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

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sping in Alaska (sort of)

Karin and I are down in Homer now, in our home on the 1000' hill above town, enjoying some down time before the summer season at the lodge gets in gear. We left about a week ago, stopping overnight in Anchorage to visit our friends Tom and Elaine. Since the drive is about 9 hours from EarthSong to Homer, Anchorage is about half-way and a good spot to split the trip in half. Beautiful weather going down, and for the start of our Homer stay. And that's where it about ended! The ridge above Homer is known locally as the snow-belt, compared to the banana-belt down in town. We currently have about 3-4' of snow in the front yard, with burms above 6'. In fact, we had to have our roof shoveled/snow-blowered a month ago when the snow level up there was exceeding 9'. I am currently looking out the office window at a big drift of snow and lots of snow coming down, most of it diagonally. At this pace, we will still have snow through May. A big contrast to the lodge, where we just went through one of the lowest snow years on record (even with the additional 10" we got a few days ago). Alaska is a big state, lots of different environments, and when we go through a strong El Nino year, everywhere gets askew. Climate Change Deniers either don't live in Alaska or live up here with their eyes and ears shut!

We'll be heading back to the lodge in about a week. Karin and I will try and take the ferry overnight to Seldovia, a nice town down Katchemak Bay. Although I did a few hours of sea kayaking around the Homer Spit yesterday, I would love a bit more, and Seldovia is a nice place for that. If you are visiting Alaska in the summer, don't miss Homer, and don't leave out sea kayaking if you are a bit adventurous.

When we leave here, we will be going back to the lodge with plenty of projects to start and finish up before the summer guests come. We will be working on our employee housing...we have hired our three employees, and expect to have an excellent crew on board this summer. We also purchased a yurt from a local Homer company, and Karin can't decide if she wants it as another summer guest lodging option or for herself...I am guessing all you out there will NOT have the lodging option, unless we get another yurt! She got a yurt book, and already is creatively planning the yurt interior. We will also be finishing up our new and expanded septic system, a very large project that will replace some of the permafrost problems we had in the past (note to people unfamilar with Alaska: large tanks in the permafrost ground usually results in some upward movement, not good with gravity-flow systems!). There are some dog yard projects, two new sleds to build for next season, walkway and fencing upgrades, and the never-ending list of "honey-do" items Karin has compiled for me and the cabins.

The dogs are doing fine, JJ is keeping an eye on all of them, and giving the pups lots of walk-time. He has his own pup/pet from our guide Mike, so he takes our pups, his pup, Bart-the-lab, and Boomer on long walks.

So from wintery Homer Alaska, the Halibut Fishing Capitol of the World and known far and wide by fans of Tom Bodett as The End Of The Road, happy trails, and more to come soon...maybe some new puppy photos.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

End of the Sledding Season

April 7 was the end of our guided sledding season, finishing up with a family of three from California going out on a day trip. Just prior to that, we did a three-day trip with three people: a climate change professor from UC Santa Cruz up in Alaska giving seminars, her 15 year old son, and a member of Alaska Coast Magazine out of Anchorage. We had little snow, and it was disappearing fast while we were out on the trail headed to and from Sushana Cabin. But the trip was successful, even with a team member CATCHING AIR down the second Sushana Step. An amazing sight to see, and I apologize for not having the helmet cam on for that event. All survived. Justin, from Alaska Coast, plans on an article in that magazine coming out in the fall, in time to generate some enthusiasm for our trips next season. Had some nice conversations about climate change. Remember, all you people who saw a cold snowy winter back East: Climate and Weather are NOT the same!

Now we are closing up things in the gear room and around the dog yard, putting sleds away, and slowly getting ready for the summer. JJ, our assistant, will be around the rest of the month, and will focus on getting the pups out for walks. Karin and I are heading to Homer for a few weeks, to see how much of that seven feet of snow in our front yard is left.

As for the dogs, they deserve a bit of time off. After a few weeks, they will likely be missing the trail, and if we have any snow left, we may go for a run or two. Patrick, Brucie, and Lyman are all at about 14, and in fairly good health. We expect to be looking for a pet home for 8 year old Gretchen, the mother of half our yard. Her work ethic is a bit poor, and we have gotten enough pups (5 litters) from her. So anyone out there in a cool climate that wants one of the sweetest sled dogs around, let me know.

That's all for now, I hope to be in my sea kayak within the week. More about the pups to come.

