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Watch a movie of me barking at Aaron for getting the sled stuck during Week 17!!
I am sooooo bored. I am used to running for over 20 miles a day, and I have been sitting down here on the ice since we arrived in Pond Inlet. I do get many visitors, though, and the ravens are constantly teasing me. In fact, the ravens haven't been my friends this week. They have been trying to steal my food. I have to watch them eat my dog food, and I can't even do anything about it. Oh well, I have received so much food lately I feel like I'm ready to burst. My tummy is getting much bigger, although it doesn't really look like it as I lose my winter coat. Yes, that's right. My hair is blowing off in the wind, and it is getting in Buttra's eyes. I have to laugh, as I'm the only one who is losing their winter coat right now.
Anyway, I heard Paul talking to Mille, and I guess we are leaving tomorrow!!!! Can you believe that? After traveling all of these months, it is time to go home. Time to go home to where I hear it is really hot. The only thing I can hope for is cool weather down south.
I guess we are flying to Thompson, Manitoba where a bunch of trucks will meet us to transport us back to Ely. I am sure excited to see the plane! It must be huge to be able to take 31 of us dogs and the three sleds and all of the gear. But, then again, I have been pulling one of the sleds and the gear the entire way, so it shouldn't be that bad. I've heard that when we arrive in Ely we are going to hang out there while the team travels further to greet everyone.
I am sure going to miss it up here. I know I've been trying to tell you about it over the last few months, but the fact is, I can never really quite explain just how beauitful it is. The mountains, glaciers, and icebergs surrounding me and the beautiful light 24 hours a day are magnificent! There is a special place in my heart for this region of the world, and I really can't wait to get back here very, very soon. I am already excited about where we may go next year. I can't wait to find out, but you never can tell with these guys. They have some crazy ideas! Then again, I'm a bit crazy too!!
Oh, I forgot something. You may be able to come and meet me when I return! How awesome would that be? You can surely see me at the Minnesota State Fair this year! I'm going to be there with some of my other buddies. Who knows, I may even get to see you at the airport when the team arrives in Minneapolis. Wouldn't that be great! The team was having a meeting today, and Will said that they will all arrive in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul airport at 12:16 on Tuesday, June 15. However, I really don't know if I'll get to go. If I don't see you this summer, then I can't wait to talk to you next winter. I hope you have enjoyed my thoughts during this trip across the Arctic, and I can only hope you have had as much fun as me! Woof, Woof!
I guess it is over. Paul, Aaron and Mille all came down on the ice late yesterday afternoon. I could tell from the way I saw them walking down the hill that something was up. As always, Aaron was jumping around with his camera, taking lots of pictures from any angle possible...at the same time they were walking kind of slow, without the usual spring in their footstep. It is amazing how well you get to know each other out here. The guys might seem all cheery when they are really sad or mad, but they cannot fool me. I really love these guys. Anyway, it actually took them a while to make it out to us to begin with. We Polar Huskies are staked out on the ice in front of town, about 300 yards (300 meters) from the shore. Between us and the sandy beach, the ice is pretty broken up. On the day we arrived, I heard the nice man who came out to greet us explaining to Will and Co. that the ice always breaks up much earlier right in front of town. This may be because of the dirt that runs down from its streets!? When I say it is broken up, the ice is simply seperating with big and small leads of water everywhere. This makes for small islands of ice connected by qamituk sleds, boards or whatever else people can find to bridge their way back and forth. The locals do go back and forth a lot, because there is no snow on land and because it is difficult to get onto the ice with all this open water. The ice around us is sort of like a parking lot full of snowmobiles and qamituk sleds. There are even a couple of dogs staked out right next to us. They told me about how everybody here in Pond Inlet seems to be going out camping and hunting on the sea ice and out to the floe edge these days. I can see why. It is just gorgeous, sunny and faaaaast running -- so it must be great travel by snowmobile, as well. It is fun to watch families of kids and Elders making their way through the maze of leads, packing up there sleds and heading out with big smiles and lots of laughter. The amount of water they actually have to cross to get here depends on the time of day. It has to do with whether the tide is high or low. I am trying to figure out the "schedule," but, I have to admit, it is a bit difficult. For sure it was high tide in the afternoon when the guys came down. They were jumping back and forth everywhere, looking pretty funny. With all the trouble they went through, they obviously really wanted to come out here to say hi! I made a point of getting up, barking as loud as I could, wagging my tail, rolling around and getting the rest of the gang going in excitement. I wanted to make sure they could feel how happy we were to see them. I did see them get smiles on their faces. Mille went to each one of us Polar Huskies, giving us a pet while letting us all know that Pond Inlet will be the end of this years dogsled expedition!!! Aaron and Paul were sitting on one of the sleds for a while, and I could hear them talk about the meeting all the guys had earlier in the day. I gathered that at this meeting, Will announced that he had made the decision to end ArcticTransect 2004 here. It made me a bit sad. I just love being out here. I guess they don't really know how or when we will leave from Pond Inlet, heading back down south, but I am sure they will have that all figured out really soon. I've heard that it involves flying! I love flying, and I will let you know as soon as I know more!
