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Saturday, November 27, 2010


Simple Treasures.
Napkin flower that Rebecca made placed on the beginnings of our Christmas Tree.

I have to say that the past few days I have actually felt "normal", whatever "normal" means. I didn't have to wake up so ridiculously early to immediately begin what was scheduled to be yet another entire day of an insane pace of running from one thing to the next, trying desperately to meet this deadline while not overlooking that one, feeding dogs, making beeswax candles, doing appraisals, touching on the Redpaw dog food business, touching on the MN Honey Producer's proposal for next season, trying to keep up communication with family and good friends, then making sure each dog gets enough exercise and attention while sometimes ignoring what I might need at the moment. That life, although necessary at the moment, is a means to an end and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I got a taste of that light over the past few days. I actually got to enjoy what I am working so hard to have. It did remind me of the life I am working towards. "The Quest for a More Simple Lifestyle; Working with Traditional Sled Dogs" This insane pace is not sustainable and not enjoyable. Although I enjoy each and every one of the things I do individually, to combine them at their current level is indeed pure insanity. I'm doing it and will continue to as long as it is needed while slowly making plans for a much more scaled down version of most of it but the dogs.

So, what did I do that made me feel "normal"? Got some sleep, cooked, cleaned, casually enjoyed the dogs with no set schedule, worked in the beeswax candle workshop when I wanted to and not because I had to, enjoyed a wonderful holiday meal with friends who are like family to me, caught up with friends living long distance and shoveled some snow! It was heaven. What would have made it even better is if Neil had been here to enjoy it all with me.

Now that I've been reminded of what I'd like my life to be, I need to not lose sight of it and continue to work on balancing the things that need to be done with the things I want to do. It can be done! (This will be the new mantra.)

Injured Sweet Pea

Sweet Pea elevates her foot on Rebecca's pillow. "Oh, this is all so very serious and terribly painful," she implies with her expression.

Sweet Pea came running into the house with Tuloon and the little house dogs the other night with a yip and seconds later, she began to bleed profusely from her foot. Missing toenail! Somehow one of her toenails got caught in the threshold and off it came. Toenail, ear and tongue injuries appear so much worse than they are because of the enormous amount of blood involved and her toe bled and bled.

Rebecca held Sweet Pea's paw and applied pressure and as I applied gauze, a wrap and a bootie that then remained on until she chewed it off the next day.(Sweet Pea, not Rebecca) The bleeding appears to have stopped but we'll need to watch it closely because one bump and it can open up again. She'll be able to run in a few days with a bootie if she decides to use her foot. Right now, she is milking it for all she can and limps most of the time. I will take a few weeks for a toenail to grow back.

Poor Sweetie.

Hedlund Husky Puppies!

Tumac on one of his first runs last winter. What a handsome boy!

Hedlund Husky puppies are being born as I type. I won't give it away yet but I will provide a hint. Our Tumac, a 2009 Tuloon/McKenzie puppy, had something to do with it! Tuloon is a grandma!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ari and Zala in the House

Ari and Zala relaxing on the couch.

Mr Bashful


Trying to win over Copper while Copper just ignores him

What a cutie.

I can't believe it has taken us this long since his arrival in August to test Ari out in the house. I guess the way he reacted to White Feather and Wimzi during their introduction lead me to believe it would be a big challenge to introduce him to the little house dogs so I procrastinated. If you recall from an earlier post, Ari came in to the kennel with an attitude of "I'll get you before you get me" and met both White Feather and Wimzi with a wide open mouth as he chased them and cornered them. What would have happened after that we don't know because of my rapid intervention.

Well, Mr Mouth has now settled in nicely and this attitude now appears to be gone. Thank goodness. Now he's Mr Laid Back or Mr Cool and Easy which I like the idea of a whole lot better. When I opened the door, both he and Zala rushed inside and Ari promptly jumped up on the couch and pretty much remained there the entire evening. He did head down the hallway to meet the little dogs through the baby gate. The meeting was so uneventful I decided to introduce him to them one at a time and in the sun room. He did what most of the dogs do when they come in. He showed a lot of interest in Blueberry and sniffed and sniffed then tried to get him to play and avoided Copper altogether because of Copper's immediate posture and growl that says, "I'm little but I'll still rip you to pieces if you make a wrong move."

We've got another couch potato here at Points Unknown!

Even with a Plan....

We pass this horse facility on the way to our trail head. Little did we know that the horses were providing us with a kind of foreshadowing as they surrounded the sign.

Zala LOVES to lead in the snow! We don't see her doing her happy dance in the dirt.

Zodiak, cooling off his belly.

All smiles! Hailey, Ari and Journey.

Just look at those good dogs; so attentive.

