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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Special Adventure

Liz Parrish, instructor, and team

Meredith and team

Meredith and team

Musher Lee Ann

Lee Ann and Team

Karen and Team

Lee Ann and Team

Meredith and Team

The Run Your Own Iditarod Adventure wraps up today. Liz Parrish is the instructor and will have a full account of the weekend for us that will be posted soon. Until then, I thought I would share some photos of their final run on Gunflint Lake earlier this morning.

There were two participants who signed up to Run their own Iditarod this weekend. They plunged into the details of mushing dogs directly upon their arrival last Thursday.

Time to Catch Up!

Laying down on the job

Dog mushing is hard work! Wait, where are the dogs?

Sandy Hagan with his team

The wifi is temporarily functional which makes it easier for me to catch up a bit this afternoon. Last weekend was a busy one. Guest musher, Sandy Hagan, came up for the weekend to help with client adventures. Sandy has Canadian Inuit Dogs, Malamutes, Large Freight Alaskans and mixes of each. He was concerned, at first, that Liz, with her Iditarod dogs, wouldn't be able to keep up out on the trail and he'd have to spend a lot of time waiting for her......

Sandy also spent a lot of time laying down on the job as you'll see by the photo above. He made up for it, however, by pulling his own sled while the dogs rested. He and his dogs did a wonderful job with guests and we're thankful he could join us this season.

Liz and Karen went out on an all day adventure last Tuesday with a couple of wonderful ladies that traveled all the way from downtown Minneapolis just to go dog mushing. Each adventure is customized to the individual participants and since it was so cold, we decided to begin the day on Gunflint Lake in case the weather took a turn for the worst. A steep and windy hill that leads down to the boat landing from the dog yard is too treacherous for a team to go unassisted so I took the snowmobile and we tied the snub line of each team to the front bumper and I slowly helped the teams down the hill, one at a time. Just before the road crossing, one participant got out to check for vehicles on this minimally traveled road. Both teams crossed the road safely and headed across the lake.

Unfortunately, it was quickly apparent that an extended trip on the lake would not be in the best interest of our guests when the wind picked up and white-out conditions prevailed. Turning the teams around, our mushers took the teams back to the dog yard to stop for lunch and prepare for the afternoon portion of the adventure that would consist of a dog mushing slide show presentation and a trail run in the woods, which would allow shelter from the wind.

Our participants fully enjoyed their customized adventure and insisted on helping feed the dogs after the run. It was then that we discovered that there was a birthday girl among us. Barbara had just turned 80 years old the day before! She said she didn't want to tell us until after the adventure because she was afraid we wouldn't let her go! Sneaky.....

After the busy holiday weekend I spend the day in Grand Marais. A pallet of dog food had been delivered and needed to be picked up. In addition, I was called to act as an expert witness and give a deposition for a case currently in litigation for which I did the appraisal two years previous. Imagine purchasing a home and finding out years later that there is a burial mound of Native American affiliation on your property to which you were not informed. Because I am based in northern Minnesota during the winter, the deposition was given in Grand Marais and both attorneys made the trek from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area for the event. I tried to entice them to go on a dog mushing adventure during their stay but was unsuccessful.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Pristine snow on Gunflint Lake

Karen investigates the wolf kill remains. This spot will be some good "on by" training for the sled dogs!

Open Dog Yard

A guest gets a big wet kiss from one of Karen's dogs prior to her departure

Sandy, our guest musher, gives a client a lesson in sled dog harnessing

Temps were below zero over night, making the trails set up nicely. Four guests were taken out on the trails with the dogs today while I took to the lakes with the snowmobile to see how the conditions were after our rain earlier this week. Only a few days ago, a day after the rain and one day of snow, Gunflint Lake was entirely slush. Not one section passed along with the snowmobile was free of the nasty stuff. It seemed unlikely that the lake would be ideal for dog team travel any time soon.

To my surprise, I found Gunflint Lake to be relatively slush free today and the new track laid will be runnable for the dogs tomorrow as temps are below zero again over night. Also a surprise was the wolf kill in the middle of the lake. As usual, nothing was left but a few bits of hair.

