Hello and welcome to our blog. We have been getting many requests to join in on blogging so here we go. I hope you all enjoy the "view". Be sure to check us out at www.earthsonglodge.com for detailed information.

EarthSong Lodge in pictures

EarthSong Lodge in pictures

The view of a lifetime

The view of a lifetime
Denali in March 2012

Caribou and Sled Dogs

Caribou and Sled Dogs

two minutes of sunshine at -16 below

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Season is near end, and an expedition to Wonder Lake is successful

The sun is back in force.  We are now seeing clear bright skies in the day, long daylight, moderate daytime temperatures, all pointing towards an end of the dog sledding season.  There are a few more overnight trips left, but soon the snow will go.  Late winter has seen cooler than normal temperatures around the lodge and the park, the exact opposite to what's been going on in the Lower 48.  But now things are getting back to "normal".

Our ten day trip finished up a bit over a week ago, successfully taking out Frank from California, Gill from Calgary/Colorado/UK, and Kevin from Wisconsin.  To date, Kevin has now mushed with us for 38 days, which means that we cannot think of him as anything but an assistant guide for future trips!  The ten day trip went to Slate Lake Cabin, Sushana Cabin, Lower Toklat Cabin, up Clearwater Fork to Moose Creek via Awesome Pass, and on to Wonder Lake.  Trip then took the interior route to Upper Toklat, and then downriver to Lower Toklat and back out Stampede to the lodge.  Most days we had little or no trail, so going was fairly slow.  By far the most memorable day was the trip over Awesome Pass.  With much of the trail recently blown in, going was slow to the top.  I made an error in judgement, and we mushed over a snow wall with crashes at the bottom.  A few dogs were run over by sleds, and Gill and Frank sustained some colorful leg bruising.  We followed a trail on the bench until it was lost, and then thrashed down Spruce Creek to Moose Creek, only to deal with moving water on Glen Creek, and dogs that wished they had some Labrador Retriever in their lines.  With wet boots and clothes, we got to Parker Cabin, and spent the night there drying out.  Dogs ended up fed at 1030pm, a very long day indeed.

With excellent skies, we mushed to Wonder Lake, picked up supplies, and headed out the next day.  Denali was in full view the rest of the trip, along with excellent northern lights at night.  This is the best aurora year for a very long time.  The trail disappeared before Thorofare Bar, where we camped below Eielson Visitor Center.  After snowshoeing up Gorge Creek to Thorofare Pass, intrepid Frodo was able to break trail to Upper Toklat Cabin, where we camped at -25F temperatures while the Denali Park kennel staff enjoyed a warm cabin...the perks of government service!

All in all, an excellent trip.  While the wildlife viewing was low (best sighting was a snowy owl near Awesome Pass), the scenery was great.  All the guests had dog sledding experience, so we were able to push things a bit harder than usual.  The best news was waking up the day after the trip, and seeing that Frank hadn't sneaked out Strider, Gill hadn't taken Remus, and Kevin left Kira in the yard.  Some mushers do get attached to their favorite dogs...

We took out a family from Fairbanks over the weekend, mushing a couple with a two year old and four month old to Slate Cabin.  Today we take out a group of five for the day, then two more multi-day trips.  When the season is done, Karin and I will head Outside to visit family for a week and a half, and then back to get ready for the summer.  We're looking at a busy summer again.  Earl will be back at the coffeehouse, working his culinary magic.  Still looking for two housekeepers, they should be hired within a few weeks.  Big project this summer will be landscaping and a dog barn, to keep the dogs cool in the shade during hot summer days, and protected by blasting winds and snow drifts during winter blizzards.  I'll need to head to Lancaster, PA, to get a hex sign to put up on the barn when done. 

Last night I got a phone call from our US Senator, Mark Begich.  Reminds me how Alaska is different from other states.  About a month ago, I sent him an angry and articulate email about his support of the Keystone Pipeline end-run being orchestrated mostly by Republicans.  I felt he compromised his environmental standards, not letting the environmental assessment process go forward.  He wanted me to know that his support was actually the lesser of two evils...if Keystone didn't go through, tar-sands oil would flow west to Puget Sound, and tankers.  As all Alaskans will tell you, we feel a bit wary about oil and big ships and sensitive waterways.  Something was going to pass, so he wanted a modified Keystone as a safer alternative.  Never mind the discussion merits, what is surprising is a sitting Senator will personally call up a constituent, and talk for more than a few seconds about an issue.  I imagine most other states would see a Senator's aid send an email response.  The personalized nature of Alaskan politics mostly works in our favor...although having a state capitol that you cannot drive to does insulate state politicians a bit.  On that note, about six weeks ago our local representative and senator for our state district stopped by unannounced, and visited for about a half-hour discussing local issues...Stampede State Recreation Area, and Coal Bed Methane (Shallow Gas) development in our front yard.  That's nice also.  Try that in California or New Jersey, without a large campaign contribution!