Happy trails!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Back from the Big Trip

Just two days ago we finished up a trip where the dogs were out on the trail for 13 days. Every season we offer one 10-day trip, with the itinerary depending upon trail conditions. This season our big trip was with Kevin and Dave, two experienced mushers that ran dogs with us on a seven day trip two years ago, and wanted to step up the experience. And we did.

Our trip started at the lodge, heading west on the Stampede Trail Corridor, into the park. On the Sushana Flats, we had an intense caribou encounter, and only the photos can show what we saw...to be posted soon. We spent the second night at Lower Toklat Cabin, and then headed up the Clearwater Fork the back way to Kantishna and Wonder Lake. That route hasn't been broken out for years, due to the reputation of the Clearwater for overflow that "eats" snowmachines. A couple that guide for us were kind enough to break out the trail, and up over Awesome Pass we went. Not called Awesome Pass for nothing, it offers an incredible view of Denali and the Alaska Range, the Moose Creek Drainage, and a hair-raising descent to Moose Creek...made all the more "interesting" due to virtually no snow most of the 700' descent. One of the short steep drops on the descent now has the moniker of "Testicle Hill"...if you are wondering about that, see a soon-to-be posted video clip on YouTube. We reached the Parker Cabin (a cabin located on Moose Creek where the previous owner was evicted by the National Park Service when Denali National Park grew in 1980 to encompass the land his cabin was on), only to find the Denali Park Kennel crew and dogs staying there. We camped about a mile down, after a very long 35 mile day.

The next few days were spent at Wonder Lake, with amazing views and weather. We met up with the new mountain climber gear hauling concessionaire, Eric Jayne, who was beginning his haul. We mushed to the top of Turtle Hill for an unequalled view of Denali, and then down the McKinley River a bit.

On Day 6, we left Wonder Lake and mushed east to Upper Glacier Creek and the Muldrow Glacier. Our goal was to run up to Anderson Pass, but the very low snow year only allowed us to go about a mile up the creek, bouncing along on sharp rocks and boulders. By this time, a 48 hour virus was hitting a few of our key sled dogs, including main leader Frodo and chase leader Assam. Luckily their overall attitudes and health remained good, so we were able to keep on moving. The next day we curved around Mt. Eielson and heading up the Thorofare River to the terminus of the Sunset Glacier, for an amazing backdrop at lunchtime. That night we were back in Thorofare Gorge.

Since the Denali Park dog teams had put in a trail up to their backcountry cabin on Moose Creek, we thought it a good idea to head up onto the Park Road and mush to the trail that headed towards that cabin. That would entail five miles on gravelly road, and then 2.5 miles along a hiking trail to where the dog trail was put in. The best laid plans... Since there was virtually no snow at the Moose Creek Trailhead, we then decided to go to the south and meet back up with the Thorofare River. Bad idea. Two steep drops down the tundra found all three teams tied up in an alder thicket. For those of you who don't know Alaskan alder, it is something to be avoided at all costs, for dogs and hikers. About a half-hour later and some creative use of my ax, we were heading back to the road, to continue west to Wonder Lake. Lots of gravel and burnt plastic later, we arrived at the lake, and stayed there for that night.

On Day 9, we mushed to the Kantishna Airstrip, and then over to the Parker Cabin for our guests' last night in the Denali Backcountry. We headed to the airstrip the following day, and Kevin and Dave flew out via small bush plane back to Healy...being exchanged for JJ, our dog handler. He and I combined the three teams into two larger ones, dropped one of the sleds off at the Wonder Lake Ranger Station, and then started the three day trip back east to EarthSong.

Awesome Pass had even less snow, Moose Creek had more ice, but finally we made it over to the Clearwater. After a short trip up to Stampede Mine (Thanks for the trail, Jamie and Hannah), we arrived at Lower Toklat Cabin. And then two more days, and we were home. Things are changing here fast, snow disappearing under the unrelenting sunny days, so spring is not too far away.

We have one last overnight trip, three people for a three day trip, beginning Sunday. Then one last day trip, and Karin and I should be heading to Homer and see if we still have seven feet of snow in our front yard. Going to take the pups out of the pen to run around the dog yard for their first outing, and give them their vaccinations. And the dog boxes will come off the truck. I imagine soon enough we will be visiting with some of you all out there, when you come up this summer.

Happy trails!

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