In the dog yard today, our guests enjoyed their adventures; so much so that two others who came along to watch their friends take off, quickly booked adventures for tomorrow. We also hosted over a dozen people at our Open Dog Yard event. I think it was a record number for toddlers in attendance! Parents were asked to keep close tabs on the toddlers and educated to the behaviors of some dogs with regards to loud high pitched noises and awkwardly "toddling" small objects that can quickly engage the dogs' prey drive. The toddlers viewed most dogs from afar with an occasional "up close" moment with some of the more toddler friendly dogs such as Sweet Pea.

Tomorrow brings another busy adventure schedule with six guests heading out on the trails with us.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Snow Continues!

Temps today were around 22 degrees F when we awoke and topped out at nearly 35 degrees F. The snow has been continuously falling since the evening before last and it continues to build up on the trees. It is a wet heavy snow so it is making the smaller twigs in the forest droop with its weight. The beauty that results is breathtaking!

Even though the temps were higher than ideal today for the dogs and the trail conditions were iffy, we did manage to take six guests out on a Highland Trail adventure today without doing irreversible damage to the trails. The dogs had not been out since Sunday and were just so ready to go!

Six more adventures tomorrow and the temps appear to be dropping.

Show and Tell

Gunflint Pines Resort and Campground

All of Karen's sled dogs are rescue dogs!

Kids and dogs alike, enjoyed every minute of their time together

Since our adventures for the day were not possible due to the poor trail conditions from the previous few days of warm temps and rain, we found ourselves at a nearby lodge using the wifi service since ours continues to cut in and out. Yesterday it was out. (and today...)

We were warned that forty five 5th graders were about to descend upon us so we should be prepared. They had come up from Grand Marais for a day of outdoor winter fun that included sledding, snowshoeing, ice fishing and skiing. The owner of the Gunflint Pines Resort and Campground mentioned, in passing, that it would have been nice to have a team of sled dogs here for the kids to visit. Hmmmm.....well we're here with no adventures scheduled for the day so our guest musher, Karen, went to retrieve her dog truck and dogs. The dogs spent the next hour being petted and hugged by the kids. Win, win!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Winter Left and Now Has Returned

The dog yard withe the snow covered High Cliffs as a back drop

A beautiful sight!

Phoenix and Oken gazing through the brush

Klaus seems a bit perplexed. He thought it was spring already!

The others are excited about the snow as they jump and play

Sunday evening once our PUWWA2009 participants departed and after a long run with the dogs, we heard the weather forecast on the radio indicating that anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch of ice was expected beginning Monday morning through Tuesday afternoon. Being too exhausted to pack up that evening and head out, we did run the dogs to the truck to spend the night so that we could head out early on Monday morning otherwise we could have been stuck for a couple more days. Not he worst place to be stuck, however we were needed back at Gunflint Lodge.

Monday morning arrived and we headed to the truck with the last load of gear in the snowmobile sled at 4AM. We then walked the little dogs and Zulu out from the cabin, dropped the sled dogs and we were on the road by 5:30AM. We arrived back at the lodge at 7:30AM and just one hour before the rain began. Since then, up here at the lodge, 46 miles up the Gunflint Trail, we have had no ice. Just temps in the upper 30s to 40 and rain. Yes, rain.

Overnight the temps dipped to close to freezing and we awoke to a beautiful sight. Snow! Snow thickly covered everything. Only about 2 inches, however snow is so much better then rain. Unfortunately, however, the trails and lake conditions are still not conducive to dog mushing so our adventures had to be canceled yet again today in hopes that the cold front expected to arrive this evening helps to harden things up a bit for tomorrow. A quick excursion on the lake with the snowmobile proved to be a wet one. No portion of the lake traveled was free of the nasty slush. On the upside, once the cold comes back, the lake conditions will excellent with a hard packed surface, allowing us to travel just about anywhere on the lake without the worry of slush or harsh conditions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

