It’s no secret that we’ve been trying to establish a winter training camp so that we have better access to trails, snow, and the mushing world. We are excited to announce that at the end of August our hardwork paid off. We were able to buy a small piece of land in Willow, Alaska — the dog mushing capital of the world. Travis first went up to view the property with our handler, Justin. I couldn’t leave Seward at the time and so anxiously awaited his verdict. “It’s the one,” Travis told me. “It’s just all trees. We have our work cut out for us but this is the one.”
He made an offer and, finally, after a year of heartbreak and chasing snow, we are excited to say we have a place up north in snow and mushing country. This won’t replace our beloved home in Seward. We love our Seward community, friends, and family there but the need for a training camp further north arose because we have spent the last 3 years traveling with our dogs to get the mileage needed to run Iditarod. Moving north will allow Travis to take his training to the next level. Last year, we were forced to train around travel schedules; this year, once we settle in, it’s all about what the dogs need.
We will travel between Seward and Willow somewhat regularly throughout the year but will find ourselves in Willow in the fall and winter, training dogs, and Seward in the spring and summer. We will go back and forth a lot.
Our new property is located in Willow, right on the border of where the Sockeye fire swept through. Walking around the first time it was other-worldly coming upon the fire line. We had followed the course of the fire which wreaked havoc to so many of our friends but walking into the burn was surreal. The piece of land we bought did not sustain any damage during the fire though many of the trees on it were doused with fire retardant. Our first day at the property it was easy to get lost due to how thick the forest was. Travis came up with a little bit of a plan, we rented a bulldozer and started on making our property into a mushing camp. This was on August 27th. A little over a week later, we had a rough driveway and the frame of our cabin up. It was amazing how quickly the framing went up. For the most part I stayed in Seward, watched dogs and focused on work so it seemed especially magical to get photos from Travis with progress updates. The upstairs of our cabin is a large loft which is where we’ll sleep and I’ll set up an office so I can continue to work in between training runs. Our cabin is 14′ x 20′ and is off the grid. Because of our glacier dog camp, we already have many supplies to make living without electricity easier: solar panels, batteries, generators and stoves. To many in the lower 48, it would seem a crude, harsh lifestyle to undertake during the Alaskan winters but to us its a dream come true! So this winter we will live in Willow but will travel back to Seward frequently. We are a different kind of “snowbird” — living in beautiful summery Seward from April through September and then will head north from October through Iditarod. We’ve always travelled a lot — last year we put 15,000 miles on Travis truck and about 10,000 on mine. Having property will (hopefully) allow us to be slightly more rooted. We’ve already brought the first 10 sled dogs up so that they could start training. The lucky first inhabitants of our new yard are: Fidget, Krum, Gremlin, Kip, Odin, Mongoose, Hank, Handsome, Aldawin, and Teddy. We have started insulating our cabin, got the windows in, and just bought an oil drip stove for heat. Oil drip stoves don’t need electricity to operate and using it will allow us to focus strictly on running dogs! Now our first of 3 puppy pens is up and soon we will move our youngsters north while we begin to close down our home in Seward. Don’t worry Seward: We aren’t leaving. We are just going north for a bit! Our dog lot is big, spread out and has room for our whole sled dog kennel in neat, evenly spaced rows with plenty of space to hook up dog teams! We have decided that we are going to bring most of our dog houses up from Seward so we will have a “taste of home.” We will build new houses in Seward this spring and will again host another Paint-A-Pooloza because the first still brings us smiles. We love having a community oriented sled dog kennel and are excited about how we can use our new mushing camp to further our goals of community involvement. The Willow trail system is known as being one of the best in dog mushing. We will now be close to many sled dog races and have a whole community of dog mushers around us — who we are looking forward to get to know even better. The future sure is looking bright for us.