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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Temperature Extremes, Wolves and Scenery

Medium size wolf tracks on our dog sled trail.

The wolf went in and out on his same track.

One of the many snowscapes created over night on Gunflint Lake

Temps have been erratic lately. Monday, January 28th it was in the high 30s. The Points Unknown Mushers arrived at Trail Center on the Gunflint Trail, which was the halfway point for the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon on that day, to watch the teams come through. For hours, it poured down rain. Highways were closed due to ice rink conditions and as a result, some of the mushers’ handler’s were unable to make it to this check point, leaving them unassisted.

We offered to help where we could while we waited for the sand and salt trucks to make their way up the Gunflint Trail which would allow us to return safely to the lodge. After waiting several hours we found out that the trucks planned to turn around at Trail Center and return to Grand Marais, leaving our northern route completely unattended. After hours of standing in the rain, we decided to head back to the lodge. Since the rain had continued for so long, the once icy roads heading north were now more slushy with a lot of ponding water. We kept our speed down and did return safely 15 miles way, to the lodge, however it did take us almost an hour.

Within the next couple of days, temps plummeted to 30 below zero F with wind chills dangerously low at 50 degrees below zero. These temps, just after the rain, did a number on our dog sledding trails. Thankfully, we didn’t get as much rain as they did further down the Gunflint Trail so most of our snow was intact, however we did get a nice layer of ice over the snow.

Helen and I spent the next day, with temps up from the 30 below mark but still below zero, grooming the trails with the snowmobile and groomer to break up some of the ice and move some of the light and fluffy snow around that had fallen during the night.

Fresh wolf tracks were found on our Highlands Trail. While exciting to see, the tracks are also concerning considering how close to the dog yard this wolf had ventured.

Heading out onto Gunflint Lake to check conditions and to break up a new snowmobile track for the dogs, we found the artwork completed by the wind over night. Numerous snowscapes blotched the wind-blown and hard-packed lake surface. In the distance, we were lucky enough to see a black wolf running onto the lake, then quickly off again once the snow machine was spotted.

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