22 December 2007 Haiku Cumpleanos

  • Happy Birthday to me
a snowshoe journey
with friends to find a lost canoe
summer hidden there

27 December 2007 Talkeetna Home Sites

little cabin in Talkeetna

We've begun to think about building a house on our Talkeetna property. We'd like a small house that we grow old in ... entertain friends and family in ... live lightly on the earth ... be part of this beautiful corner of the boreal forest ...

Two corners of the property give us a small view and are high so we can get some southern exposure. One site is near the cabin at the southwest corner of the property; it would give us a view over the 'Dismal Swamp.' This area was dubbed 'dismal' by a realtor who couldn't understand why anyone would be interested in living near a wetlands and didn't seem to know that this creek and wetlands are full of birds and wildlife. The other site is at the northeast, near an overlook of Lake 5, and on the edge of the Numbered Lakes Natural Area. We'd have a small view of the lake through the trees.

view from Lake 5 site

view from Dismal Swamp site

Christmas Day 2007 Numbered Lakes

snow-topped rocks in a Numbered Lakes stream

We woke with the sun on Christmas morning. Clouds obscured the sun all day, creating a bluish light for the five plus hours the sun was above the horizon.

In early afternoon, we stepped into the ski bindings and headed out to the Numbered Lakes for a holiday tour. Several of inches of snow had fallen the previous day, and light flakes were still floating down as we started out. Wind on Christmas Eve had blown snow over many of the tracks that we or friends had made in the previous few days. Coupled with the flat lighting, we had difficulty following the tracks though we could feel when we were on their packed path.

The solitude and beauty of the Numbered Lakes was our best present this Christmas Day.

23 December 2007 Numbered Lakes & beyond

Our Christmas holiday in Talkeetna consisted of holiday and retirement parties, snowshoeing, skiing, and sleeping late. In short, the perfect winter vacation and a wonderful Christmas.

On Sunday, we explored the Numbered Lakes Natural Area to the east of our property with Doug and Ellen. After traversing Lakes 4 and 1, we headed southeast to Halfway and Spruce Lakes. Paul and I are still getting our bearings outside the Numbered Lakes, so Doug pulled out a map often to show us where we were.

The sky was cloudy, promising snow, and the temperature had warmed to near 20. No trails are established in this area but there are some common routes of travel. Most of our route was untracked so required breaking trail through several inches of snow. When we crossed overland from lake to lake, we often found ourselves getting stuck in downfalls and shrubs that aren't sufficiently covered by snow yet.

We looped through Spruce and Halfway Lakes, back through the woods to the black spruce bog east of Lake 4, and then to the springs that form the small creek that feeds Lake 5. At the lake, we entered the woods to reach the 'Dismal Swamp' and D&E's home. We had just enough time to nap and make dinner before returning their house for an evening of games.

Dropping down onto Spruce Lake

16 December 2007 Far North Bicentennial Park

Finally, the temperatures are wintry and we've got a few inches of snow so it looks like winter. But there's still no skiing here in town, so we're hiking again. This weekend we explored the Blue Dot Trail in Far North Bicentennial Park (near our house) and searched out a couple of geocaches. We only heard of the Blue Dot this last year and sought it out for the first time earlier this fall. It's a singletrack trail that winds through the woods, mostly on the uplands. It's called Blue Dot because whoever maintains it (it's unofficial) has painted blue dots or nailed blue reflectors to trees along the way. When it reaches Campbell Creek, there's a questionable-looking bridge. The first time we reached this point, we decided to hike along the creek to another nearby trail with a sturdier bridge. But on this day, the bridge appears to be frozen into place and we tried it. I let Paul load test it before heading over myself.

A little farther along, we started tracking a geocache and decided to leave the Blue Dot and head directly to the cache. That got us into some wetlands along the creek and some overflow. We eventually found our way to this pond with this view of the Chugach Mountains.

We found the cache near the pond and joined the main trail nearby. Not being quick learners, we sought out another cache that required getting off a real trail. This search was even more of a thrash through alders along a small creek. But geocaching can become a bit of an obsession, and even though we don't do it often, it's hard to turn away when you know one is close. So by the end of the afternoon, we had found 3 caches and followed the Blue Dot almost its entire length back to the car. Between the Blue Dot and the caches, we'd explored several corners of the park that we hadn't been to before.