Laying on the ice in front of the community of Pond Inlet, I am basking in the sun and enjoying the incredible view of glaciers, mountains and icebergs. We ran in here late yesterday morning, after twelve hours on the trail. I was running in the front team with Mille and Aaron, and we had been cruising all night looking for birds. It is amazing how many birds are around here. I heard the guys talk about how we are right across from some Bylot Island Bird Sanctuary where I guess the birds are going for the summer. It sure feels like summer around here these days.
Anyway, at seven o'clock yesterday morning Mille wooed us, as usual. Normally this is when they stop to set up camp. Instead, they all gathered around our sled talking about whether to continue! It was Aaron's birthday yesterday. I guess they decided it was time to get to town for a "birthday dinner" and so Aaron could make calls to his family. It did get pretty hot at the end, but, as always, we had a blast running to town. For the first time in all my years of expeditions it was not Aksel who led us to town. Instead Freja was in lead of our team. She did really well. The last mile or so, as we were running alongside town, down on the ice in front of it (it sits up a steep bank), Mille did put Aksel in lead. Maybe because it is always a bit confusing to figure out exactly where to go and he is a pro at it!? It could also just be that she did that because she wanted to have him up there in case this is the end of the expedition. Mille definitely loves us all, but Aksel has been her lead dog for many, many years. They are really good friends.
We all got lots of hugs when we finally stopped for the day. I don't hope this is the end, though. I guess the guys will spend the next couple of days here in town talking to the locals about what is ahead and whether we can make it to the next community of Clyde River. That is, before it is really summer around here and their is too much open water for us to run safely ahead. (We did have to jump another large lead yesterday, and I am getting really good at it.) In the meantime I will lay on the ice counting seagulls, while I enjoy the break, the sun and the company of the many other sled dogs here in Pond Inlet. I bet I can learn a lot!
Water, water everywhere. It is a good thing I like water, because we have sure had our share these last few days. Most of the Polar Husky gang hates water...except for drinking it, of course! Remember, last time I told you that Paul and Mille's sled was stuck in overflow? Turns out that was just the beginning of it. Continuing down Phillips Creek, on our way to the Arctic Ocean, we jumped, leaped and scooted across slippery, thin ice. I was never really nervous, though. First of all, Aksel was in lead, and he is a real pro at watching and listening to the ice while he runs. He can be cruising along like he has no worry in the world when, suddenly, his ears pop up, and he comes to a halt. That makes the musher go up and check what is ahead, and then we usually run around it. Secondly, I could see rocks and sand right below the surface! Speaking of sand, we did get very stuck in a large mud puddle. It was really sucking us in. First we had to waddle our way through it before we dogs made it out onto the glare ice. But now the sled was sucked deep into the mud. It took a lot of Polar Husky super power -- plus Paul, Will and Mille pushing and shoving to get going again! In between all of this, we were speeding our way forward on the fast, slick surface...except for this one mountainside we had to overcome. What a trip that was!