PUWWA2009 Pictures

Points Unknown cabin

Chris, me, Scott and Karen

Jenn with her team

Stacy, Karolyn and team in the hardwood forest

Tuloon and Phoenix with Zodiak in wheel leading Cheryl around the cabin loop

McKenzie and Oken waiting for their turn to run

Card games in the cabin

Scott with one of his delicious creations

Karloyn with Tukisi

Zulu at 12 1/2 yrs old

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Group shot

The Cheryl and Sandy team followed by Jenn's three dog team

Stacy lead by Klaus with Tukisi and Isis in wheel

Mary on her solo run with a 4 dog team

Watching others being harnessed to run

This year's Points Unknown Women's Winter Adventure was held from February 5th to February 8th at the Points Unknown cabin off the Arrowhead Trail and north of Grand Marais, MN, USA. Six women traveled from central and southeastern Minnesota and Iowa to attend. The adventure was an intense introduction to Dog Mushing.

The adventure began with temps in the 20s during the day, making it up into the 30s on the final two days of the weekend. Overnight temps were in the teens to the 30s. We had an overall mild weather weekend compared with last year's adventure that saw temps in the 20s below zero during the day!

Through a process of fully supported small steps, the participants learn to run a team of sled dogs through the scenic bush trails of northern Minnesota with and without a passenger.

Our mushers-in-training were excited to begin the fun; balance training, dog handling and care, harnessing, etc. Our new mushers proved to be very quick learners and had many successful runs with the dogs.

In addition to dog mushing there were moonlight snowshoe hikes, excellent meals from Scott at Corner Table, rousing card games and lots of fun conversation.

Question of the weekend - "Will there be an advanced Dog Mushing Adventure in the future?" Plans are in the works for such an adventure in 2010. You must have already attended a Points Unknown Adventure to attend. After a quick refresher, we'll spend the next two full days on the trails with the dogs and head back each evening to the cabin. If interested, please reserve your space as soon as you see it posted on the Points Unknown website as this year's adventure filled quickly!

Scott, Chris and Karen..... you all add so much to these adventures! Thanks so much for all of your thoughtful hard work!

Satisfied Guests!

Photo courtesy of Deanna Belden

While many youngsters are uncomfortable being in a sled by themselves, Adam was raring to go and enjoyed every minute of his solo run as a passenger.

Photo courtesy of Deanna Belden

Liz talks with Adam about the dogs

Photo courtesy of Deanna Belden

The Belden family during an Open Dog Yard event

We were happy to be able to host the Beldon family on numerous adventures during their stay at Gunflint Lodge. Adam is 5 years old and already has a passion for sled dogs. He wanted to know everything there was to know about them and soaked up everything we gave him! The family went on two separate adventures, attended numerous Open Dog Yard events and attended an evening dog mushing presentation during their stay.

The below email is included by permission of the sender.

"Hi Linda,

I just wanted to send a note to thank you for the great time two weekends ago with the dogs. Adam had the time of his life. Liz and Helen were so wonderful to him and did a great job making it special. We also loved meeting Ilu and he is of course Adam's favorite of your dogs.

A friend of ours loaned us his skijoring gear this weekend and Holly pulled Adam around on our sledding sled and everyone had a blast! Holly has always been a puller on walks, and she did great with the harness.

Thanks again for such a great experience.

Deanna Belden"

Monday, February 2, 2009

Preparing to Leave for PUWWA2009

Scott from Corner Table

Chris with Copper

Scott taking off with his team

Preparing or a run

Karen with Copper

Two guest mushers have arrived at Gunflint Lodge. Don Deckert will be here assisting Liz and Helen on client dog mushing adventures over the next week while Karen DeBoise and I leave for the Points Unknown cabin tomorrow morning. The women arrive for the Points Unknown Women's Winter Adventure 2009 on Thursday afternoon.

All staff from this adventure will be arriving two days before the participants so we can prepare for their arrival and take some time to play together on the trails with the sled dogs for a day. Chris, our dog handler, brings his dogs Frankie and Lilly along for the adventure. We'll run three teams and do a fun 12 mile run through the narrow, hilly and windy bush trails leading from the cabin.

Scott Pampuch from Corner Table Restaurant is our guest chef for the adventure. This is his second year with us and we can't wait to see what delicacies he has in store for us this week!