While some of the big-name mushers on the Kenai Peninsula have the resources to bring their teams to the snow this winter, things haven't been so easy for the peninsula's smaller mushing outfits.
Judy Merritt, a rookie member of the 2001 Iditarod field, has not had her team on snow this season. Instead, she's been using a four-wheeler on the back roads and trails around her home in Moose Pass.
Jon Little, also entered in the 2001 Iditarod, thought he was perfectly situated in Kasilof to make training runs into the Caribou Hills from his back yard. Instead, he's been trucking his team into the hills three times a week for longer -- but less frequent -- training runs.
"(Last week) we did the Quartz Creek trail," Merritt said. "It's six miles round-trip, and we did it three times. The dogs were so bored."
Merritt has been invited to train with Seward-based Iditarod musher Dan Seavey in Glennallen, and she's been up to Chugiak. But right now, she's confined to the peninsula.
"It's difficult to find trails where we're not running on glare ice," Merritt said. "We're fortunate because the roads we've trained on, they've gone out and sanded."
Merritt and her team are making the best of what's available, though.
"I'd rather go in with less miles and have all the dogs healthy," Merritt said. "We're praying for snow for our qualifier. If we have to, we can make it a long training run for the Iditarod. We'll take it slow and enjoy things."
Little has to fit mushing around his day job.
"We're getting really tired of having to truck the dogs to the hills to do anything," said Little, who will make his third run to Nome in March. "It's just exhausting. All the time you'd spend doing other things is spent loading."
Little has adapted his training regimen and is taking his team on longer runs three days a week instead of the 25-mile jaunts he would have done from his yard.
"What I'm doing is totally different. It's exciting to see if it's going to work," Little said. "They're longer runs, but we take two days off in between. I don't know how it's going to pan out."
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