Even with a plan and routine in place, things don't always go as you planned. It was just another fall/winter training day which would begin at our usual trail head. We pass a horse facility just before the trail head and all of the horses were hanging around the sign. I thought it was so interesting as they had never all been in a huddle before when we drove by. I stopped the truck to take a photo.

The first team went out on the trail and back in and it was all very uneventful; just a good and successful run. The dogs are unharnessed on the gangling and hop right up into the truck and into their crates. We set up the cart and then the next team of dogs comes out of their crates and on to the outriggers of the trucks for harnessing. All harnessed and we're ready to go. Now we just have to shut the truck door and lock it......oh but wait. We forgot to check in with each other to make certain that one of us had the pad lock key for the truck. Well, I did, but it was now locked in the back of the truck in my jacket along with the rest of the keys and my cell phone. Shoot. Oh well, after years of the same routine and no trouble, I guess it was bound to happen. Thankfully, there was plenty of daylight so there was no need to rush.

Our nearest neighbor is the Raven Ridge horse facility so I took a walk to pay them a visit while Hailey remained with the dogs. You don't get an awful lot of exercise running the dogs on the cart so the walk was welcome and it was such a nice day. As I walked, I thought to myself, hmmm, things happen for a reason. I wonder what is in store for us during this adventure other than learning that we need to have another key for the pad lock that is kept in the cart box.

Arriving at Raven Ridge, I was hoping they would have a bolt cutter first and then a cell phone if the bolt cutter failed. No bolt cutter. But the assistant facility manager was just leaving with her two beautiful Jack Russells, Henry and Eddy and happened to be heading in the direction of Points Unknown so I asked if they would mind some company. I would go home and get my other set of keys! I hopped in the truck and shared my seat with Henry and Eddy. Actually, Henry and Eddy shared my lap. Kate, the person who came to my rescue, and I began to talk and didn't stop the entire way back to Points Unknown. Turns out she is not a winter person and really would like to learn more about different outdoor winter activities so that she might be able to learn to enjoy this beautiful and magical season. Did she run into the right person. And things do happen for a reason. We've been staying in touch and I've got a plan to introduce her to the Points Unknown sled dogs who will be certain to help change her mind about winter.

Thanks so much to Kate for the rescue! When we returned to the dog truck she came out to meet the sled dogs as I tried to unlock the pad lock but with the wrong key! Geez. Well, at least I had a set of truck keys so was able to open the truck and squeeze through the small pass-through door to recover my coat with pockets full of all of my very necessary items.

We where then able to hook up the dogs and head out on our second run before dark. Wouldn't you know, the adventure didn't end with the key incident. The darn brakes began locking up on the cart on our way back and about 3 miles from the truck creating far too much resistance for the dogs. So we did a combination of pushing and running and the brake would free itself and we were off! But the moment we needed to brake, it locked again. So the routine was repeated over and over again until finally we made it back just before dark. There is always a positive way to frame something. At least the brakes were working and we didn't find ourselves careening down the trail, dragging our bodies behind the cart to try and slow them down!

All in all, it was a very fulfilling and entertaining day.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lake Freeze

Lake freeze on November 23rd, 2010

The early lake freeze has caught us off guard. We were expecting to continue to fall train the sled dogs into December as we have in years past without the added challenge of patchy snow laden and icy trails. In the past couple of weeks we've had freezing rain, snow and ice and it isn't going away. I'm not complaining. A solid early lake freeze would set the stage for a much needed long winter season. Winter has become too short.

November 23rd lake freeze. Who would have though? More cold on the way!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Phoenix and Ari Turn 5 Years Old!

Are you done yet?

Alright, I'll give you a little grin but I won't smile.

Phoenix has a mini Sweet Pea on his head!

I'm pretty cute, you know.

Blurry but smiling! Of course, he doesn't know there is a camera pointed at him.

I am way to modest for all this attention.

C'mon, no more cameras.

I am not impressed.

Ari's BIG blurry smile when he doesn't know the camera is pointed at him.

I have no explanation for this one - the tongue and leg combination?

Rebecca's Assignment: Birthday photos. Conditions: Bad light. Constantly moving and uncooperative dogs. Results: Some really funny pictures.

These two are the goofiest pair. They are extremely expressive and both so sensitive with Ari being painfully sensitive; very kind and honest dogs.

Phoenix came to us as a baby from Alaska and after taking some time to get to know us, as Hedlund Huskies often do, he quickly blossomed into one of our best leaders so far and will turn on a dime in open country. In addition to being a knock-out sled dog, he's a great couch cuddler.

Ari came to us within the past few months. He is still taking his time to get to know us and is opening up little by little each day. He's still testing boundaries but has become accepting of his new life and routine and will come when called 95% of the time. The other 5% of the time he will look at us and run the other way but if we stand our ground and are consistent in our expectations, he eventually does come. This dog has an awesome work ethic and puts 110% into his job. He loves to pull!