8 December 2007 Hilltop - Prospect Heights Loop

Without snow for skiing, we turn to hiking on the weekends. Cold nights and mostly cold days mean that the areas that are too wet to traverse in the summer are mostly frozen and crossable now. One of our favorite fall hikes is a loop from Hilltop, a municipal park about a mile from our house, up to Prospect Heights, a state park trail head.

We start out on the Spencer Loop trail, going opposite to the travel direction of skiers. In this direction, we won't be surprised by anyone from behind and there are many fine views of the Chugach Mountains beyond. We meet a trio of hikers and one crazy skate skier, who is striding more ice and dirt than snow. After hitting the peak of Spencer Loop, we drop down toward the Campbell Creek Canyon and head off on a single track trail up along the canyon. The canyon trail brings us near Prospect Heights where we pick up the main trail and head to the parking area. As we get there, that same crazy skate skier is schussing along. He has come up the Gasline Trail, which we are about to head down, and it has even less snow than the Spencer Loop. We surmise that he must be on the college team and is desperate to get in his workouts if he'll skate on this base.

In fact, the woods are almost bare of snow and the only white stuff -- ice -- is on the trail. We're wearing studs on the bottom of our boots, so we aren't slipping.

We step off Gasline onto the Llama Trail, a singletrack that is mostly ice. We see a few bike tire imprints but meet no one. The Llama Trail tops out at Hilltop Ski Area, where a few kids are skiing. We walk down a ski run that is still closed due to lack of snow, climb in the car, and drive home.

November 2007 The Cruelest Month

Ask an Alaskan which month they dislike most, and you'll likely hear January, February, April, or November ... for a variety of reasons that come back to two factors: darkness and snow. The latter can be either lack of snow or snow that lingers too long.

November is the month I find to be too long. Snow is unpredictable while the nights are guaranteed to be getting long as we plummet toward the winter solstice (also known as the longest night of the year). Throughout most of the winter, the presence of snow brightens up the night by reflecting light from stars, moon, and street lights. Without the snow, the night seems to suck up any light that's out there. In a good November, snows arrive early and remain on the ground. Early snows also bring activities that we haven't done in 6 months, like skiing, snowshoeing, and sledding.

This has not been a good November. Temperatures have been above normal, with an average above freezing. The second week looked promising, with some light snowfalls that frosted the trees. Paul fired up the snowblower and we finally put away the last flower pots and lawn furniture. I even strapped on my cross-country skis one day to make tracks in fresh powder. Then the winds whipped up from the Gulf of Alaska, bringing warm temperatures and rain. So we string colorful LED lights on the house to brighten up the nights until the snows return or December arrives.

5 November 2007 western Cook Inlet

Paul and I took our first helicopter ride to see a property on the other side of Cook Inlet that The Nature Conservancy is considering buying. My job was to inspect the site for hazardous materials and incompatible uses, and Paul volunteered to sketch the site for my environmental assessment. He folded himself into the seat behind me, and I took the much roomier passenger seat, to the left of the pilot. On my left, in front of me, and above me, was glass. When the helicopter lifted off, I felt like I was levitating.

We flew northwest, skimming the northern shore of Cook Inlet before heading south to the property. Several creeks and rivers empty into the inlet, forming a vast wetlands of grasses and shrubs. Duck-hunting shacks dot the high ground along muddy creek channels. The only waterfowl we saw were a family of tundra swans, still gaining strength to begin their southern migration. We also saw a family of otters running over a frozen pond, and a snowy owl spooked from its ground burrow when the helicopter flew over low.

And we saw more moose than I've seen in any six month period since moving to Alaska. Moose are not a herding ungulate. They gather some in the fall during the rut. I once saw five bulls pestering one cow and her calf. Those seven moose on one park field are the most I've seen gathered together, though we had walked past maybe a half dozen more moose that same evening. From the helicopter, we saw 20 moose -- 19 cows and calves with one lone bull -- in a cluster. We saw many other groups, for a total of 40 - 50 moose. All within a 15 minute period.

At the property, the pilot circled the boundary twice and then set down near the group of cabins and outbuildings that was once a family's fish camp. The only sign of wildlife was a bear-skin rug hanging in the larger cabin and a wasp's nest tucked into toilet paper holder in the outhouse. Thankfully someone had left a can of Raid handy.

25 October 2007 Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan looked like the ocean this evening.
A strong east wind created a surf that
broke hard on the sandy shoreline.
The moon rose in a cloudless sky.

