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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Gunflint Lake Trial Dog Run

In front of the lodge on Gunflint Lake

Ilu; always smiling

Heading out on our adventure

Taking a break to praise the dogs for their spectacular open country leading

Jenny in the sled

Eating lunch at Camper's Island

The dogs staked out on the ice while we eat

John standing on the hook, securing the team

We return to find trees sunk in the lake for use to hook our sleds down

Temps were -6 degrees F this morning with a high somewhere above 10 degrees F.

Tomorrow we have our first full day adventure with clients on Gunflint Lake so we spent today in preparation. Helen and I each took a team of six out on the run and invited John, the Gunflint Lodge Naturalist and Jenny, the Gunflint Lodge Massage Therapist, to come along to offer feedback and to enjoy the experience.

We decided that the best way to get the dogs down to the lake was to bring them in groups in our vehicles. My dog truck is a cube van and too large to take down by the lodge and in addition, there is a very steep hill down to the lake and without a running start, the truck won't make it up. Helen has a dog trailer and it just doesn't make sense to go through the trouble of hooking up the trailer for less than a half a mile. So, I used my Subaru and took two trips, four dogs in one trip and two in another and Helen took all six in the back of her pick-up truck. It works.

We ice screwed our dog tie-outs on the lake, hooked our sleds down, hooked the dogs up to the gang line, took the ice screws out and rolled up our dog tie-outs, pulled the hooks and we were off. I had Tuloon and Klaus in lead, they were getting another change after not being very responsive on my Loon Lake test run. Since there were no hills on this run, I brought Zulu along and Phoenix was next to him in Point. This left Icoa and Ilu in wheel.

At this point, there were numerous tracks now on the lake from which to choose so it was quite the "gee" and "haw" lesson for the young leaders. Once past the point where the snowmobiles travel, the track we had laid a couple days ago was blown over and indistinguishable. My young leaders got a lesson in open country leading and to my surprise, did it like veterans! They were "geeing" and "hawing" all over that lake and I couldn't stop smiling. What a great adventure and they were enjoying every minute of it. I noticed that most of the dogs behind the leaders were also joining in the commands and taking direction from their position. What fun.

After a few miles of our open country adventure we joined up with our original trail and headed to Camper's Island for lunch. Here, the tie-outs were ice screwed in the lake and the dogs were taken off the gang line for a break. I had brought along a special trail treat for the dogs of raw, frozen and ground beef liver, beef heart and pork trimmings. Cutting chunks with my ax, each dog got about a third of a pound of the frozen snack. They rested contently while we went on the island to eat our lunch.

In preparation for our departure, I cut a deep groove in the ice with my ax, placed my ice hook in it and pounded it in with the back of the ax. I then secured my quick release to the ice screw closest to my sled. After moving all of the dogs back on the gang line I wound up my tie-out line, making sure to end up closest to my sled so I could pull out the ice screw with the quick release attached, at the very last minute. During all of this, I had my passenger standing on the snow hook which had been securely sunk into the hole in the ice. Once my final ice screw was out, I traded places with my passenger and stood on the snow hook as he got in the sled. The dogs were quite calm at this point so my passenger wouldn't necessarily have had to stand on the hook, however its an extra precaution to take if a second person is available.

On the return trip we ran into just about as much slush as we did on the way out. We were on a different track and even though it seemed packed, the slush still appeared. The dogs were very good about trudging through and not stopping. On the way in, we had stayed a bit too long in one spot of slush and needed to rock the sled several times to get it moving as it had already frozen in the slush.

Upon arriving back to the lodge we noticed that during our absence, trees had been sunk in the lake for us to use to tie our sleds down and to attach our tie-out lines. Those will sure come in handy and they blend into the landscape versus using a wooden or metal post.

Many thanks to our passengers and helpers for the day, John and Jenny!

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