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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

PUWWA2008 - February Adventure

Getting to know Ilu

Running a five dog team

Running a two dog team on the first afternoon

Balance training on the sled without dogs

The view below from the cabin deck

A snowshoe hike in the morning

Off they go!

Puppy time in the evening

Cabin Talk

More Puppies!


Little did I know it at the time, but I would be spending the entire Points Unknown Women’s Winter Adventure suffering and recovering from a sinus infection. Thank goodness for the Points Unknown crew. If it were not for Karen DeBoise, patient teacher and mushing role model who took over the bulk of the teaching, Scott Pampuch, chef extraordinaire, snowmobile driver and$$ substitute teacher and Chris Mueller, the dedicated dog handler, the adventure could not have taken place. Many sincere thanks to all!!

The women arrived on Thursday afternoon. Two were traveling from South Carolina, one from Virginia and the last from Minnesota. Karen greeted them with a dog team to transport their gear while they tested their new snowshoes on the approximate mile hike into the cabin. Temps were in the mid 20s, making it easy to be outside, even for those from the southern states.

By the end of the weekend, our four participants would be running their own team of five traditional freight style sled dogs with a partner in the sled. The first morning consisted of the introduction to the dogs and sled, balance training on the sled without the dogs, proper use of the snow hook and brake and techniques for keeping the gang line tight. That afternoon the ladies applied their morning training when they ran a two to three dog team around a loop assisted by the other participants and the Points Unknown Crew. The next morning allowed for free time to roam around the woods on snowshoe, and to mentally prepare for the afternoon of running a five dog team with a partner in the sled.

Our guests ran their five dog teams as though they had been running dogs all winter. All runs went off without a hitch. Everyone used the knowledge they gained the day before and had extremely successful runs.

On Sunday we had planned to take it a step further and have our participants run a three dog team solo, assisted only at take-off and upon arrival at the end of the trail. Instead, temps of 20 below zero F with wind chills of between 50 and 60 below zero kept us inside, safe from the dangerous and blustery weather. Our southern friends got to see and feel what a real Minnesota winter is like!

The Tuloon/Bazil puppies, now 4 ½ months old, came into the cabin for socialization every evening as we awaited our gourmet dinner prepared by chef Scott Pampuch of Corner Table Restaurant in Minneapolis, MN. After dinner was usually a short hike to view the impressively bright stars and to look for northern lights. One evening, we were surprised by the howl of wolves in the distance. The dogs were too as all 20 of them they howled back in an eery harmony.

Karen spent the nights, even at 20 below zero, with her five dog team, all cuddled up in a tent. Each dog had his/her own sleeping bag and a propane heater was used to warm the air for the six pack when temps dipped below what is a typical Illinois night. Scott and Chris also braved the cold in a tent while the rest of us spent nights in the cozy and sometimes overly warm log cabin. The Points Unknown sled dogs are used to these temps and would have been too warm in the cabin…….. or a tent. I did, however, put the pups in crates filled with straw the first 20 below night to keep them out of the wind. The following night, when the wind died down, those pups were perfectly comfortable staying out on the picket with the adults, with a nice nest of straw beneath them.

On Sunday afternoon, when the winds died down and the temp went up to almost 10 below zero, one final adventure was had as those who had never been on a snowmobile got a ride out to their trucks. All vehicles started without a problem which had been a concern with these low temps. With packed up and warmed vehicles, everyone drove away, hopefully with a little more respect for the wilderness and the simplicity of just being in it, as well as a new love for and understanding of our traditional sled dogs and how to work with them. It was so nice to have met everyone.

Many thanks again to the Points Unknown crew for making this trip happen and doing such a wonderful job!

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