We walked down the shore,
heads bowed against the wind,
leaning in to each other to be heard.
I picked up smooth rocks
beige, purple, red, gray,
striped and aggregate
filling my pockets with bits of moon and sand.

20 October 2007 Manitowoc

Here in Alaska, fall reds are deep garnet and limited -- carpets of dogwood, high bush cranberry in the understory, a few small maple trees trying to survive way beyond their comfort zone. These are all beautiful and appreciated below and among the dominate gold of the birch and cottonwood.

But a trip to a small city in Wisconsin in October is a reminder that fall colors elsewhere include vibrant reds and oranges. The maple trees lining the streets of Manitowoc were in various stages of autumn. Some were still green; others a gradation from green to yellow to orange. It was the maples in full fall regalia that stopped me in my tracks and found me pointing my camera lense up into their branches. Again and again and again. Thus another difficult week to choose just one photo.

13 October 2007 EYES WIDE OPEN

A moving exhibit on the human costs of war is touring Alaska and was presented in downtown Anchorage yesterday. I've been reading about Eyes Wide Open for several years but didn't think it would ever make it to our lonely outpost on the peace frontier. So this last summer when Friends committed to bringing EWO to Alaska, I signed up to help in any way I could.

Eyes Wide Open started with 500 pairs of boots in 2004 to represent the number of American soldiers who had died in Iraq at that point. When the number of US casualties reached into the thousands, the exhibit was split up for state exhibits. The Alaska exhibit has 109 pairs for soldiers either from Alaska or based in Alaska when they were killed. Each pair of boots has a tag with the soldiers name, rank, age, and hometown. EWO tries to put a personal face on the war, to remind us that real lives are impacted and ended by war.

This personal face is not only for US casualties but also for Iraqi civilians who have lost their lives in the war. In Anchorage, 300 pairs of shoes, sandals, boots, and sneakers held tags with the names and ages of Iraqi children, women, and men who have died. The exhibit also has a series of posters - Dreams and Nightmares - showing the hope and despair of the Iraqi people.

The program varies from state to state but usually includes a reading of names, alternating between soldiers and Iraqis. Two local singing groups also sang and peace poetry was read periodically throughout the afternoon. The mother of a local soldier who was killed last February joined us for the day and read a poem that she wrote after her son died. Her presence was a constant reminder that war cuts short the dreams of not only those who die in battle but also of those they leave behind at home.

{I've added some links to organizations seeking a peaceful world with a variety of approaches. I hope that some of these speak to y0u. I've posted more of my photographs from the Anchorage EWO exhibit at my online gallery.}

8 October 2007 Anchorage

When I called Paul from Denver on Saturday he said the temperature hadn't fallen below freezing during my absence so we'd yet to see a frost in our part of Anchorage. The story had changed by the time he picked me up at the airport on Sunday night. The first snow had falled sometime early Sunday morning and the temperature hadn't risen above freezing all day. He had saved the five red cabbages from the garden and a few remaining herbs had been lost.

The temperature this morning was 20 and some golden birch leaves have been frozen in a suspended state in rain water from last week. Mountain ash leaves in orange and red are now falling as the sun shines through the clouds.

3 October 2007 Colorado

A conference took me to Denver so I visited with family for a few days, including our loving nephew and niece, Dylan and Nell. I also saw 'new' nephew Ryan, who has changed so much since we first met in June. Dylan and Nell hadn't, so I've posted this photo of them from June. The weather was still tailored to shorts and sandals during this October visit.

21 September 2007 Flowering Mint

Fall colors adorn the highbush cranberry and birch trees, but some of the flowers are still blooming.

9 September 2007 Eklutna Valley

One of my biking friends reserved the Serenity Cabin near the head of the Eklutna Valley for a night. Eight of us in two groups biked the gravel trail 12 miles to the cabin in a driving rain. The first group were able to get a small fire going with the limited amount of dry fire wood on hand. Three daytrippers ate some food and changed clothes before heading back in slightly drier conditions. The rest of us spent the evening moving clothes around to dry, munching chocolate and smoked salmon, sipping wine, cutting fire wood, and talking and laughing. Our return trip on Sunday was almost entirely dry until the last few miles. Coffee and quiche in Eagle River warmed us for the drive home.

1 September 2007 Big Lake

The Governor's Cup Regatta occurs every Labor Day weekend at the Alaska Sailing Club on Big Lake. Despite cool and cloudy weather, the racing was spirited and the related festivities dry under an elaborate system of tarps and tents. The sun broke through as it set on Saturday evening, bathing the shoreline in orange tones. The regatta saw a record number of boats this year. We were pleased to finish sixth overall in the small boat division.

