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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Audubon Center of the Northwoods

7:15AM and the dogs are fed in preparation for their day of adventure.

Neil shows our guests how to harness the dogs.

Off we go! Three teams out on the trail.

The log cabin in the background is what we called home during our stay.

Linda's team

Neil and team

Oken and Journey lead the third "team". Dogs were moved in and out of lead and back and forth between teams to make for a more fun experience for them.

Since these were one mile runs, White Feather and Topa, the 6 month old puppies, got to run once in the morning and twice in the afternoon. When they weren't running, they were very upset to left behind.

Topa on her final run of the day.

Points Unknown sled dogs provided a full day of fun for families attending the Audubon Center of the Northwoods holiday family event this week. A presentation was given on Monday evening that included appearances by Ilu and Topa. Tuesday's event began bright and early when we loaded up three sleds and took folks on a mini-adventure around a very scenic, one mile wetlands trail. In all, nearly 60 people got to get a taste of how it is to work with the Points Unknown sled dogs.

What an excellent learning experience for the dogs! They aren't used to such short runs. A total of 12 miles in one day is nothing for them but when you add 12 hook-ups each one half an hour apart and 12 one mile runs, that adds another element entirely. The dogs were noticeably tired half way through the day and it's the mental tiredness rather than the physical tiredness that creeps up on them. Lots of praise helps to recharge them mentally as well as moving dogs around in new positions and next to different dogs. The meat snacks help to keep their physical energy level up. They made it through the day just fine and in spite of the fact that their musher was struggling with a sinus infection. Dogs key off of the mood of their musher many times and I wonder that if this musher had been 100%, how might that have affected the dog's during this long mini-adventure day.

The folks at the Audubon Center were wonderful to work with and the facility was ideal for the dog mushing event planned. Points Unknown returns to the Audubon Center for a Women's Winter Event put on by the DNR's Becoming an Outdoors Women program, the last weekend in February. Won't you join us?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Puppy Lake Run

Topa with Tuloon in lead, heading straight for the camera man while Tuloon sticks to the intended trail.

White Feather now gets her turn in lead with mom.

Upon our arrival at Boyds Mason Lake Resort, the conditions on the lake were perfect for a low resistance and fast puppy run. Since Tuloon had been in heat and had to sit out of our first two runs, we put her in lead with her puppies. Both Topa and White Feather, now 6 months old, got a turn to be in lead with mom. This was their first time up in lead. Topa was as focused as a seasoned adult at her very young age. White Feather has excellent potential and is still very much a puppy as evidence by some of the puppy fun she had when she realized the sled was chasing her. She turned around while in lead, did a quick play charge and puppy play bow then when she realized the sled wasn't stopping, she ran straight back in lead and kept a tight line the remainder of our short journey.

At Boyds Mason Lake Resort

The beast of a dog truck parked strategically so that the outriggers could be fully extended and the stainless steel dog lines could also be tied to the truck and then extended to nearby trees. We were able to take off on to the trails right from the truck.

Copper and Blue sat on wool blankets while tied to the outriggers during sled dog feeding.

Neil checks the ice depth on Bass Lake which is in front of the main lodge.

Phoenix and Journey lead Neil's team

There is a beautiful stand of pines through which the trail runs.

Open fields provide a lot of opportunity to add miles on to the trails.

Neil and team in the field.

We practice passing and now Neil is in lead with his team.

Fir tree lined trails

Old growth Hemlock forest

Hauling water for the dogs

The dogs back at the truck.

In Search of Snow

Boyds Mason Lake Resort near Park Falls, Wisconsin

Cozy Fireplace

Main Lodge

Plans had been made for months to take the dogs up to the Points Unknown cabin in Hovland, MN for the holidays. Just a week before there was no snow in sight! Deciding to follow the snow, we got in contact with a new friend who happens to own a resort in north central Wisconsin and they had snow! Plans were quickly changed and off we went to investigate some new trails and, potentially, a new location to add for our women's winter adventures.

Boyds Mason Lake Resort was opened in 1893. The property contains around 2600 acres of pristine woods, old growth Hemlock forests and four lakes. There is a main lodge with a cozy sitting area, main dining hall and recreation room with dormitory style rooms above and several small to large log cabins located nearby. The site contains over 20 miles of unplowed logging roads as well which can make for excellent dog sledding trails.

Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by Leon who showed us where we would be staying and pointed out several different potential locations to park the dog truck drop the lines for the dogs. High on our list was to investigate the quality of the trails so shortly after we settled in, we went off on the snowmobiles which were thoughtfully offered by the resort for our use. The trails had been packed for us shortly before our arrival so all we had to be concerned about was making certain not to get lost by using one of their very detailed topography maps of the area, to find our way around. A trail needs to meet very specific criteria to be called a safe dog mushing trail so we had no expectations about what we would find and had just hoped to enjoy our time away with the dogs no matter what we encountered. What we found was far better than we could have imagined. Boyds Mason Lake Resort has excellent potential for dog mushing and we spent the next three days exploring with the dogs and being awestruck by the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

On the Boyds Mason Lake Resort's website you'll find a statement you commonly see with regards to how you can expect to be treated during a stay at a resort. "We consider our guests part of our family." It's very cliche and not really given a serious thought until you actually arrive and experience it for yourself. I can honestly say that we were indeed treated like family. Our experience with Chris and her family resort couldn't have been any better. Best of all, they are extremely dog friendly and expect your dog to be treated as family, as well.

Points Unknown returns to the resort on January 7th for a Women's Retreat being offered. Make sure to keep an eye on our website as you can expect to see Points Unknown Adventures being offered at Boyds Mason Lake Resort in the future!

Happy Holidays From All of Us to You!

Linda and Neil with Zulu on our warm Thanksgiving holiday to Arkansas

The house dogs, Zulu, Blueberry and Copper






Sweet Pea






Baby Topa

Baby White Feather

Monday, December 21, 2009

Alright Tuloon, Enough.

The solicitous play paw out of nowhere while Blue was just walking by, minding his own business.

Action shot

Blueberry finally has enough and tries a tackle move. But, alas his 22lb frame is no match for such a big strong sled dog (affected by out-of-control hormones).

For some reason, Tuloon has been overly amorous during this heat cycle, to the point where she has had to be banished from the house for a few hours just to "cool down". Poor Blueberry has been her love target. He avoids and ignores her for the most part and lately has been more assertive, trying to fend her off. (Blueberry is fixed) Tuloon has apparently gotten over her crush on Copper who is also fixed. She has wanted him to sire a litter for the past several years, until now. No wonder he's been moping around the house lately. Poor guy, tossed to the wind when you get a little gray in the face. Hopefully we only have another day to put up with Miss Princess and her raging hormones.

Tuloon had to sit out on our run again today. Phoenix and McKenzie can't concentrate in the least when she is within scent range. Speaking of Phoenix - what an EXCELLENT job he did today! I had he and Journey leading in the front team today and Klaus and Zala in lead with Neil. The goal of today's run was to have the dogs begin from a different "chute" and go the opposite way around the lake. At first, Phoenix became a bit confused when he saw the other team on the other side of him rather than the side he was used to and headed, momentarily, for the other team. One quick "on by" command and back he went, straight towards the lake. Upon entering the lake, the dogs usually will cut the corner to the right rather sharply, sending the musher into the reeds, if not careful. This time, before we reached the reeds I gave a quiet "haw" command which would then bring us out the opposite way we typically have gone. He took it on a dime. The remainder of the run was the same, even with challenging commands with many different directions from which to choose. Spot on Phoenix! That is, until the very end when we were headed back home. I wanted him to take us back to the house by taking a "gee" but after several attempts, it became apparent that it wasn't going to happen. Not certain why but because there was no way to hook the sled down to remind him what "gee" means due to the snow conditions, off we went to make another loop around the small portion of the lake and take the approach at a different angle. Then he did just fine. Like people, sometimes dogs just have blank- out moments. We'll just add this to the training list.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Million Dollar Smile

Rich skijors with McKenzie.

Alright, maybe its just a thousand dollar smile after the nearly one thousand dollars worth of dental work that McKenzie had last week. We noticed an inflamed area on his upper left cheek area, just under his eye. Just as we thought, an abscess. A total of three teeth needed to come out. Apparently three root teeth are a bear to operate on and all three teeth had three roots, thus the immense bill. Did I ever mention how expensive it is to have sled dogs? It's the only real downside to keeping a team. And it usually is an unpredictable event. This is one of the reasons why they need to work for a living doing our adventure trips. I guess McKenzie will have to do some overtime this season.

We took two teams out today and left Tuloon at home with her hormones. McKenzie was the odd man out so he got some special one on one time with Rich who took him around the lake by himself. He has recovered from his dental surgery nicely and remains on antibiotics for another few days.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sled Dog Couch Time

Me and my buddy Klaus. Of course dogs are allowed on the couch!

Alright, this isn't a sled dog. Copper and Blue enjoy a nightly game of "find it" before the sled dogs come in and then they are banished to their crates so as not to be accidentally injured during sled dog play. Treats are hidden all around the sun room for them to find. Copper relaxes here, finishing off Neil's apple.

When can Blue come out to play?

Oken, Journey and Klaus marvel at what Thursday night television has to offer.....

Icoa tried to take Ilu's stuffed toy.

In addition to running the dogs on either a cart or sled, having daily play groups in our large enclosures and the numerous obedience classes and specialty classes we attend with our dogs, we try to get a different group of dogs in for some evening couch time about four times a week. This adds to our relationship with each individual. It creates a stronger bond that translates to more quality time spent on the trail.