That's all for now, time to work in the dogyard.  See you all on the trail.

Happy trails,


Sunday, February 19, 2012

End of the Cold?

These last two weeks of warm temperatures and high winds seem to be heralding the end of a multi-month cold spell that gripped the Interior.  There seems to be an interesting interaction between the La Nina Effect and the Arctic Gyre.  All bets are off for a normal winter, but we are adapting.  All the windstorms have drifted things along the Stampede Road....so much so, that the State DOT came out a number of days with loaders and graders, and now it looks like a pressure ridge of ice on the arctic coast out the front window.  Some areas have drifts of over 10' hardpack snow, and spots of the tundra are bare.  Still, we have good trails.  The warm spell threatened the Teklanika River crossing, with the water flowing over the top of the ice, eating it away.  Things are cooling especially at night, and the ice bridges are holding.  We rely on the Tek crossing to hold through the second week of April, and it hopefully will.

The dogs returned a few days ago from a week-long trip out the Stampede Trail, with Adam from Australia, and my friend Tom Reale, a free-lance writer from Anchorage.  Everyone did well, and I was happy to see Boomer responding to her meds, and leading the front team once again.  Her twice daily dose of calcitriol, calcium, and aluminum hydroxide seem to keep her para hypothyroidism in check.  Good news for our dogyard.

The end of February will have two three-day trips, and a few day trips.  March is our busy month, and we'll be out on the trail most of the time.  If the warm trend continues, and doesn't go too far, the camping trips will be much easier.  Still time to get on a few trips going in March/early April, so if any reader is interested, let me know.  Northern Lights have been especially nice the last week, as the sun's activity picks up.

On the personal front, Karin and I went to Fairbanks on Valentine's Day...I'm usually out on the trail, so this year the "holiday" was celebrated in person.  I have very strong personal views on Hallmark Holidays, but she loves it.  I get chocolate, she gets flowers.   After doing a few chores, we saw "The Vow".  Because nothing says Valentine's Day like a hard-core chick flick!  My vote for Phantom Menace 3D was somehow vetoed. 

The new upstairs addition in the lodge/house is finally done, giving us a guest room and Karin's craft room.  It seems that adding a major building project to an existing structure is always much more difficult than starting from scratch.  Next on the list is the Dog Barn in the dogyard, a shelter that will allow the dogs some safety and comfort during blizzards, and keep me from having to go out at 2am in a white-out to dig out the dogs.

For all out there looking to read a powerful book about our country and world, pick up "Shock Doctrine...the Rise of Disaster Capitalism" by Naomi Klein.  Not since "Fast Food Nation" has a book impacted me so much.  Both enlightening and appalling, this book explains how our economy works, and how our country exported this policy all around the world.  In a time of  "Occupy" and "Tea Parties", this is a must-read.  Spoiler Alert...you likely will be very angry throughout the reading process, but you'll be the better for it.

Today is our dog handler JJ's birthday, so we're leaving soon for brunch at 229 Parks...the best place to eat in the park area (except when Earl is cooking up at the coffeehouse...can't beat his Panang or Gumbo).  Beautiful sunrise, nice late-winter day.  We'll enjoy it, and hopefully all of you will too.

Happy trails,


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Nothing like waking up to -30's and training guests for upcoming dog sled expedition

And the cold spell continues...-36F right now, with a trip taking two brothers from Wisconsin leaving tomorrow morning.  As I told them today, good thing they aren't from Arizona or Brazil, and have seen  some cold before!  Second straight day of great sun dogs, our winter rainbows.

On the sled dog front, it looks like Assam's lame leg is doing well.  Frodo also looks like he is past his injured shoulder.  Boomer, our problem child who is hypo parathyroid, should be going out on her first trip since her diagnosis.  As my vet told me today, it's time to fish or cut bait.  We hopefully now have her calcium and phosphorus levels under control, and she can go back to being a stellar leader.