Just before lunch on Saturday, we turned inland, going uphill. At lunch, I heard the guys talking about the next couple of miles being 'the chutes' and how we had to navigate around it. I guess chutes are something like VERY steep waterfalls. Anyway, the uphill was actually not too bad, though it brought back memories of the many rock gardens we have traveled through on this expedition. The downhill, on the other paw, was pretty much vertical. Aaron unhooked Lipton, Sable, Nazca and Choko from our team so that there were only six of us left to pull the sled. In the meantime, Paul attached a large chain around the one runner of the sled to slow it down. Will was running way out front down the hill. Mille was running right in front of us. Paul ran next to the sled holding onto that chain around the runner while Eric and Aaron were hanging off the back of the sled. Hugh stayed behind to keep an eye on the other two teams waiting for us to get to the bottom. The really wild thing was that there was not a whole lot of snow. Instead, the mountainside was covered by a bit of icy snow and large patches of moss, gravel, dirt and even flowers. I saw the prettiest purple and yellow flowers, but not because there was a whole lot of time to study them while we were running! We pretty much flew down from one patch of gravel and moss to the next, following Mille, while the sled would go zooming by us with Eric, Paul and Aaron hollering and hanging on for dear life. It was WILD! Airborne several times, we still made it all the way to the bottom where we laid down on the ice to watch the other teams come flying down behind us.
That day we made it all the way to the Arctic Ocean. Everybody seemed really happy about that. On our last mile, we were all pretty tired...but we almost forgot about that as we saw our first seal! I think that campsite was one of the prettiest so far. We were lying in a huge bay surrounded by tall mountains. That said, I was very happy when we finally left it this morning. See, not long after the guys had set up camp and crawled into the tents, a thick blanket of clouds came rolling in, right above our heads. Next it was...raining!!!! Arrrgghh. I hate that. I am pretty sure that is why we did not travel anywhere yesterday. I know the guys hate it even more than I do. It was pretty boring, considering I was not at all tired or ready for a rest day...yet. I did see some seals popping up around us, though. Back on the trail and running today, we saw lots of seals. It is a pretty funny game with them. They pop up here, then there, looking at us for the longest time before disappearing quickly beneath the ice. I love running along on the trail, sniffing the snow for their holes. Most of the time you can't see them until you are right on top of them. Luckily, it is a lot easier to see the leads. We crossed quite a few small ones today - and three bigger ones. I don't like them much. I found out that Aaron hates them!
We were running around the corner of a large cape this morning, sailing through a layer of water on top of the glare ice - running really fast - when I saw Freja take a huge leap, followed by Tucker, Ruby, Buttra, Nazca and then me. I did great! Right behind me I could feel Aksel and Choko made the leap, too, as well as Sable. I guess big Lipton must have gotten surprised by the whole thing, because he jumped into the water instead of over it. Oops! That brought the sled to a halt for a few seconds but then it came sliding across the five feet gap in the ice as well. Mille had jumped on the back of the sleds with her skis. I thought I heard Aaron did too, but when I looked back, Aaron was still standing on the other side of the gap? Mille was laughing calling him a chicken (!?!) - then he took his skis, threw them at her...and jumped across in a huge leap. That was pretty cool. I think maybe he wanted to see how it is for us dogs! Just minutes before camp, we had another lead. This time we traveled alongside it for a while, following Mille as she looked for a good spot to cross it. When she decided to turn us to jump it we were very close to it and not really in a position to get good speed coming up to it. Instead they strung us out slowly, turned the sled and then Mille jumped across telling Aksel to follow. He did not think that was a good idea at all. It is not how he likes to do it. This time Aaron had no hesitation at all. He walked right up there to the lead, lifted up Aksel and throwing him across the lead to Mille on the other side. The rest of us followed behind...no problemo. Wow, these guys are sure strong!
When I woke up this morning I could hear birds and smell dirt. For a few seconds I was a bit confused thinking maybe I was back down south? Then I opened my eyes and to my relief I could see snow, tents and sleds. We are still on the run! Oh boy, did we run today. Actually we have been running fast everyday since we left the DeBeer's Exploration Camp on Tuesday night. Remember we are running at night now. Ah, I guess that means it was not this morning I smelled the dirt. It was actually last night.
