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Monday, June 25, 2007

BOW Training and Fishing Launch

Sunset on Lake Mille Lacs

Beautiful evening

Getting ready to fish

One of six fish caught

Peaceful evening on the lake

This weekend was the DNR's Becoming an Outdoors Women instructor training day in Isle, MN. The day was spent discussing how to write curriculum and the psychology of how women learn and interact as compared with how men learn and interact. In a nutshell, women and men act differently in mixed groups than they do in a group of just men or just women. This interaction plays a role in the learning of individuals in each group. Generally women learn better when in a group of all women. There is less competition and more teamwork and emotional support, which supports the way women are typically hardwired.

We discovered that, although there are some very basic differences in how each sex is "hardwired" and how each will learn best and in what setting, there has been an evolution in the past few decades that has closed the gap a bit. Overall, its very important to deal with each person as an individual and tailor-make their experience based on their personality, ability and experience.

This day of training was followed by a Lake Mille Lacs fishing launch to fish for Walleye, the Minnesota state fish. We couldn't have asked for a better day. The temps were a bit warm when the launch began but quickly cooled off once on the lake. Unfortunately, the May Flies hatched a few days prior so most of the Walleye were sitting on the bottom of the lake with their stomachs full, completely ignoring the tasty leeches on our lines. The guide told us that the week before, he had launches with over 200 fish caught and had slowly seen them drop off since this hatch to the all time low of 6 fish caught, which was on our launch.

Since the journey is just as important as the destination, our bad fishing luck didn't seem to dampen the mood on the boat. We enjoyed each other's company, the call of loons and the wonderful sunset.

Hail Storm

The approaching storm

Ominous sky

Last week we experienced seven minutes of hail, wiping out nearly half of the apple crop at two of our orchards. June is a month to watch for hazardous weather in our area. Several years ago we were wiped out on the same day in June, two years in a row.

Thankfully, all sled dogs found their way to their dog houses before hail the size of golf balls came crashing down; just big enough to cause serious injury. The storm did provide a much needed respite from the 90 degree temperatures that had plagued us for over a week. The change in temps revived the dogs. Its hard to believe that some haven't begun to shed.

3 Week Puppy Picture

3 week old Hedlund Husky Pups

Sunday, June 17, 2007

2 Week Puppy Update

2 week old Hedlund Husky pups.

The McKenzie/Cranberry pups are two weeks old. Their eyes opened a few days ago and they are getting more and more mobile.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

1 Week Puppy Update

1 week old Hedlund pups.

The Cranberry/McKenzie puppies are now one week old and as healthy as can be. As you can see, they are all very uniformly gray and white except for the blonde girl on the end. Interesting how Points Unknown has two blonde Hedlund Huskies........... Maybe this is a sign of things (a pup) to come?

Of course, coloring and markings are not what makes a good sled dog. In time, their personalities will begin to blossom, their coat type will be more apparent and their overall "build" will take a little better form than just a cute little blob of puppy. From all of this, pups will be carefully matched to the appropriate home and kennel situation. We will wait patiently to see which pup will be selected for a Journey from Alaska to Points Unknown.

Canicross Hike; Willow River State Park

Canicross Hiking

Willow River Falls

Conan decided that in the water was the best place to be.

Bugsy and team.

The Points Unknown Canicross Hiking Club met at Willow River State Park, near Hudson, Wisconsin over the weekend. The weather was perfect for a hike with temps around 80 degrees with sunny skies. There was even just enough of a breeze to keep the bugs away.

The hike began along the river in a low area with a gradual ascent through the woods to an open meadow surrounded by forest. Once back into the woods and along the river again, there were two look-outs that viewed the river and vast landscape below.

After the second look-out, we began the steep descent to the rocky "canyon" bottom and the waterfall; a large and scenic waterfall with rock walls on either side. This was the perfect spot for a long stop so both people and canine team members could take a lunch break and relax near or in the water.

After our much needed break, we continued on past the waterfall to an opening in the woods where a lake-like enlargement of the river could be seen and we rested for a short time, enjoying the scenery while the dogs played in the water. Deciding to turn back at this point, we took a side trail to visit the opposite bank of the river for a different, yet still spectacular, view of the waterfall before continuing on to the trail head.

We had five "teams" in attendance. The dogs included two Alaskan Huskies, one Hedlund Husky, one Collie/Husky Cross and one German Shepherd. The hike lasted roughly 3 1/2 hours. I think its safe to say that all canine and people participants slept well that night.

All Grown Up!

12 week old Phoenix

Phoenix at 19 months.

One of the joys of having traditional sled dogs is watching them grow up to be well rounded, hard working adult dogs.

When Phoenix was 9 weeks old, he and his brother, Niwot, were flown to Denver, Colorado from Anchorage, Alaska. They spent the next couple of weeks with Sandy, friend and Points Unknown instructor, and her husband Mark, until it was time for Sandy to make her way to Minnesota for the 2006 Points Unknown Women's Winter Adventure season. Phoenix and Niwot spent that winter being fawned over and attended to by every participant, as taking care of the puppies was one of the necessary daily tasks.

Phoenix began his sled dog training very slowly with a leash hooked to the back of his tiny puppy harness at the age of 12 weeks, taking "walks" from the cabin to the truck and back, which was nearly one mile each way. Since puppies have very short attention spans and training should always be made fun, he didn't spend the entire walk "working". Lots of stops were made to enjoy playing in the snow drifts and with the treasures he would find along the way.

When Phoenix was 6 months old he was hooked into the team for the first time and placed next to a hard working and strict teacher, Sweet Pea. These few runs were under a mile. Phoenix was such a hard puller, he needed to be monitored so he wouldn't overexert himself and his tug line had to be detached on our return trips as he was pulling too hard for his still maturing frame.

At 10 months of age we began fall training and he was in the team on shorter runs, under 6 miles in length. It took him a while to learn to pace himself and not give 110% during the entire run. By the winter, he had matured enough and had enough experience on little runs, that pacing himself became easier.

Leader training for Phoenix began slowly at 10 months of age. He was placed in lead with Zulu, the magnificent, who began to teach him the proper lead dog etiquette. Phoenix acted as though he was made to be a lead dog by being so cool and calm for such a young dog. His leader training was intermittent so as not to stress him. He spent most of the winter of 2006-2007 in point position, behind the leaders.

Recently, Phoenix was given his first try at one on one leader training in the form of canicross hiking. Being around other dogs who already know this skill, made it easy for him to pick up the finer points of the sport. Speaking as the person behind the tug line on this day, I have to say that he now needs to learn that when pulling one person on foot, the power he applied can be diminished by about 90%. My sore legs will thank him. He picked up on "gee over" quickly and that is where the training stopped. One new situation and one new command is all he needed to deal with for that day.

This winter, in the team, he will be placed up in lead with a now 11 year old Zulu, with the hopes that Zulu can pass along everything he knows about being a magnificent lead dog, to the greenhorn to make the musher's training job a little easier.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

First Puppy Picture

McKenzie/Cranberry pups - 2 days old