Previous part: Yukon Quest 2016: Eagle – Dawson (Part 4/8)
I come early to the campground to finalize my departure. It is quite easy to get the team ready as I do have 4 helpers!! Really quick. I make sure I have all I need in the sled. As we hook up the team I hear Bunny coughing. I first think that she just need to move around a little and she will get rid of it. But as we travel through the all campground she coughs more and more. I meet John the vet and explains the situation. He checks on her and suggest to drop her as it could turn in pneumonia. The run to Pelly is a monster one. Two hundred mile. There is not much space in the sled for the first 100 miles. I decide to drop her. The fact that she is in heat does facilitate the decision. It will be more simple for my males to perform without having their libido bothering them.
Here we go I am traveling on the Yukon river again. Not for long. We follow the dike and leave Dawson behind us. We follow the Klondike river for a little while than off on the ditch of the Klondike highway for a hundred meter. We turn on Bonanza road. The sky is grey and I am concern about a potential snow fall (again). After a few miles the sky clears out and the sun is illuminating the trail. After a few hours we start the climb towards King’s Salomon Dome. It is slow. I did pack my sled on the safe side, so I have a lot of extra food and I can feel it in the motion of my team. They pull hard. We are slow. I kick all the way. I take a few videos for the Japanese TV with the GoPro.
After five hours we reach the top. We gain a bit of velocity and I discover that Coffee has some trouble to find the second gear to speed up. I check on him. It seems that his shoulder is sore. I go slow. I move him out of the lead. But he still have some trouble to trot comfortably. I am worried. Should I turn around back to Dawson and drop him. Should I load him? Hard to do as there is not much space in the sled for now. Without him I would just be left with dona as a true leader. She is doing great and can handle a lot in single lead. But I owe her to have a co-leader in regard of all the hard work she provided before Dawson.
I decide to do a camping and give a lot of time to massage Coffee and take care of him. I give him my vest to warm up his shoulder and his all body. I go in my sleeping bag and sleep right next to him. Every two hours I go for a walk with him. I don’t rest much but fixing his issue is important to me and the rest of the trip. My plan is now to run 5 hours and rest 5 hours to help coffee.
The next run is slow. I keep the speed down to give Coffee a chance to get warm. His last walk before departure was encouraging. The run is quite easy as we start by a long downhill follow by a flat run. Than we arrive to the black hills. It is a long uphill. I have been already running for more than five hours. So I decide to do my next camping right there where I find some straw left by from previous teams. Extra massage on Coffee. He is still stiff on the shoulders. He has a problem to extend the left front leg. Massage again and again. Than a good sleep of two hours.
I estimate that I am five hours from Scroggie. I start running and I reach the top pretty quick. There are not too many other hills, ups and down or so. We are more travelling in higher country. Than we start to come on the switchbacks. The dogs like it. It is quite fun. Down again to lower elevation we run on a new trail opened by the rangers recently. The usual trail was so messed up by a forest fire and it is impassable. They did a great job. Soon we hit the river. It has been 5 hours that we are running but I figure we should be half an hour away from Scroggie. In scroggie they are waiting for me. Just after I arrive I see the plane of Alpine Aviation landing on the river. I park my team and ask the vet for advise. As Mercedes arrives I explain her what is happening with coffee. I explain the problem of extension. She understand immediately and show me how to massage the soar muscle. Now it makes sense. I was massaging the soar muscles which were the consequence of him compensating for the lack of extension. I mention another problem recently discovered on the paws of JJ. A strange cut right at the edge of the paw. Appearing on booth paws at the same pad by symmetry!!
We barely finish our talk that Mercedes has to fly out. I take care of the dogs and feed them, than I join Jessica, Robert and Murray at the Cabin. Some good food and good stories. And than on the time table I see a note from Dona. My good friend Dona did leave a note for me on the wall! That is cool. I don’t have any sleep out of this stop.
In the next run the dogs are doing great. It is the evening and the temperature are colder. My lack of sleep in Scroggie brings me to snooze. It is quite incredible because I can sleep while I am standing. My hands stay tight on the handlebar. And it seems like I am having some sleepy times that are more than a few seconds. I actually have the impression that I have long periods of sleep. I feel like I am missing a lot and I do not print much memories of this run.
Well I can still manage my clock and I stop the dogs after five hours. I rest about five hours than I am en route to Stepping stone. From Scroggie on we had some impressive glaciations. Sometimes so big that it is king of flat at the top and has an incline on the side. You can either stay on top if you can or slide towards the bottom. One is so gigantic that I am very proud to see Dona leading the team at the top of it.
I can see the light from Stepping Stone. I can see them for a long time. And it is quite surprising to realize that it takes me a few hours to reach the place. It tells me that I was coming from a higher point with a view far on the valley. But as it is dark I can’t see the all landscape but just the lights from Pelly farm. Pelly farm is a few miles away from Stepping Stones and they have some electricity.
When I reach the Pelly river I am thinking that I must be far behind and people must be bored to wait for me. But when I arrive I see the volunteers cheering at me. That is a warm welcome. They help me to park the team and inform me that they did boil some water for me. That is something that no checkpoint offers. We are in a hospitality stop so they don’t have to offer any services really. But the best is yet to come. After finishing the usual dog care I go inside the cabin. They bring me food. Lasagna, pasta, cookies, water, coffee, fruits, … I don’t even move from my chair. They entertain me with some nice conversations. Than I am going to sleep. I cut a bit my rest as I know that my next stop is in Pelly Crossing. We will be back to the road system so I will be able to get the food drop and reload my sled.
The run towards Pelly Crossing happens on the Pelly Farm Road. The river has some open lead supposedly impassable so the Quest is rerouted again through a hilly trail! At least the road has been used so the snow is packed. This way we do slide well and we reach Pelly in no time. Dona recognize that we arrive in a checkpoint so she accelerate. We come at the checkpoint with a good pace. First person I recognize in the crowed is Virginie. She is jumping and jumping, happy to see the team coming. I see many smiles. People are happy to see me. Eddie the checkpoint manager is here to great me. Nice to see him back. Just think! He comes from California every year to manage this checkpoint. Same from Gile who comes every year with Michael to volunteer. Felix has a big smile too. The good energy from the crowd matches with my good mood. Another good news is that Sebastian, my closest competitor, did leave only half an hour ago. As opposed to be gone two hours before I usually arrives.
I did just accomplished the big two hundred mile run from Dawson to Pelly. That is cool. From now on the distances in between checkpoint and dog drops is such that I could in theory run from checkpoint to checkpoint.
I receive some gift from a young student from Pelly Crossing. The meal is great. I eat an apple. It is nice to have access to some healthy food in the checkpoint. It helps to balance my diet of nuts and chocolate chip plus some dried meat that I constantly eat on the trail. I also drink soup on the trail so it is not so bad.