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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Back from a spring Toklat Loop

Yesterday (March 17) we returned from a seven day Toklat Loop trip with guests Shirley of Oakland, CA and Ally from Indiana. In some ways, this trip was a classic March Toklat Loop, with most days sunny and spectacular, comfortable daytime temps, and night temps to below zero. With an inch of new cold snow (that fell prior to the trip at -18F), traveling times were a bit longer, but that enabled the rookies to negotiate the challenging trail with heavy loads much easier than earlier trips. Even though, there were some bumps and bruises, as with all of our expeditions!

Caribou were in abundance the first and second days out, near Sushana River. The overland trail to Lower Toklat Cabin was a bit less bumpy, although the Great Tussock Crossing lived up to it's name, throwing both guests. The 23 mile run up the Toklat River was great traveling, very little overflow, with a new (and only choice) crossing of the Toklat Narrows. When we arrived at Upper Toklat Cabin, we were met with the Denali Park Kennels: three employees and about 30 dogs, on their way to Wonder Lake for the annual spring patrol. There were breaking trail west from the new snow/blowfall, and we were able to take advantage of that and get up to Stony Hill for a spectacular view of Denali...see new photos added. That afternoon, Eric Jayne arrived with his team of 10 dogs to begin his first season as the concessionaire for the mountain climbing freight hauling business. It was nice to visit with him, a long-time friend to our kennel.

A quick note about Eric. He is also known as the Bush Vet, providing extremely low-cost vet service to communities along the highway and in remote bush Alaska. We wrote an article about him years ago in the Denali Summer Times. Basically, Eric was offering services not available to many pet owners and mushers. In many places in Alaska, the alternative to Eric's vet care was a bullet to the sled dog's head. So it was outrageous when he was run out of business and forced to hand over his license. It seems that many of the more established veterinarians in Alaska objected to his operation, as he was a direct competition to their practices. Trumped-up charges were brought against him, for negligence and sub-standard care. Those who know him know that this is total nonsense, but the charges were taken without being under oath, by people who he never even met. It seems that the Vet Board in Alaska has absolutely NO standards, so Eric never had any chance to fight against the vet establishment. The end product is less care for more animals, and a reinforcement of the overcharging establishment that most (not all) veterinarians in Alaska are part of. So Eric has said "bye" to vet work, and now hauls climber gear for those attempting Denali from the traditional North Side.

Two days after Toklat, were were back at Park HQ, and the end of the trip. All dogs did very well, and it seems that Assam has a generally good working relationship with his co-lead partner Frederick. We now are getting ready for the big 10 day trip with Kevin and Dave, two fellows that did a Toklat Loop two years ago. We will be heading out the Stampede Trail, going up the Clearwater the back way to Wonder Lake, and hopefully heading towards McGonnagal Pass. A trip up to Anderson Pass may be an alternative. They will then fly out of the Kantishna Airstrip near Wonder Lake, being replaced by my handler J.J., and we will then mush two 12 dog teams back to the lodge. I'll update everyone after this trip. Happy trails, All.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

a blissful day in Denali

The slighest of movements can be heard with such solitude today. I am wrapped around this blissful world surrounding me. All of the clients are out dog mushing leaving me with a joyful afternoon of scenic inspiration.
I managed to get out and visit with the little puppies. They are beginning to have individual personalities; shy, feisty, playful, demanding, and last but not least the little blue eyed center of attention.
I am breathing in this time, simmering it slowly, soon these quiet moments will echo with the return of the excited guests after an experience they will always remember.
Happy thoughts!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Caribou at Sushana

