Yes, I know that sounds crazy, but I actually have had people mistaken them for really large horses, or simply not known what one looks like outside of a picture book.
Java and I have spent the winter with these two fairly active ones on the ridgeline of our house. We really have only had two encounters that have given me real pause, the most recent forcing us to wait 10 minutes on the roadside while a cow ate because well, she’s big and dangerous and hates dogs and was blocking the only road to my house.
They are beautiful to look at from a distance, as you can see in this video my husband took from his workshop beside the house. I was upstairs sewing and took a few photos from my window, but they don’t do the same justice as this video. To give you an idea of the height of this bluff, it is even with my 3rd story window of my house. It is just really covered with a lot of snow right now.
Remember moose are dangerous and best viewed at a distance. If they are threatened they will charge you, as I have experienced twice now. They see dogs as wolves and will try to stomp them. So for your safety and your pets safety do not engage and only pass when they have truly cleared from the scene!
This time of year is a small scsle version of the bipolar craziness that comes with living in Alaska. Daylight is now darkness that gets worse with daylight savings time. We get cold then we get warm. Then we get warmer, then we get freezing rain. That turns to snow then rain and suddenly we have two inches of fluff on the ground.
You saw it in the last vid. I swore it was here. But now its not.
The ground was still frozen, so Java and I headed out to Tanana Lakes for a ride on the island trail. In the winter this trail is buried under snow and only accessible by canoe or paddleboard in summer. There are only a few short weeks in the spring and fall when the ground is hard and dry enough to walk, run, or bike to it.
Today we biked. Here’s Java’s tour of the island trail:
We have gotten 5 or 6 inches of snow since this ride. And it’s staying. Most likely our next video will highlight our new riding spot now that we’ve moved to Ester– Standard Creek.
November 1 is the opening of The White Mountains 100 lottery. Not sure if I’ll sign up. After 3 consecutive years racing the course, and last year’s craziness with the Susitna 100 and it’s 10 inch snowfall, I’m not so motivated. It sounds nice just to ride without a goal though goals frequently make me ride more.
No, I didn’t report a lot on winter training. Hard to take pictures in Alaska when it’s nothing but darkness from November to March. The sunshine is out and today I remembered to take a pic of my early morning ride with Java.
It’s hard to see her in the lower left hard corner she is as brown as the dirt! After some time off while she was in heat, followed by my recovery from my race in the White Mountains 100 and a knee injury, we have found 1 fairly dry trail in this town to ride. Java is not used to me stopping for pictures and was really confused by the delay.
It was unusually warm in March, so everyone thought we were going to have a an early spring. But I have lived in this town too long to believe that. The last two weeks have been snowstorm/melt/snowstorm/melt. One day I rode my Fatbike in the morning with Java in two inches of fresh powder and then my MTB on dry pavement later in the afternoon on my commute. The road bike is still on the trainer. I am superstitious about taking it out before May 1st.
A ton of snow still covers the trails, or there is a lot of mud where it has melted. So Java and I are hanging tight at Tanana Lakes. Not that we have a problem with mud. We want to let the ground firm up so we aren’t driving ruts into them. Trails cost $$$ to rehabilitate. It costs nothing to wait.
This is Java’s first spring with us, so this is my first spring riding this area. She arrived in mid-June last year when the trails were already dry and she was too young to ride with a bike. The ground was already starting to freeze when I did take her onto the trails. However, we didn’t really start riding consistently until December. This year I hope to train her to go with me on afternoon rides versus early morning. Difficult because she loves all humans, dogs, and discarded food. I want her to be a well-behaved trail dog, not a heathen.
Sunday is my birthday. Five days later, Java will turn seven months. Normally, we have snow. Not just this fake frosty stuff that melts by 11am. I’ve pulled out the fat bike for our morning rides because I want wide, studded tires when I hit that frost. More so now that I’ve started training Java in the sport of bikejouring.
Until today, she has only been running off-leash at 5am when there is no one else around. But the reality is that she will have moments that she will need to be leashed. Whether it is to cross a busy road, pass a dog mushing team, or allow other trail users to enjoy the day uninterrupted. She is well behaved for a seven month old dog, but she does not know how to keep herself from jumping on people when she greets them. We work on it everyday, and it has gotten better. But not enough for a reliable performance on the trails. Besides there is a borough leash law. Not that everyone follows it. But the ones that don’t TEND to have well-trained dogs. There are lots that don’t. Believe me I would run into them ALL THE TIME in the bird refuge or at the university. I don’t want Java to be THAT DOG. So we continue training and face the fact that she will have to be on the leash while we run and ride from time to time.
P.S. Bikejouring is kinda scary from a human perspective because the dog pulls you really, really fast. I am a bit terrified by how fast and powerful she is at this size. I can only imagine what she will be like when she is older!
August is rainy season in Interior Alaska, which means the trails are filled with lake-sized puddles and some slippery terrain. Java and I are starting bike training in less than ideal conditions. The first bike ride was fine on the wood-chipped Skarland trail despite the freezing rain. The ride below was a little more precarious:
Gilmore trail, a.k.a the Gold Discovery Race route, is rutted and greasy with puddles so deep a Loch Ness monster could live down there. I haven’t been taking her far distance-wise, as we want to build her strength and endurance slowly. But this two miles had some elevations and downhills that she can’t help but barrel down. I held my breath praying that she didn’t slip and injure herself again.
Java, in true fashion, took the path of least resistance (pun always intended). She used her trail skills to find pathways around the puddles or her horizontal leap to jump them; unless she was thirsty, then she was all in.
The sun has been out all weekend, but we’ve also started to have frost in the morning. So my trail selection will probably go back to beginner areas. My friend Andrew got a concussion during a bike crash up at Birch Hill during a Cyclocross Race. Java is getting better at staying out from under the wheel and focusing on the trail instead of nipping at my feet or hands. Still, the last thing I need to do is get tripped up and crash on top of her. In many ways snow would be much easier. Fewer people are on the trails and landing on snow is much more bearable than rocks and roots.
This is advice I didn’t take with my human child. As an unusually energetic 19-year-old, I thought I don’t need to sleep when Ivan naps. At 43, this is a whole different story. I napped regularly before Java. I nap more so now.
I have reduced my regular triathlon training to spend time with Java. This was the plan going into this whole puppy parenthood gig. I knew that having an obedient dog required a lot of consistent work. And with my schedule being unpredictable and often full, I knew I was going to have to say no to a lot of things until we got her trained.
Training a dog is mentally hard. So when she sleeps I sleep.
Other than that she seems to be happy living here. We try to keep her busy and introduce her to new experiences. Of course, we live in Fairbanks, Alaska so the experiences are seasonal and there are limited places to explore nearby. But fall and then winter will be here soon and she will get to learn about snow!