Friday, February 24, 2012

Traveling with Dogs

Team Baker on the lagoon in Kotzebue

Traveling with dogs is what John Baker loves most. He says “it's a perfect day for a run” on this sunny day with light winds and the temperature at about twenty below zero. Today, Team Baker runs one last time on their home turf before leaving for the start of the 2012 Iditarod Sled Dog Race. It's a relaxing run before the big race.

Ripple has star power

Team Baker trains in the Arctic where the vast stretches of land seem endless, and navigating the terrain requires skill, knowledge and experience. Traveling with dogs is all about teamwork. In this part of the world it is also necessary for musher and dogs to have expertise in traveling and surviving in the icy wilderness. A traditional knowledge passed on to John is based on generations of Inupiat who have traveled with dogs for thousands of years. 

John has operated a sled dog racing kennel in Kotzebue, Alaska for twenty years. Since 1996 John and his dogs have been strong contenders in the Iditarod. Last year the team won first place and smashed the record by three hours. Now, Team Baker prepares for another Iditarod. This time Baker returns as the champion to defend his title. Eleven of the sixteen dogs from the 2011 team are returning to travel with Baker this year. 

Frankie exudes happiness
Baker's 2012 Iditarod team roster has been final for some time so each team member is familiar with one another. Team Baker enters this year's race with a strong returning line-up with twelve dogs who have all been on the Trail. The two famous leaders, Velvet and Snickers, who led the team for a record-breaking win in the 2011 Iditarod will once again be out in front. Behind them will be a solid group of Iditarod race veterans including: Rambo, Ripple, Huffy, Kona, Mongoose, Summit, Sprocket, Speckle, Fender, and Sonar. Four rookies, Angel, Swift, Frankie, and Ocean, with race experience in the Kobuk 440, will travel this trail for the first time.
Team going for a run outside of Kotzebue

Qipmigaq (Inupiaq word pronounced kip-mi-gak translates to traveling with dogs) expresses Baker's viewpoint. John says he feels "privledged to be traveling with such an amazing team."