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Sled dog racing hits full stride this week

WINTER SPORTS — Sled dog racing hits high gear in the Inland Northwest starting this week — and skiers should note that skijoring is a category insome sled dog racing events nowadays.

The Eagle Cap Extreme Sled Dog Race starts today (Jan. 23) and runs through Jan. 26 in the Wallowa Mountains based out of Joseph, Ore. Known for its challenging elevation gain, the event includes a full-scale 200-mile race for teams of 12 dogs — a Yukon Quest qualifying race. Also scheduled is a 100-mile race for 8-dog teams, a new 62-mile, 2-day mid-distance “pot” race.

The Cascade Quest Sled Dog Race runs Feb. 1-3 based out of Lake Wenatchee. It includes four events: an 8-12 dog 100-mile stage race, a 6-dog 75-mile stage race, a 2 to 6-dog 24-mile recreation-class race and a purebred race. 

The Priest Lake Sled Dog Races run Feb. 1-3, based at the Priest Lake Airstrip, with a range of events including skijoring for skiers with their dogs. See the video above for a description of all the events.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Chilly good-bye: Diary, days 18-21

SNOWMOBILING — The last leg of their adventure following the Iditarod Sled Dog Race started smoothly as Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane left Nome, Alaska, to run back 250 miles to return a borrowed snowmobile at Unalakleet.

But the biggest adventure of the trip that would total nearly 1,400 miles was on its way.
 
The first day was a sweet 106 miles to a cozy cabin, and the next day another swift 125 miles in cold, clear weather.
 
Then the blizzard hit. Bob got stuck in a whiteout. Josh fell through a snowbridge and soaked his feet in a creek.
 
Read on for the details and photos on how they holed up and survived thelast day and night of their irondogging trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Cold overlooked along Iditarod Trail

Septuagenarian Bob Jones of Kettle Falls has chiseled into the frozen culture of arctic Alaska as he's snowmobiled 1,000 miles along the Iditarod Trail.  His diary and photos have been a highlight of my blog for two weeks.

Here's one of Jones's many observations from icy remote villages as he pushed through bitter temperatures:

“Cold weather is never a conversation topic among Alaska villagers. When it drops to 30 below, they just put on another layer of clothing and go about their business.”

Of course, it might be different if Alaska villagers had to come up with something quick to say on an  elevator lift to their office.

See Bob Jones's Diary and photos, days 1-6.

See Diary and photos for days 7-10.

See Diary and photos for days 11-12.

See Diary and photos for days 13-14.

See Nome Sweet Nome: Diary and photos for Day 15.

See Diary and photos for days 16-17.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 13-14

SNOWMOBILING — “I'm too tired to even look at pictures,” snowmobiler Bob Jones said in an email from the tiny village of Golovin on the Iditarod Trail. (Additional photos will come later and be posted here.)   He'd just put in an 11-hour  day that extended well into the night to reach a place where he and Josh Rindal could get out of the cold for a few hours of sleep before continuing their 1,000-mile journey to Nome following the Iditarod Trail.

Despite a fierce cold and a major breakdown that forced them to find a snowmobile to borrow, Jones, from Kettle Falls, and Rindal, from Spokane, have an outside chance of making the Mushers Banquet in Nome tonight (March 18) — if they can make the last 90 brutal miles in one day.

“It will be a cold ride, just like today's was,” Jones reported. “It's -9º and breeze outside as I write this from the library at the Golovin school.  It's about +70º in here and my sleeping bag is only about 5 feet away on a pad on the floor.”

Then he crashed and slept like a bear in winter… until early the next morning when he filed his diary for two days (click continued reading below) and offered these additional updates:

Mileage: Nearly 1,000 miles so far out of a total trip that will reach about 1,300 miles if they return to Unalakleet as planned.

He had one final thought about his cozy quarters on the library floor before heading out in the bitter cold for another long day: “This is a beautiful school. Probably costs more on a cost-of-heat-per-kid basis than anywhere in the Lower 48!”

I replied to Jones noting that he was an ironman model for people older than 70. “I wonder what all the other septuagenarians in Kettle Falls are doing today?” I poked.

“Being more intelligent!” he replied.

Click “continue reading” to see Jone's Iditarod diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 11-12

SNOWMOBILING — Chilled but not chilled out, Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane contginued their snowmobile trek along the Iditarod Trail even though the Iditarod sled dog race is is over and the winners have packed up for home.

“Zero degrees here last night with nary a cloud in the sky.  The most perfect day for traveling imaginable,” Jones said, indicating he was happy to still be on the trail.

“The sun is getting some power and sometimes we can feel the heat through our thick clothing.

“Machines are running fine and things are going great!”

On days 11 and 12  they continued to enjoy hospitality from natives with only a few stressful encounters with deep snow in the arctic cold.

Read on for more of Jones's diary and photos.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 7-10

SNOWMOBILING — As fate would have it, the real adventure began 70 miles from any assistance behind the racers in the Iditarod sled dog race. As the temperature plunged to minus 32 degrees — nearly 60 degrees colder than the day they started out following the Iditarod Trail — snowmobilers Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane faced some arctic cruelness:

  • The starter on Bob's snowmobile was falling apart.
  • A clunking noise was developing in Josh's snowmobile.
  • A friend died in McGrath and the town had to unite to dig a grave in the frozen ground.
  • Fuel was $7.15 a gallon in McGrath.
  • Bob and Josh had to drive over a dead moose in the trail.
  • And then Josh's snowmobile developed problems that threatened to end the 1,000-mile expedition.

Click “continue reading” to see how the two ingenious adventurers saved their butts by hooking on to something a fisherman left behind in a remote BLM cabin.

Also: click here to see a continuously updated photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.

Iron-dogging the Iditarod Trail:

Diary, days 1-6, plus links for entire trip

SNOWMOBILING — Snowmobiler Bob Jones, 72, of Kettle Falls was in Alaska this winter, once again following the annual Iditarod sled dog race with his son-in-law, Josh Rindal, who works at Fairchild Air Force Base.

We followed Jones's diary of ups and downs from the arduous trip on the Iditarod Trail as he reached several personal milestones:

  • — His 100th Alaska visit.
  • — A total of more than 20,000 miles following the 950- to 1,100-mile race from Anchorage to Nome.

Here's a wrapup story about Jones and his love-hate relationship with snowmobiles, but read on to follow his journey day by day.

Jones, a colorful guy with a gift for gab, is a familiar face in the remote villages along the race’s two routes since he began following the event by snowmobile in 1995.

“The first year, eight snowmobiles followed the route, and my Washington group had four,” he said. “One year, I was the only one doing the whole thing.”

He tows a trailer with gear for camping in bitter cold. Sometimes he stays in roadhouses.

“The villagers all know me and like me because I only stay a day, have a good time and leave,” he said.

Live the arctic life with with Jones by clicking “continue reading” for the first six days of diary posts from the Iditarod Trail, followed by links for Bob's take on the rest of the trip.

Also, click here to see a photo gallery of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race.