Dogs were the primary focus of January at ALO, both in the court room and on the trail. The court room portion was a hearing in Nome court which featured a neighbor dispute over a 30 dog kennel. ALO naturally represented the kennel owners, who were on the receiving end of a suit attempting to force them to move their kennel which was apparently disturbing their neighbors approximately 400 feet away in a subdivision a few miles outside of Nome. This suit has attracted considerable attention because of its potential impact on other kennels throughout the state, including the one located just outside the front door of ALO. Here is the Nome Nugget newspaper account of the trial. A decision on this portion of the suit is expected soon.
The trail portion of the news mainly focused on the Kuskokwim 300 held in mid January in Bethel. The big news from that race was a win by local racer Pete Kaiser. That was the first time a Bethel person has won the race since 1986. Hardly anyone remembers the last local winner. It was also the first time anyone could claim the honor of winning all of the big three Bethel races (K300, Bogus Creek 150 and Akiak Dash). The celebration of that win was tarnished a bit by controversy in the last stages of the race when two racers left the marked trail route and took a shortcut to the finish line. Those incidents resulted in monetary and time penalties to the racers, and many folks (including other racers) complained that the penalties were too light. This picture shows the area where the racers left the trail.
The race trail is straight ahead and marked with reflective stakes, and the truck trail through Church Slough is visible to the left. One of the racers was notified of his violation in Church Slough, and opted to continue forward. The second racer was warned of the problem about 5 miles before the turn off when passing through the previous checkpoint and still left the trail. Incidents such as these severely test the volunteers who put on the race. Decisions have to be made without the benefit of complete information and with limited time. It is indeed unfortunate that experienced racers would make such errors. Here is one of the pre-race stories from the Anchorage paper and also a post race video featuring Pete Kaiser that has received a lot of attention. Pre-race concerns about the icy trail were overcome by excellent trail prep and by an inch of snow that fell during the race.
The Dog Farm put a team in the Bogus Creek race, driven by rookie Victoria Hardwick. She ended up fifth, and finished with a 13 year old leader in front of the team. Here is a shot of that leader at the last checkpoint. She had another 13 year old that led for half the race, a sister of the one in the video. This is truly an amazing story. 13 year old dogs simply don't take part in competitive events very often, and when they do, they are not expected to be vocal leaders at the end of the race. These two, Trot and Radar, have raced every race around, including the Iditarod and the K300. They are honored residents of OFDF.
Bethel gets its share of bad publicity, primarily from visiting journalists who are shocked by the harsh environment and lifestyle. Here is a blog written by a former resident who has a different take on Bethel. Speaking of journalists, Bethel has had its ups and downs in the local news coverage field over the years. Right now, things are looking up. Alaska Dispatch has assigned a person to live in Bethel and coverage of YK Delta news has mushroomed in that paper. The other bright spot is KYUK , the local radio news outlet. Years ago the radio (and TV at the time) had a very strong news department, but that faded badly in recent years when stale stories would run for several days at a time and stories from Anchorage and beyond would serve as filler. Two recent additions to the news staff have pumped up local news coverage however, and fresh stories appear most every day. Now if only the local newspapers could approach the historical level of the Tundra Drums, which at one time was one of the best papers in the state.
This month's mandatory moose comes from the back yard of Jeremiah Frye in Wasilla, where he lives with his wife Kenzie, formerly of Bethel.
Many readers of the ALO news know of the extensive use made of the electric golf cart at the Elk Farm in Minnesota. This headline is troubling. Finally, a screen shot of the weather page from Dawson City, Yukon Territory, as the Yukon Quest racers approach that checkpoint. Wear a coat.