Sunday, March 30, 2008

Dog Derby weekend

It's Caribou Carnival in Yellowknife, but things are pretty subdued this year. No tents down on Frame Lake with food and activities, no Ugly Dog and Truck Contest. Caribou Carnival depends on volunteers, and it seems everyone is tapped out because of the Arctic Winter Games, which wrapped a couple of weeks ago. That event took 2,500 volunteers, most of whom were local.

The big event this weekend is the annual Canadian Championship Dog Derby. The race is held over three days and covers 150 miles.

For many, many years I've gone down to Frame Lake for the start of the race, trying to get the perfect dog sledding photo. This year I finally have a digital camera that shoots fast enough, and corrects for the brightness of the snow, so I'm having better luck.

Someday I'll have to take a tape recorder to capture the sound of the dogs before the race begins. When the handlers start taking them out of the trucks and putting them into their harnesses, there's a lot of yipping and squealing - the dogs love to run, and just want to get going. Then the starting gun goes off, and everything is silent, except for the hiss of the sled runners on snow and the occasional instruction from the mushers.

Here's a shot from the start of the race on Friday.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sunday afternoon at the Snow King's castle

The sun was shining this afternoon, and it was only -7C, so we headed out to see the Snow King's castle on Yellowknife Bay. The Snow King has been building castles just off the edge of the Old Town for the past 13 years. The architecture is never the same two years running (as far as I can tell), and it's always fun to see this year's design.

The castle is the centre of all sorts of arts and leisure activities. When we got there, we found our friend Dave supervising curling on a couple of make-shift sheets beside the castle. The NWT Mining Heritage Society was running it as a fund-raiser for its work.

Inside, there was a rather fab snow sculpture of the Snow King himself, paintings by a local artist and archival photos of Yellowknife on the walls, and a folk singer performing on stage. A number of our friends told us about some of the evening events we'd missed, including a fashion show and the Snow King's Royal Ball. I need to keep better track of these things.

We sat and had a hot chocolate while buddy on stage belted out the folk tunes. (Must have been from the Maritimes. There was a definite lobster theme in the lyrics.) We went up to the ramparts to wave at the folks below before heading home via the Detah ice road/Ingraham Trail loop.

One of those quintessential Yellowknife afternoons.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Yep, that's me

. . . in charge of a dog team. I'm looking pretty relaxed now that we're standing still, but the knuckles were white while we were moving. Maybe I'm paranoid (or just self-aware), but I was expecting to fall off the sled, and have the dogs bolt for parts unknown.

And those puppies can pull. They're part of Frank Turner's Yukon Quest dogteam. I was in Whitehorse last week for the Northern Communications Conference, and was lucky enough to tap into a session on dogmushing as a metaphor for leadership at the Turners' Muktuk Kennels. After the rigours of a thousand-mile race, a spin on the Yukon River with a bunch of conventioneers was probably a let-down for the dogs, who had a little too much energy for my liking. Fortunately, my sledding partner, Chris, got them settled down before it was my turn.

The conference itself was a lot of fun, and a good opportunity to connect with other communications types in the Yukon, Nunavut and the NWT. I'm supposed to be heading over to Iqaluit in May for another meeting. Looking forward to that one, too, since it's been years since I've been to Nunavut.