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Saturday, February 13, 2010

PUWAWA 2010 Part III; Trail Clearing Experience

Narrow bush trails

Scott is not only talented in the kitchen, he also runs a mean chainsaw.

Since trail clearing can be a big part of dog mushing, it was decided that this type of experience would become part of our adventure for the morning. We arose to bright blue, sunny skies. The dogs were fed their soaked mixture of a 32/20 Power Edge Redpaw Kibble, Annamaet's Impact powder, which is a 43% protein powder and Redpaw's Balanced Formula fat. Hmmm Hmmm good! A heavily baited water is also offered after the dogs receive their food, whether they decide to drink it or not. Interestingly enough, many pass on this delicious soup and manage to stay hydrated by dipping snow along the trail.

The goal was to open up an existing connection to one of our main dog sledding routes. This would give our mushers a new experience on an even narrower bush trail with their dog teams. The parade began with the snowmobile towing a sled filled with gear followed by five people on snowshoes. This trail would be well packed!

We made our way down the obvious and open route until we hit a dead end and could no longer find the trail. It seemed to have just vanished. It made sense to then head out to make our connection from the other end. After many sweepers were lopped and a large downed pine tree was cut up and removed from the trail, we found ourselves yet again, at another dead end. This made no sense but since we were on a schedule, needing to get out on the trail with the dogs after lunch, we abandoned our trail connection and began the trek back to the cabin. First, we wanted to see if the dogs were on their toes back at the cabin and began to howl. No response. Either everyone was sleeping or we were in a valley and our howls could not be heard. Chris and I returned on the snowmobile with all of the gear as Jen, Cheryl, Sandy and Scott made their way back on snowshoes in a direction that should have been a shortcut through the woods.

Chris was dropped off with his snowshoes at our original dead end to see if he could snowshoe the connection while we waited for everyone else to make their way back. Chris returned shortly with news that it took only a ten minute snowshoe hike to make the connection! He also indicated that there was a fresh snowshoe trail heading parallel to the main trail which would not bring our adventurers directly back to the cabin but on a much longer journey where they would find themselves on the Arrowhead trail, some two miles out of the way, or if they traveled in a wide circle, as often happens when lost in the woods, they could end up on Highway 61 along Lake Superior which was about seven miles south! We had lots of daylight left and knew we would have no trouble finding them since they left such an obvious trail in the snow. We began to load up the snowmobile tow-behind with additional gear, adding a back pack to carry items in once the snowmobile could go no further and just as we were about to leave the dog yard, we heard howls coming from up the trail. It was our snowshoers and they had found the way back!

We had told everyone that if they wandered out on the trails around the cabin they could always howl to try and get a response from the dogs to help direct them back. Apparently, however, the portion of the trail traveled was in a valley and the howls could not be heard just as our howls to the dogs could not be heard at the point of beginning for our snowshoers. Ultimately, a compass and map would have been the way to solve this problem. Thankfully, the group decided to backtrack after the trek became longer than expected. It was at this point that they ran into Chris' snowshoe track that was just made while connecting the trail and they followed it back to the main trail. And thankfully, it was also winter where tracking lost adventurers is much easier. Had there not been snow on the ground, our guests would have been encouraged to follow the main trail rather than cut through the woods without a compass and map, not to mention the knowledge of how to use both!

Scott served a hearty lunch and everyone rested as mental preparations were made for our afternoon dog sled run.

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