31 August 2007 State Fair

I'm not even sure what vegetable marrow is, but this prize-winning specimen weighs 82.7 pounds! I chose this photo over one of Paul next to the record-setting 105 pound kale. The largest cabbage was 87.7 pounds -- not even close to the record.

Picking my state fair photo for the blog was tough. I wanted to post this year's newborn piglets, but realized that was the subject of last year's State Fair posting. And last year I went on and on about someone being obsessed with bunnies. So I had to wonder if I'm slightly preoccupied with piglets. Are they really that fascinating a photography subject? Do their little snouts and piled bodies create a pleasing repetitive form? Or am I just a softie for small baby animals? I'll let you decide ...

26 August 2007 Palmer Creek

Half a dozen of my biking compatriots decided to have a retreat in Hope, Alaska, to talk about the future of our women's mountain biking club. Lynn volunteered to let her cabin be headquarters and reserved a cabin-for-rent down the street for extra sleeping room. On Saturday we biked 12 miles up the Resurrection Pass trail, a premier backcountry trail in southcentral Alaska. That evening we took a sauna and stuffed tortillas with halibut and moose burger. Full bellies, good wine, and the warmth of the sauna and good friends brought us to consensus early about the next steps for the club.

On Sunday we went in search of berries. Lynn suggested going up the Palmer Creek drainage. Those of us in a motor home had to park at the campground and hike the four-wheel drive road. We found no berries ... but beautiful views and sunny skies.

18 August 2007 Big Lake (& Blog caught up!)

Here I am on a rainy late August evening, reliving the summer as I finally get the blog caught up. We've had a great summer, full of trips and fun. But another summer has gone too fast. I'm surprised to look back at the first photo for June. My summer intern arrived that day and I took her to Glen Alps in the evening to get a good luck at Anchorage and the Chugach playground outside the city. She leaves us on Wednesday to return to school in Wisconsin.
Back in June I bicycled 22 miles on the Russian Lakes trail with 8 girlfriends. The cloudless sky over Russian Lakes tells how sunny and HOT it was that day. Then a few days later Paul and I flew to Colorado for his parents' 50th anniversary and to meet my new nephew Ryan.
From Colorado we flew directly to southeast Alaska to join friends for a sailing adventure of the islands west of Prince of Wales Island. Highlights were humpbacks, fresh crab and salmon, humpbacks, peeking into the Pacific, humpbacks, humpbacks, and humpbacks.
We returned home for a few days of work and sailing at Big Lake. Then south to Kachemak Bay for 4 nights at a state parks cabin in Tutka Bay. We kayaked, hiked, and enjoyed the sunsets and bird song at the cabin.
Most Wednesdays that I've been in town I've gone biking with Wombats. One of my favorite evening rides is Powerline Pass. Once again we had a beautiful evening and we relaxed for a few minutes by the lake near the summit before turning around. At the end of the month Paul and I biked the Anchorage garden tour.
We have sailed at Big Lake a few weekends. Yesterday was sunny and warm and Denali peaked over the hills. The wind at times was good for sailing ... and at other times non-existent. All but one boat scratched today during the Challenge Cup because the doldrums hit and they'd been bobbing in the lake for nearly an hour.
{To those who have checked out my blog during the summer, thanks for hanging in there. I promise to get back on track now that the evenings are darkening.}

29 July 2007 Anchorage

18 July 2007 Powerline Pass

14 July 2007 Tutka Bay

1 July 2007 West of Prince of Wales

30 June 2007 Prince of Wales Island

Here's what we've been up to.
I'll catch up on June and July bloggin' after another weekend of sailing and some sea kayaking.

