Monday, July 31, 2017

Faith is like a bluebird you see from afar...

Had a visitor the other night in the backyard. A Juvenile Steller's Jay spent time in our trees during a very windy part of the day. Steller's Jays are my favorite type of bird that we have. Yes, they beat out even the incredible Bald Eagle. (One of the Steller's in our yard can make the same sound an Eagle makes, it's hilarious!) With the bird just sitting there it gave me enough time to run into the house and grab my camera and big lens. I kept creeping closer to him to get different angles and what not. It was super windy so a lot of them ended up with too much motion blur, but I got a few decent ones. Check them out (and don't forget to click the "read more" to see all of them!)

Monday, July 3, 2017

Changing of the Guard: Jonrowe says Iditarod 2018 to be her last

If you grew up watching the Iditarod like most children in Alaska did in the 80s and 90s you knew DeeDee's name. If you were female, in Alaska, and growing up in that era you definitely knew her name. DeeDee Jonrowe was one of the women who people wanted to see win. Who knew she'd win. In many ways, DeeDee was supposed to champion what Susan Butcher had made common place - a female Iditarod Champion. Jonrowe was the media darling after Butcher retired to start a family. Jonrowe was as tough as they came and yet fought to keep her "femininity". She wore make up, had "styled" hair, and of course let's not forget all that pink (which as a kid I forgave because she was a lady musher poised to make it to the top).

She was a dominant name in the 90s, coming in second to some pretty fantastic champions three times, and never seeing a finish out of the top ten in that decade - except for 1999 when she scratched due to dogs balking at the winds of the Yukon River. Jonrowe has also had a difficult career due to personal crisis multiple time. In 1996 she was in a car accident that took the life of her grandmother and hospitalized herself and her husband. Her mother Peggy famously battled cancer several times throughout the last 3 decades, before finally losing the battle in 2015 just weeks after DeeDee signed up for the 2016 race, and while wildfires destroyed the Jonrowe Kennel and home. The Jonrowes lost just about every material possesion along with most of the property's structures (all but one retired sled dog, and one cat, survived thanks to the quick action of Jonrowe and her friends). In 2002 DeeDee herself was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had surgery to remove both breasts, and after completing her chemo in January she ran the 2003 Iditarod where she placed an incredible 18th place (this was the first time Iditarod would run from Fairbanks to Nome, and was difficult for all teams). Through it all DeeDee pushed through, overcame, and continued to land herself consistently in the top 20.

This morning, the Iditarod Legend (and she deservedly owns that title) took to Facebook to report that the 46th Iditarod will be her last. The last few years have been an extreme emotional roller coaster for Jonrowe, with a lot of emotional posts coming through on social media. She also had a more pessimistic view in many of her interviews as she ran each race. While retirement seemed inevitable, the announcement was still a surprise to many in the mushing fandom. DeeDee is a recognized figure throughout the world and her name is synonymous with Iditarod.

I personally cannot remember a time when DeeDee was not a competitor in the Iditarod. Her first race was 1980, five years before I was born. She has entered every year I've been alive. Next to Libby Riddles and Susan Butcher, DeeDee Jonrowe was the next big thing. The torch passed from her to the next generation of dominant lady mushers a few years ago when Aliy made a splash first in the Yukon Quest in 2000 and then later on in Iditarod. Aliy seemed poised to be the next female super star (and she is) but now Jessie Royer and Michelle Phillips are hot on her tail ready to surpass her. No woman has been a dominant figure as long as DeeDee Jonrowe. While she may never hold the title of Iditarod Champion, she's every bit as known, loved, and respected as those who do (and in some cases she's more so). Next March may be the last time DeeDee runs the Iditarod race as a musher, but she will forever be a part of the Last Great Race.

Thank you for teaching girls world wide, but especially in Alaska, DeeDee how to stay strong and battle through the darkness! May this coming training and racing season be the best one EVER.

Share your favorite DeeDee Jonrowe memory in the comments below.