We'll continue to try and stay warm, about seven weeks into the cold spell (although Karin believes it's been 12 weeks ...prior to Thanksgiving)  At least the dogs are digging it...
Happy trails,

Monday, January 16, 2012

Welcome to Winter 2012 in Interior Alaska

After a long blog vacation, I'm back online and here to welcome all readers to EarthSong in Winter 2012.  A lot of things have happened at the lodge and with the dogs, but first the weather...the one thing everyone from out of state ask first when calling.  From mid-November through to now, we have mostly been seeing very cold temperatures.  The thermometer has been staying most days between -10 and -40F.  In between the cold spells, we've had snow and winds, so the snowdrifts are everywhere.  Plowing has been a challenge, and soon we won't have places to push the snow.  But at least we are better off than Cordova, where they've already gotten about 25 feet of snow.

After another successful summer season, the lodge closed at the end of September, and Karin and I took the Alaska Ferry down to Washington State.  Always a better option than cruise ships.  We traveled with Karin's dog Bella, and toured the Pacific Northwest for about a month, and then returned home via the Alaska Highway.  Nice vacation, enjoying the coast and Puget Sound.

But now it's dog sledding season, and we've already done a few trips in December and early January.  Even with the cold and blowing snow, guests are testing their mettle on the back of our sleds.  In dog news, our oldest Nocturne is going on 13 next spring, and he still runs in team...but a bit slower.  In lead dog news, Boomer, our number-2 leader, had a seizure incident a few weeks back, and after many tests and a week in Fairbanks, she was diagnosed with hypo parathyroid disease.  Without the hormone from that gland, she is unable to get calcium into her system.  This is really unusual for a sled dog, and my vet has never seen it before...nor has his fellow vets in Fairbanks.  We're trying to manage the problem with oral meds, and so far she seems OK.  Starbuck and Kira are now running some lead, and we have great hopes for them.  Frodo, our master leader, is still plowing through snow and leading us when things get bad. 

We have trips going in January and February, and March is getting filled up fast.  I'll guide one ten day trip into the interior of Denali and to Wonder Lake, along with a variety of shorter trips.  Still time to jump on board, for all the dog and wilderness lovers!

On the personal front with the dogs, I'm still recovering from shoulder surgery last July.  Hard to do when you keep running dogs.  Karin and I will go up to Fairbanks tomorrow to watch our six year old grandson Teagan play some basketball, and they try to head to Anchorage later on to see our kids Sera and Jake, and our other grandson Mason.  Family is all doing well, and that's especially nice in this current state of our economy.

That's all for now.  We send our best wishes to all our past guests and friends, and all the new ones we'll be meeting soon.  Stay healthy and enjoy the New Year.

Happy trails,


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Enter the New Year

With January finally coming to a close, our dog sled guiding business, Denali Dog Sled Expeditions, is starting to ramp up. We had a busy time during the holidays, and so far have done three multi-day trips in January. But with the longer daylight and more moderate temperatures of February, come the longer expeditions. The North Side of the Alaska Range, our area, is again experiencing a low snow year. With an La Nina event, currently underway, we get a dry winter. Temperatures have not been swinging back and forth as much as an El Nino year, and we did go through almost 6 weeks where it was very rare for the thermometer to get above zero F. That does make the rivers and lakes much safer for crossing, but it's nice for a break once in a while.

In Interior Alaska, along with the rest of the country (and rest of the world), "normal" weather and temperatures are being re-defined. As the global climate slowly warms (2010 was the warmest on record, the last 10 years warmest ten-year span on record), we are seeing changes faster in the north country. This global change is resulting in El Nino or La Nina years more often than not, and the subsequent shifting of the Jet Stream is impacting everyone. So our storms all come out of the south, and the moisture is blocked by two mountain ranges. The Jet dips low in the Continental US, dragging the cold Canadian air down to the warmer moist southern air...and the East Coast gets dumped on with snow. Greenland and parts of the Arctic are seeing record warm winters, while my family in New Jersey keep digging out of snow over and over again. And everywhere, people keep confusing "weather" with "climate". Whatever the results, we know things will continue to change a bit, but up here we will have a decent winter season for many years to come. Good news for the sled dogs, and our intrepid winter visitors...