19 June 2007 Ryan!

10 June 2007 Russian Lakes

3 June 2007 Glen Alps

26 May 2007 Paul @ 7x7

Lining up the shot
For the last few years, we've rafted a short stretch of the Susitna River with Talkeetna friends on Memorial Day weekend. For some of us, the weekend has been the start of the summer, which doesn't change life that much for most of us working people. But many of our Talkeetna friends are school teachers. A change in school schedules in Alaska meant that this weekend is now the end of the school year, and the start of 8 weeks off, for several of our friends. And this year Paul's birthday occurred during the trip. So despite some soggy, cool weather, spirits were high on a Susitna River gravel bar this past Friday and Saturday.
Primary activities on this raft trip include sitting around the campfire talking, eating, sleeping, and playing bocce. Bocce is an old Italian game of bowling colored balls as close to the small white palino as possible. I'm not sure how challenging this is on a grass court, but as you can see, it can be very challenging on an island in the middle of an Alaska river.
Whoever has won the previous round gets to throw the palino. In this round of bocce, the palino landed against a log (center of photo one-third from bottom) above a puddle under a massive log jam. The players throwing bocce balls from above couldn't see the palino so needed some direction. Paul is giving his partner Doug a line to throw on to try to reach the palino. The large red ball next to the palino is Doug's from his previous throw. I think Paul and Doug won this round, but because Paul was the only one wearing rubber boots, he had to wade into the puddle to retrieve several bocce balls.

23 May 2007 Spring babies

The end of May in our neighborhood usually means the advent of moose calves. This neighborhood of large lots near a large municipal park and a state park offers some security from bears and other predators, some browse, and minimal distance from people. For several years, a cow moose gave birth in our backyard. The cow in this photo, a regular here for many years, birthed her twins in the backyard across the street from us about a week before I took this photo in our backyard.

Less than two weeks before these little guys were born, on May 7th, my nephew Ryan Slusher entered the world. Congratulations to Darrin and Denise and blessings to their family in their life together!

SAD UPDATE ON THE CALVES 6/1/07: My neighbor called the other evening to tell me that a brown (grizzly) bear killed both calves just a couple of blocks away. Maybe this area isn't a safe
haven for moose after all. Many bears have been sighted in this part of the city in the last few weeks. I saw a black bear with 3 cubs while riding through the park on Wednesday evening. Anchorage's new slogan is BIG WILD LIFE -- looks like the wildlife is cooperating with that theme.

6 & 13 May 2007 Stalled Spring

new birch buds Sunday May 6

Some years, spring happens in a day here in Alaska. We've driven up the Parks Highway to barren trees on a Saturday; returned on Sunday to bright green leaves on most of the trees. That's how we thought it would be last weekend. Bright green buds on the birch trees seemed ready to burst under sunny skies.

But temperatures here in Anchorage have remained cool this last week with clouds most days. The temperature has barely topped 45. After a sunny Saturday morning and a high of 50, the leaves on our birch trees are finally starting to open up.

emerging birch leaves & stamen Sunday May 13

29 April 2007 Chulitna River

view from Parks Highway overlook in Denali State Park

22 April 2007 Susitna Playground

We rode bikes into Talkeetna and out to the river on a beautiful spring day with Deb, Jeff, Pam, and Roger. Someone found this well-balanced cottonwood log and the fun began.

(for those of you who haven't been here yet, Denali is the mountain to the right of Paul, Foraker is to the left, he's blocking the view of Hunter)

16 April 2007 Matanuska River

I was driving to Palmer, the seat of the Mat-Su Borough government, to tell the planning commission that I supported the management plan for Fish and Numbered Lakes. Numbered Lakes is our back yard in Talkeetna. The folks up there came up with a plan that protects the unique natural values of the area (springs, wetlands, salmon habitat) while allowing low-intensity recreational use.

The commission meeting met at 6:00 so I left Anchorage early to miss the traffic. With extra time, I took the 'back way' on the old Glenn Highway. The view from the bridge over the Matanuska River was so good that I turned around to take this photograph.

And the plannning commission recommended that the assembly approve the plan. What a great evening.

1 April 2007 Talkeetna Spring

The morning temperature on the first day of April was about 10 at the cabin, but the mercury climbed as the sun reached higher in the sky.

31 March 2007 Talkeetna Lakes Tour

What kind of wax you got on those skis, Deb?

At the end of March I headed up to Talkeetna alone when Paul got an invitation to snow-machine in the Katmai backcountry. Friends Deb, Jeff, Ellen, Joe, and Peggy were as eager as I to take advantage of the warm spring days and go for a long ski. We didn't start especially early, but with the long days and skew of our time zone, we reasoned that starting at 11:00 was really like starting at 9:00 solar time.

The conditions were perfect for those of us with waxless skis and a little more challenging for those trying to wax. We skied from lake to wetland to hill to bluff to frozen creek. The changing moisture content and temperature of the snow meant the waxers were either sticking, slipping, or every so often getting perfect kick and glide. I was glad once again that I had finally purchased waxless skis two springs ago, mostly for days just like this.

