG_0002It was perfect timing, and we filled it up to have at the checkpoint. I grabbed some chicken strips for lunch, and a couple donuts for the road. One of the sweep teams had their daughter hanging out, so I spoiled them with a maple bar Winking smile

Things were a bit crazy when I arrived, so my predecessor hung out a while before leaving. There was an issue folks were trying to resolve, and Race Central decided to turn around the second 62-mile ‘pot’ race at our checkpoint. The first had to wait awhile, so we noted their times, called it in, and sent them back IMG_0003to the start at Fergi. This also meant they weren’t going on to the Haas Owl loop, so I wouldn’t be watching for their return.

Despite the fewer duties, I still had fun. One thing to do was relaying for the Ollokot checkpoint. I was mid-way between the remote outpost and Race Central. Occasionally, the remote base wasn’t getting through, so I had to pass “traffic” (messages) back and forth. Apparently, I was good at this, and got compliments when I got back to net control. IMG_0010

That night, I decided to eat one of my meals from my ‘go-bag’ as a test. (Whoops, gotta remember to wash dishes!) Anyway, I settled on ramen noodles, with a single-serving slice of spam. Yep, it tasted about as you can imagine, but it held me over, and did the job. One of my shift-mates brought some cookies from Fergi, so that was nice too.

IMG_0013We waited around, trying to predict when the first 200-mile musher would come through. Our job was to collect their drop tags on way back, noting the time & # of dogs. In this case, we’d get to see the likely winner! I fired up the generator one last time, and set out the traffic lights again.

One task was to call in scheduled weather & resource reports. Most of the time, it was under 30 degrees Fahrenheit, IMG_0011with some significant wind chill, and a bit of precipitation. I included our gas supply, personnel, etc. Thursday night my handheld radio would NOT transmit at all. I had kept it inside an outer pocket of my overalls, but apparently the battery was just too cold. It would only listen. Friday, I gave the radio its own dedicated hand warmer, and this allowed me to walk around and transmit from the trail.

My new headlamp performed superbly! I don’t know if it’s 6500 lumens, but it sure is bright, and I got great coverage and never had to make use of the 2 spare sets of batteries!

IMG_0018I got home about 9:12 pm that night and called out to the kids. I had scheduled this to be my one weekend without them, but they wanted to come anyway. My oldest is capable of sitting, so I said it was okay, but no one was home. Checking my messages revealed that my friend had seen someone ‘trying to break in’ and ended up taking my kids home to their house until I could pick them up. Another hour later the kids and I were home, tuckered, and headed for bed.

I slept in until 8:30 Saturday morning, and flicked on the radio, to see how the race was progressing. Within 15 minutes I was on my second cup of coffee when I heard Race Central calling my callsign. I responded with my Baofeng handheld, but couldn’t get in. Switching to my good one, I found out they were requesting my assistance at the checkpoint that day, for teardown. I skipped the shower in IMG_2450favor of deodorant and clean clothes. The kids were stuck with cereal, as I hadn’t chance to shop for groceries. Couldn’t convince one to come along, so I ate a Cliff bar on my way back to Salt Creek Summit.

IMG_2453It was “snowin & blowin” pretty good when I got there, but most everything had been torn down already. I helped with the last of it, making a couple trips with SAR in their side-by-side Rhino ATV.

After returning the gear to Race Central, I told them to put me down for next year. I like Salt Creek Summit! It gave me the rustic experience, while still letting me sleep in my own bed.IMG_0034

Next up was the banquet. I felt awkward going alone, but couldn’t afford tickets for a girlfriend and 5 kids. In retrospect, it goes somewhat late, so it’s not really for kids anyway. The food was delicious (as always) and there were many emotional moments. Prizes were awarded, stories were shared, and recognition was given. My friend was struck speechless, when he was given the ‘Head Dog’ award for his volunteer work! I didn’t know ahead of time, but wasn’t too surprised given the work he put in.

Well, that’s it, another year in the bag. I’m definitely coming back for more ‘punishment’ next year, and am making the goal to get/make some snow shoes by then! Until next time, check out the gallery…

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