Our latest trip, a three day trip to the Sushana River cabin with Jonah and Joan from Chicago, finished up yesterday (March 9). Although our guests were brand-new to sledding, they had an excellent first day driving their own teams, with only a lost sled at the very end. As mentioned before, conditions here have been very tough for sledding, very low snow, oscillating temperatures, very bumpy on the trail. We had a fast run to Moose Alley on the other side of the Teklanika River, about 14 miles out, and while stopped for a break I discovered three sheared bolts on two sleds. After an hour for repairs, we were up and running. Although cloudy, the temps were mild. During the last three miles to the cabin we came across a large portion of the Denali Caribou Herd, in a few groups, a few hundred animals. Very exciting for the dogs!
The last run to the cabin is down the infamous Sushana Steps, and it is only at the end when dropping onto the river that one guest lost a team. Surprising...not that a team was lost, but that both mushers weren't knocked off! Around the corner from the cabin is another private cabin owned by Steve and Heidi Carwile, park people living in Anchorage. They come up every spring break with their two boys Teddy and Nick, and do cool cabin things. This year they are up with about 8 or so other friends, working on building a larger cabin. They stopped by with a gaggle of kids, visited with the dogs, and invited us over to the cabin to help set the record for number of people inside that small structure at one time. Like a phone booth or VW Bug...

We got a few inches of new snow with winds beginning that night, and that made not only the trail a bit smoother, but gave the landscape more of the traditional winter look. After more caribou chasing on the Sushana Flats, we had a quick run back to the lodge. An excellent trip.

Shirley and Ally come tomorrow for a training day, and then it's off for six days into the park, doing the Toklat Loop route. I'll write again after that.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Late winter dog sledding in Denali Park

Early March finds us in the middle of our busy time for guided dog sledding in and around the lodge. We finished our first seven day Toklat Loop trip the last week of February, with Dana and Nancy from Columbus. They found out first-hand the "challenges" of a strong El Nino year in Interior Alaska. When we have an El Nino phenomenon, the Interior (most of Denali Park and our lodge area) see very low snow years, as the storms all come from the south and there are two mountain ranges between us and the ocean. We need a few storms from the west, and since they haven't come, that's why we have only seen snowfalls of over two inches at a time prior to early December. In addition, the temperatures swing wildly, from colder than usual to warmer than usual. This seven day trip started with temps up to +40F, and the fifth night out was down to -24F. We found some great mushing, but also a fair share of rocks and bare tundra, not to mention ice...in that matter, a normal mushing trip!

You can see a video clip of Nancy and Dana following me up Stony Hill for an amazing view of the mountains and Denali (Mt. McKinley) on YouTube, at

A great trip, and when Nancy returns we'll try and keep her away from the steep drop-off on the east side of Sable Pass.

We finished a three day trip yesterday with a group from National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA). We usually take a group of 4-6 people out on a trip from NPCA the first week of March, part of a week-long trip they do that includes watching the Iditarod Race start in Anchorage. NPCA is an excellent organization advocating responsible development and recreation in national parks, and watching over the National Park Service, keeping them "in line" when they occassionally stray from their mission. Tom Kiernan is the organization's president, and this has been his fourth trip with us. We'll miss him, as he will soon be moving on to other challenges. Due to the low snow year, our trip to the Sushana River cabin made a detour the last three miles, which includes the descent down the Sushana Steps, two short steep drops down the the spruce forest and onto the river near the cabin. Check out the video clip:
this descent was unusal in that I had a passenger in my sled. And Anne didn't scream at all! While all our trips are safe, there has to be some excitement or you're not getting what dog sledding is all about.

In other guiding news, we will be starting a three day trip for a couple in a few days, followed by a seven day trip, and then a ten day trip with two guys who did a seven day trip two years ago, and want something more challenging. They won't be disappointed. Also, our five new pups are doing well at about six weeks: Dax, Sisco, Basheer, Odo, and Kira. Anyone guess the theme?

I'll try and keep posting updates about the dogs and trips as the season progresses. If you are bored, go to my YouTube contributions (DenaliDogBoy), and see some Frodo-cams and Picard-cams...video shot from a camera attached to the dog's harness. Puts it all in perspective. In the meantime, the people back East can please send us some of their snow, I'll appreciate it.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Welcome to EarthSong Lodge and Denali Dog Sled Expeditions

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.

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