During the six-hour tour we traversed country that only a few people see in a year, skied on a frozen subdivision road, saw one of the best views of the Alaska Range, and ran into a homesteader mad that we had trespassed without knowing it. All in all, a fairly typical outing in rural Alaska.

18 March 2007 Peace Walk in Talkeetna

About 30 people walked from the Denali Overlook into downtown Talkeetna on Sunday to commemorate the 4th anniversary of the Iraq War. Grete and Linnie led the walk, beating drums that they had made. Some carried signs of peace and some questioned the war in Iraq. One boy rode a scooter and a dad pushed twins in a stroller. Other children skipped and ran along side.

On the news today I heard a story of how children in Baghdad can't go outside to play because their parents fear the violence. Are the lives of Iraqis better today, with limited electricity and water, civil unrest, living under "house arrest" to avoid random car bombings, snipings, and kidnappings?

When will the people of Iraq be able to walk peacefully on a sunny day?

19 March 2007 Four years is too long!

Monday March 19th marks the 4th anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

If you think it's time to leave Iraq, but aren't sure what the options are, I suggest you read what
Friends Committee on National Legislation has laid out as an exit strategy that brings US troops home and helps Iraq achieve stability.

If you're already convinced and would like to mark the anniversary in a meaningful way, these organizations may have events in your area:

And if you want to make a sign like Alex's, check out Friends for Peace.

wishing you a world of peace & love every day ~ corinne, paul, and alex

14 March 2007 shrinking winter

The clear skies and bright sun say "spring" but the cold north wind reminds that winter doesn't end early at these latitudes. We haven't received much snow in weeks. The snow is decreasing through settlement and sublimation. The last snowfall, about 4" ten days ago, slowly disappeared from the front deck where we didn't shovel.

This is the "wintriest" winter we've experienced in Anchorage. Not the coldest temperatures, but the most days of single digits and below zero. And more winds from the north than before. In winters past we've dreaded the warm southeast winds that raised temperatures just enough to cover all walkable and driveable surfaces in ice and ruin the skiing (see 27 Jan 2007) These north winds create such wind chills that even the blazing sun can't lure us outside in the evening. The record snowfalls of December and January, coupled with the extended cold, make this only the second year when I predict that I'll have to shovel snow off my garden beds in mid-May to ensure they'll be warmed and ready to plant by Memorial Day.

3 March 2007 Iditarod

Some Alaska events are not-to-miss -- the state fair, Ski for Women, Birdathon in Talkeetna, and the Iditarod. Eighty-two mushers ran the ceremonial start through Anchorage today and we headed to our favorite area to watch the doggies run. Last year my dad, stepmother, brother, and his wife were in town so first we went downtown to catch the very beginning of the race and the excitement of thousands of dogs and peoples. Then we drove to the halfway point of the 11-mile run near the university.

This year we slept a little later, skipped the downtown start, and went directly to the halfway point. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the course had shifted through the university to include a section of Iditarod trail that we staked out when we first came to Anchorage. The mushers come down a hill, cross a bridge, and then head back up another hill with a sharp turn to the right at the top. The dogs try to cut the corner and in years past we've watched the Iditarider (i.e. someone who has paid 1000s of dollars to ride in the sled through Anchorage) get dumped down the hill. Paul likes to see the crashes and to help set the sleds up right. This year the race officials had set hay bales on the inside of the corner to try to keep the dogs on the trail. But as much as those dogs like to run, they'll take the shortest distance between two visible points. The race official stationed at the bridge said a few sleds were still going off even though he was warning them to tip up on one runner to avoid going over. Some of the dogs on the inside corner had to leap the hay bales as the rest of the team tried to cut the corner. We watched a dozen mushers and Paul was able to help a couple get upright.

Then we walked down the trail to where the mushers run down a power line behind a neighborhood. These neighbors really get into it. They hang a banner across the trail to salute Martin Buser, a former winner and all-around nice guy from Alaska. Kids operate the Muffin Stop, handing out muffins to the mushers, the Iditariders, and the handler who's usually on a second sled. (The second sled adds some drag to slow the dogs down a little.) To be in position for each musher, one guy with binoculars stands on a ladder and looks down the power line for the next musher. He reads their number, and depending upon their nationality, two buglers play their national anthem or just trumpet the musher's passing.

We saw about 40 of the mushers ride through the university. Tomorrow they start the race for real from Willow, Alaska. If you want to follow the race, the Anchorage Daily News is a good source.