Happy Birthday to our sweet boys Phoenix and Ari!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Blooming Leaders

Topa, now 17 months old, only having begun her leader training, is a natural "gee over" dog. This means that her natural tendency is to pull to the right side of the trail. One less training challenge! Oken, although an excellent leader with a lot of open country experience, tends to pull to the left. Today, we placed Topa on his left side, knowing her right pull tendencies, hoping that she would then be able to push Oken to the right. Use one dog to help train another has always been a good training tool for us. And it worked!

Topa has an extremely quick "fix" response to verbal corrections and consistently holds the line very tight.

White Feather (AKA Woof, Woofer, Woofie), now also 17 months old, is proving to be an intense and driven leader. This photos captures her intense glare down the trail. She, too, is a natural "gee over" dog and keeps her line tight. During this run, not one correction was needed.

Ilo and Sweet Pea are content at wheel position. Although Sweet Pea takes commands from any position and does lead during our women's adventures, she would rather not. It seems to be too stressful a place for her in front of a bigger team. Ilo will continue to get little moments in lead for his first year with us but we would prefer he settled into our routine before we ask too much more of him. Rebecca, in the background, experiences cart running in the snow.

Trees beautifully framing our trail.

Guess What?

After over 2 1/2 years of getting to know each other and traveling back and forth from the UK to the USA, Neil proposed and we all accepted! After we wade through the immigration red tape, we are making plans for a Winter 2011-2012 wedding and, of course, the sled dogs will be involved!

Neil jumped right into my lifestyle involving the sled dogs, northwoods adventures, beeswax candles, MN Honey Producer's State Fair booth and hectic real estate appraisal schedule with both feet, right from the start. He has greeted every single challenging moment in those various adventures with a smile. We make a great team and he has become a good friend, not to mention that the dogs and I love him dearly. We feel very lucky.

A new adventure begins!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Neil!

Neil with Wimzi and Sasha last March

Neil can't be with us on his birthday but will join us again soon when he and his mother arrive for the holidays in December. We are looking forward to their arrival!

As usual, our projects are never ending when Neil is here and we'll be kept busy with holiday activities, developing a new slide show presentation for our winter events, training the dogs, preparing the curriculum for our winter adventures and cutting dog sledding trails up on our northwoods parcel. Another fun addition to the winter is our plans to visit our dog family and good friends in New Hampshire and pick up our new additions to the kennel. Lidia and Richard from Uktousa Kennel is home to our Tuloon/Bazil puppy, Cookqiz and our Tuloon/McKenzie puppies, Hana and Tumac. Tumac and Daisy, Journey's sister, were bred and puppies are due the day after Thanksgiving! We will make plans to fly to New Hampshire the end of January.

In addition, the Boundary Waters awaits! The Points Unknown sled dogs haven't made a proper BWCA trip since before our time providing the dog mushing adventures for Gunflint Lodge on the Gunflint Trail north of Grand Marais, MN which was three winters ago. Neil hasn't been into the BWCA and we are looking forward to giving him a tour.

So Happy Birthday to Neil! We hope you have a wonderful birthday and we all miss you and can't wait to see you next month.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

First Snow

Rebecca took most of these fun photos of the dogs (and people) having fun in the first snow of the season.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dog Truck Engine Fire!

Dogs were staked out on the lawn of a Country Kitchen restaurant.

After their camping adventures of the past few days, this was just another boring dog drop for them and they showed no signs of stress.

White foam drowns out the fire in the engine

Can't say thank you enough to the Proctor fire department for their quick response time.

Loading up truck filled with dogs and gear.

Traveling to the repair shop over Lake Superior.

Engine FIRE! This is not the type of adventure we had hoped for when making our return trip from our northwoods camp-out. Although the end of the story is a happy one, it made us really think about how close we came to a complete and horrific disaster and prompted us to begin making some very important contingency plans that were only loosely in place before the recent incident.

There is a steep hill when approaching Duluth from the South and also when leaving Duluth from the North. We happened to be on the southbound road, making the steep ascent to our refueling stop at the top of the hill. Rebecca and I traveled with the little dogs on the way home in the Tacoma and Neil was following close behind us in the dog truck which is a 24' dually, 1 ton cube van. He pulled into the pumps right behind me. The moment I stopped I could smell something burning and immediately thought there was something wrong with my vehicle. Out of truck I jumped to zip back and fill Neil in on this concern when I saw white smoke oozing out of the hood of the cube van. "You're smoking!", I yelled. Neil directed me to drive away from the pump. He restarted the dog truck and followed, then passed and parked a ways down the hill from the gas station and on the edge of a Country Kitchen restaurant parking lot. Neil got to the hood of the cube van first. He calmly, yet firmly shouted that we needed to get the dogs out of the truck, NOW. There were flames in the engine! Rebecca and Neil kicked it in to high gear, taking the dogs' stake out lines off the truck and swiftly attaching them to anything that appeared to be secure enough to hold them while I called 911. Shortly after the 911 call, most of the dogs were now off the truck thanks to many passers-by who stopped to help. Neil had used the fire extinguisher we keep in the cube van and it did give us a few precious minutes but not much longer.