Although we are in the middle of winter, EarthSong is preparing for the summer 2011 season. We are optimistic that the economy will continue it's slow climb out of the ditch, and a bit more Denali visitors will grace our area. Good news at Henry's Coffeehouse...Earl will be back! Earl was our chef for two seasons a few years back, and built a reputation in the area. In his younger days, he was Steve McQueen's personal chef, and he spent many years in some of the finest establishments in New Orleans and Houston. He works summer seasons now, and we are happy that he (and his famous Gumbo) will be back.

Looks like we will also have Bill returning. Bill filled in for that last five weeks of the season, after some employees unexpectedly left early. His resume is long, and personality bright. Bill will do a number of jobs this summer, and one will be manager when Karin and I aren't around. This summer we will be absent here and there, due to a number of reasons...some health-related. I can think of no better person to keep our place running at the level our guests expect than Bill. Two more employees for housekeeping will round out the crew.

We'll also have some building projects going, mostly at the beginning of the season, mostly staff quarters. We have always taken a bit of pride offering our employees decent housing, something lacking in many businesses in the Denali area. Other projects are numerous, and we'll keep them as a surprise!

On the dog front, I am very happy with the pups from last year. This is the first year of pulling for Dax, Sisko, Basheer, Odo, and Kira...the Star Trek Deep Space Nine litter. Looks like the two girls have lead potential, and all pull very well. Frodo has been training our next leader, two-year old Boomer, and she is now working on trail-breaking. Her brother, Starbuck, has started running lead a bit, along with 6 year old Ahab (a real surprise to me!). The dog yard is at 25, with Nocturne anchoring the crew as Old Man.

That's the news from mid-winter at EarthSong. Hope you all are healthy and staying out of the deep snow...unless you would rather play in the white stuff! Happy Trails!


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh so chilly

Dearest friends,
Oh so chilly when I woke up this morning...the themometer read...-16 below, so I lit a few of my favorite candles with warm scents of vanilla sugar, pushed a button on the "Kuerig" coffeemaker for instant aromatic coffee from my fav brand lately, Caribou coffee. I am looking forward to the very quick glimpse of the sun rising over the mountains...we are speaking of maybe TWO minutes before hiding behind the peak until tomorrow.
Jon and JJ took two teams of sled dogs out breaking trail, three hours of frosty feet and dogs.
It's a strange and wonderful feeling to bake banana bread with lots of chocolate chips, warming the kitchen and greeting Jon after his outing with the sled dogs. Now it's time to make a turkey/veggie pot pie for dinner...after all, how else can one warm up...indulging in comfort food.
Happy thoughts only,
PS...I wish you could pop over for a slice of warm banana bread...and a drizzle of sunshine.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Down to Homer

Tomorrow Karin, JJ, and I are heading to Homer to move our belongings out and close the house down. We purchased the beautiful home on the ridge three years ago, but have not spent as much time down there as we hoped. Add the amazing amount of snowfall in recent years in Homer (at one time last year we had a spot on the roof with 9' of snow), and you end up with a place hard to maintain when Jon is guiding dog sled trips all winter. We love the area and community, and will be looking at other lower-elevation options.

With about a half-foot of new snow, we have some better mushing conditions out now. The tundra is still bumpy, but we have some decent trails, and will soon be ready to start our day guided trips. Speaking of trips, we have some new dog mushing trip specials on our website: www.earthsonglodge.com. Check them out if you want to experience Denali the "real" way. There was a meeting on Monday at Denali National Park HQ between me and some park staff, going over the guiding operation. We have a new park kennels manager, with mushing experience but no park mushing time. Denali is a bit different from other places, so she'll be in for an exciting winter. We were again shot down for park cabin use. For those of you not in-the-know, the dog sled guiding business was able to use all 15 park patrol cabins for winter guiding from the 1970's through to about 1990. The permit was re-written and the cabins were deleted. I have tried consistantly since then to get them back, with only getting one cabin (Lower Toklat Cabin) back. The frustrating part is the goal posts seem to be moving, as the reasoning behind the policy evolves as points are contradicted. With more cabin use, I am able to offer a more varied service to a greater number of potential guests. But nothing will change for the near future. We'll still do the trips we've done in the past, and still make winter camping as comfy as it can get...with wood stove and hot tent.

Don't think we'll post anything until after Thanksgiving, so a happy holiday to you all. Stay healthy, be safe, carpe diem.

our visitors from around the world