With Janet Balice, Council & Return, Mar 13-16, 2011


Janet Balice is a very competent local dog musher and Headstart Teacher. Her trip started at her dog lot, just north of Nome. To avoid racers on the Nome-White Mountain trail, she mushed inland directly to Solomon, where she spent the night of March 12, 2011. Next morning she mushed to the Topkok shelter cabin.

For me, the trip started around 11 am on Sunday morning, March 13. I snowmachined to the Topkok shelter cabin and teamed up with her.

She had started out with 5 dogs and the "puppy" (13 month old pup but pulls like a champ!), but at Topkok, her oldest dog "Freckles" would not go any more. He was just too pooped to continue. I took the dog in my sled at that point, while she continued on towards Council.

The trail goes up to the top of Endless Hill, and down to a creek. From there a few more hills and creek crossings and she arrived at Fantasy Island, on the Fish River, about 5 miles north of White Mountain.

A short ride up the Fish River is the start of the overland trail to Council, which was well beaten and defined. Twelve miles of mushing took her into Council in good order, arriving about 9 pm.

Copyright © 2011 Mike Murphy

Janet approaching council on the Overland Trail

The "10 miles to Council" Overland Trail marker Fish River to Council

Copyright © 2011 Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy, our gracious host in Council

Copyright © 2011 Mike Murphy

Janet pets her leader

I took my leave of her the next morning and went back to Nome with the dog Freckles in my care.

On 3/16, a Wednesday, she left Council for Solomon, which took her over Endless Hill into Topkok. I met her somewhere in the trail between Fantasy Island and Endless Hill, staying with her until her arrival at Solomon.

Copyright © 2011 Mike Murphy

Janet leaving Council at sunrise, bound for Solomon and Nome

Picture by Ramon Gandia

(Above) Janet Balice mushes her 4-dog
and 1 Puppy team up "Endless Hill"

This is the hill just before the Topkok shelter cabin on the return from Council.

It is not called Endless Hill for nothing. It is the tallest -and longest- hill on the Iditarod Trail between Nome and White Mountain (or Council). It is a long, windswept, lonely hill. Just when you think that is the top ahead of you, turns out you are only a third of the way up!

Copyright © 2011 Janet Balice

Ramon climbs Endless Hill while escorting Janet

Copyright © 2011 Janet Balice

Freckles enjoying the sun

Solomon has a very nice B & B or Lodge, aptly ran by Jim Stimpfle, who treated her like a Queen. Thursday 3/17 she departed for the overland trip to her dog lot in Nome.

I had spoiled and fattened Freckles, and she took him back on Friday the 18th, all tail wags and happy to be plump again!

Here is Freckles back at the dog lot. He is an old sleddog, but while shy, is a gentle, harmless soul. When this picture was taken, he had just eaten my special treat: Two Cups of Kibbles and one whole can of Dinty Moore beef stew. Still, he is shy of the camera! Freckles stayed with me for four days, and I like him a lot.


My round trip distance on the first Nome-Council-Nome leg was 191 miles, and my 2011 Tundra LT 600 ACE consumed 9.6 gallons of fuel. For the entire distance I towed a plastic Big Boggan sled of about 300 pounds. My result was 20 miles per gallon. Similar mileage was achieved on the return escort. Incredible!


Story Copyright © 2011, Ramon Gandia.
All Rights Reserved