The fire department arrived within a short time and began to douse the engine with white foam. This went on for the next 15-20 minutes.

During the somewhat organized chaos and after everyone was deemed safe, I walked through the line of dogs, taking yet another head count and noticed that Topa, one of our "in season" females was placed within reach of Ilo, an intact male who was about to take advantage of the situation. Just in time! That's just what we need.

The batteries to the vehicle were then disconnected so that it would be safe to transport, loaded with dogs, to the repair shop. The fire fighters continued to look at each other, shaking their heads at where the fire started and pondering how it began. They had no idea. It wasn't a toxic smell and it wasn't black smoke. It was white smoke. For the moment we discussed the possibility of a fire that didn't do any damage at all and that we would be back on the road in no time at all once it was fully checked over. This was our mantra for the next two hours as we waited for the mechanic to give it a good inspection. After, I might add, a scary sight of the dog truck, filled with dogs and gear, being winched on to the back of a flat bed tow truck and trucked across the Lake Superior bridge to Superior, Wisconsin. The dog truck had a noticeable tilt to the right and my stomach knotted up as I watched it move down the road.

And do you know what the mechanic said? "I have no idea". ! What?! "I can see some leaves up in the area you saw flames but I see no damage at all." After a round of conversions about what is could have been, we concluded that one of our friendly neighborhood chipmunks built himself a cozy nest on the area right behind the engine where the exhaust leads out. This area can get very hot and a mass of organic material could ignite if it got hot enough. Which it apparently did. Dennis, our hero, then attempted to start up the truck after connecting the batteries. It took several attempts and he commented that the glow plugs sounded as though they were burnt out and he asked if it was a hard starter. "Not at all", we said, so we just assumed it was the flood of white foam in the engine earlier that caused the delay because it did soon start and continued to start each time we shut it off for another test. We gave Dennis a gift certificate to a Points Unknown adventure and thanked him profusely as we headed out of the repair shop parking lot, hoping to never encounter another adventure of this type in the future.

Rebecca certainly got an initiation on this trip and we were so impressed with how quickly and calmly she reacted when the dogs' safety was compromised. We can't thank her enough. We are so thankful that all of our people and dogs got out safely. I wish we knew who those people were who helped remove the dogs from the truck and those individuals who helped to put out the fire. We feel grateful they were there and were willing to help. Thank you!

New Found Fall Training Trails

Warm but happy dogs

Ah, yes! Another puddle.

We and some of the dogs wore bright orange as deer hunting season was in full swing. There are few deer in this area this time of year so needless to say, we ran into no hunters along the way.

Where a spring runs over the forest road.

I saved this huge puddle just for Tuloon. Being the princess that she is, she doesn't like getting her feet wet. Well, this is required at times and this was the perfect spot to reinforce this point. She gently tip toed around every other puddle until we got to this one. No way around it! So we sat in it for 15 minutes until she stopped fidgeting and let go of her concerns about getting damp.

Woofer leans into the harness even while at rest.

Sweet Pea takes a moment to enjoy the scenery.


The Points Unknown sled dogs have worked their way up to 8 mile training runs. With the start-and- stop early on in the fall season due to warm weather, it has taken us longer than hoped to move our way up in distance. Either way, we're in this for the dogs, the scenery, the adventure and for just spending our time in the company of our dogs and the miles don't necessarily matter. As long as they are fit enough to lead us into the wilderness on any of the adventures we hope to do throughout the season, that's all we need to be concerned about. And we are on track.

Our newly found northwoods training trails are a welcome change to the fall training trails our home base location in Watertown provides us. An old railroad bed trail with the adjacent horse trail that weaves in and out of the main trail is excellent for easy early season training and for "gee/haw" training. In years past, we've had to wait for the snow to fly to give the dogs a better work out on our winter northwoods trails. These trails are rolling and windy narrow bush trails with many steep ascends and corresponding descents, not at all suitable for fall training due to the great numbers of boulders and swamps along the way. These winter trails are challenging in another way. The lakes, either in Watertown or up north, once frozen and covered with a deep enough layer of snow to provide safe stops and hook downs, provide yet another bit of variety in training. Now, with our new discovery, we'll be able to experience some early season variety.