On the trail - Steward River - Stepping Stone
Coming into Steward and all dogs looking strong I just decided in my mind that I might as well keep up the pace and not go camping. It was great to run with all those experienced mushers. Mike McGowan the Race Marshall came up to me and asked me if my handler speak English. Yes, they are Canadians so I guess so, I replied not quite getting the purpose of his question. Than came the shock. „ Did they not tell you that you have to get Brownie rechecked before you leave Dawson? „. No they did not why? Well the vets thought that he has to be dropped and you need to drop him here now. “. I hardly could believe what I was hearing, Brownie came into Steward River in lead, running just fine and his swelling being totally gone. Quite a bit of talking back and forth happened. Mike actually seemed quite uneasy in the situation himself, specially seeing me coming in with Brownie running in lead. What was really puzzling to me is that the Vet on site, refused to recheck Brownie and he did not want to overrule the Dawson Vets. I really asked myself why he is there than, but that was beside the point. I wondered what had happened. Dawson was fuck up, that was for sure, but I did not expect it to hunt me down the trail. Who did the Vets talk to, maybe mistaking my tourists for my handlers. Markus would 100% have told me. Even more puzzeled me (and Mike) that my Vetbook did not say that Brownie had to be dropped. Maybe the whole thing was a setup, that also crossed my mind, but by who and why? Mike was also getting time pressured as it was getting dark. His precious time ticked by, but so did mine instead of properly taking care of dogs, there we were standing and discussing. Mike came up with a good idea. He would fly back to Dawson and tell the Vets what he had seen and that Brownie looked good. If he’d call back with the message that I could continue with him I could do so. If I would not hear from him I’d have to leave Brownie behind. Thoughts were racing in my head..... what now, if on my way to Pelly for whatever circumstance Brownie does injure himself and I have to carry him into Pelly. Than I would be in trouble for sure. Man what to do? I would have trusted Thomas Tetz`s advise but he was behind on the trail. Well there actually was only one choice to be on the safe side. To drop Brownie. Before Mike left, I told him he did not have to call back, I would drop him because I did not want to take any chances to get in trouble once reaching Pelly. A relieved Mike left....... now I know the reason why he had been there, in the middle of nowhere, just to talk to me. I still had a strong 11 dogs, yes losing Brownie a good leader was a loss, not a dramatic one. It just more occupied my mind than anything. I had a hard time to concentrate, constantly thinking about what just had happened. Well so far for may racing strategy. There also was only one way to continue. To slow down till I find answers what had happened in Dawson or if this indeed was some sort of setup. Thomas came in, we discussed again, and I wasted all my time not sleeping.
I way overrested the dogs, we stayed almost 10 hrs, but I could not think clearly. If I would have left about Midnight, it would have put me on a perfect schedule, it is an about 10 hrs run into Stepping Stone, and I could have gotten there before the heat of the day. Heat was definitely an issue now. Instead I fooled around till 3.30 in the morning. Even some mushers, Michelle and Kelly, I had not seen since Central did catch up to me. Dave Daltons Team was harness banging and barking to go when he left, all 14 of them, a great sight some 650 miles into the race. When it got time to leave even Wondar and Tang were making noise and I also had a great start. After not sleeping I had a very very hard time to stay awake during the run. The trail was in a great shape, I had heard many horror stories about this section but the rangers and Wendall Carey had done a terrific job to clean it up. Running all the way to Stepping Stone was out of the question, I decided to run as long as it would get too hot. One a sheet of ice I could see Coon slip and he started to limp immediately, darn.... First time all race I had to load a dog. I put heatpacks on his front left shoulder. He happily stayed in the basket. I passed quite a few mushers resting, John, Frank and Dan and finally found a good stop in the trees on the left side of the trail. My morale was on a deep low. I felt my race was over and wanted to scratch. Here I was in the heat of the day, having a dog in the basket after just loosing Brownie. The dogs sensed of course my mood. None of them ate when we stopped. Disaster was there, just a few hours after having a great time. Luck can change quick on the Quest. I felt there was only one thing I could do to perk them up, turn them all loose, get them exited to move around.... it was a great sight to see them all curl up under 2 large spruce trees. Fine we rest like this for now. I caught a catnap in my sleeping bag. It was warm, definitely above zero. Frank passed by and I told him that I was going to call it quits in Pelly. What an earful I got from him, but I have to thank him for that, it could not have come at a better time.
We left the campspot at 3.30 not an ideal time, but I wanted to get going. Coon looked better but I decided to leave him in the sled. It should not be too long into Stepping Stone, there he could rest some more. Indeed it was only another 2 hrs into there. Man if I would have gotten going earlier the night before, I kicked myself for letting that Brownie Episode to let me get of track so bad.