Anyway, it is amazing how the snow is disappearing around us. I heard Paul and the crew talking at lunch today. I guess we are on our way to the Arctic Ocean - something called the Milne Inlet. First we have to travel across land, through a deep valley and on a river. The guys are worried the snow will disappear and the river will open up within a day or two; so we really have to get out to this ocean. Well, we are definitely doing our very best - me and the rest of the gang are cruising. It is great. Part of it is because there is so much stuff to look at now and so many exciting smells. We are crossing lots of patches of grass, moss and thick blanchets of lichen. It is really fun. Most of the time it is very soft. It feels really nice on the paws and it is great to take a roll in. I don't know if Mille just doesn't like the smell, but she sure doesn'tt seem to be of the same opinion. She has been in a really good mood though. Probably because we are seeing a LOT of caribou, which always gets her excited.
Yesterday, we had three caribou jump out in front of us as we came onto shore, maybe 150 feet in front of us. It was a blast to see them that close. Unfortunately, we lost Paul off our sled at the same time. That has been happening a lot lately. Not just to Paul. We are running through a lot of this weird deep snow that is melting making almost a maze of holes, sand, water and ice. I have to admit it sometimes makes me wag my tail to watch the guys stumble around, skis everywhere. I have to be a bit careful though as they do not always seem to think it is such fun. But then, sometimes they laugh at me, when I don't think it is the least bit funny! Like today we had to run across a lot of slippery ice and alongside open water. It always makes me a bit nervous, so sometimes I have a hard time controlling my legs at the same time. I have to say I am better at it than Sable. Today Mille compared her to "Thumper the Rabbit from Bambi" -whatever that means? But it sure made Paul laugh.
Anyway, this running water and the cracking ice is scary. Just before camp today our whole sled actually fell into the water! We were running down the trail full speed, when all of a sudden I saw Aksel stumble ahead and next I knew it looked like he was swimming in a porridge of ice, snow and water. Then, I was in it myself! It was not very deep, and actually tasted kind of good...but it was freaky. When I turned around Paul was in the water as well, crawling up over the sled to the shore side where Mille was standing. It did not take long before Will and Eric followed by Aaron and Hugh came up to the sled to help unload it, so we could pull it out. It was hard because we kept falling into this mushy soup which seemed to stick to everything. Aaron called it slush? We all pulled together and made it out, licked our paws and continued down the fast hardpacked trail - the "Trans-Pond Inlet- Highway" as Mille calls it!
This must be the biggest campsite I have ever seen. There is so much exciting stuff to look at, all at once, that I have a hard time counting. But, I just had a visit by a really nice guy who works here, and he told Aaron that there are thirteen tents! They are not little tents, like the guys use on the trail. They do sort of look the same -- they have the same shape -- but they are a really cool silver color with orange stripes and at least fifty times bigger!!!
We were coming up a hill when I saw Ruby, Buttra, Disko and Freja ahead of me, jumping and pulling into the air with excitement. I pulled as hard as I could to the top to see what was up. It was a really wild sight. Popping out of nowhere were all of these tents, flags, airplanes and even two helicopters. One was actually just landing ahead of us. I love to watch helicopters. They are like enormous birds. Mille did call out "BIRD..It's a bird..GO GET IT!" We all knew it was not, but it was fun anyway. We set off in a full-out lope. Will sounded pretty excited, too. I guess he has been to many campsites like this before.
Apparently, this is a diamond mining camp. When we pulled the sleds into camp (next to one of those awesome helicopters), a guy with a big smile came up to Paul, shaking hands and saying "Welcome to the DeBeer Mining Camp."
After feeding and staking us out, the guys left for one of the tents to eat breakfast. That is actually a little bit odd. Normally when we have run all day, they eat dinner. But things have been a bit messed up, it seems, since we left Iglulik...three campsites ago. It was a grand departure with tons of people coming down onto the ice, waving goodbye and snowmobiling alongside the sleds as we ran out of town. It was incredible. All of us Polar Huskies were a bit surprised, though. We were getting pretty antsy to get back on the trail, but the day went by and nobody came down to load the sleds and hitch up...not until late that night, that is!? I guess it was around ten o'clock when everybody showed up. At first, I was really confused, but then Aksel reminded me. When it gets hot during the day and we are far north, we always run at night instead of the day. He was right. We now run from 10 PM to 7AM. I love that. It is so nice. The sun is always up, but it is a lot less intense during the night, making for much cooler temperatures. The top layer of snow melts during the day when we are sleeping and basking in the sun, but then it freezes and hardens at night when we are running. The surface is then sort of like a skating rink to run on, making it much easier to pull the sled. It makes for some FAST running. It is loads of fun, too. I know the guys like it, though they do seem more tired than normal these days. They probably just have to get use to it! I am sure by the time we get to our next community, Pond Inlet, they will be pros and loving it as much as I do. I heard we should have a trail most of the way there - taking us through some pretty incredible stuff. So far we have seen caribou, snow geese, king eider ducks and waves! Yep, yesterday we ran next to open water for a long while. I heard Mille and Aaron talking about how it never freezes. That's pretty mysterious when you have seen just how frozen my whiskers can get out here!
Iglulik is such a cool place! As I told you last time, there were hundreds of people on the ice waiting for us to arrive. Immediately when we got close to town, everyone began clapping for us, and a siren sounded off -- scaring me. I guess it was to notify everyone that we had made it. So many people petted me, and I saw them shaking hands with the entire team. There were definitely a lot of smiles.
I've stayed down on the ice these last few days. Mille dug me a big hole to sleep in, but it is so warm that I rarely use it. All of my friends are so happy to be relaxing. We lie on our backs, soaking up the rays of the sun and, boy oh boy, is it hot!!!! You ought to see Choko. He is almost completely white from the sun, and Eric and Aaron's beards are turning white, too. They are funny looking!
The great thing about staying here is that we are never alone. So many people -- especially kids -- come down to see me and the rest of my buddies. Yesterday, I heard one girl saying to another that they knew who I was. She said she had seen a big picture of me on the Internet and a video of me barking. Wow! That is just too awesome. I'm feeling somewhat famous. However, I will never tell that to any of the others!
On Tuesday, Eric came and got Lipton in the afternoon and then Chocko at night. I was wondering what was going on, as they walked all the way up to town. They went so far that I could not even see them anymore. Well, I just found out what was going on. The team was giving a presentation at the school in the afternoon, where Lipton went, and at the community center at night. That is where Chocko got to go. Hmmm. I wish I could have gone. I really don't think it is fair, but I guess everyone was excited to see Choko. His grandparents are from here. I heard Will talking, and he said that back in 1989 he bought ten dogs from here.
The team sure has been busy again. They have been feeding me and my buddies so much food that I can barely eat it all. Also, I saw Paul and Mille and some of their friends working on their sleds. They had the sleds flipped over and they were rubbing something over the runners so that it glides faster. That is great news for us! This means that the sled will pull more easily, and we will be able to get to our next community even faster. I can't wait for that. They were also filling up the red jugs with something that helps them keep warm. The bags that I try to get into on the sleds are also filled to the brim with some awesome smelling stuff. I bet it is new food for the team.
I don't exactly know when we are going to be leaving, but I did hear that we were going to stay for only five days. So, I know we are leaving soon, and I do know it is going to be sad to leave this great community.
Leaving the community of Hall Beach, we were going so fast that, watching my own paws on the trail, it almost looked like they did not touch the snow...it was amazing. Yipping and yapping like crazy, the guys seemed really ecstatic to get to the community of Iglulik. When Aaron harnessed me Friday morning, he was all pumped up. Sometimes when I am like that, Mille tells me to "cool it" - which is hard when you are that excited - so I was happy to see that it was okay for Aaron to be all wound up like that. Mille called it "seventh heaven"...whatever that means?! I think it has to do with airplanes. The guys have all been talking a lot about airplanes lately. And not long after we arrived to Iglulik late that afternoon, sure enough, an airplane came right over my head. It made both Hugh and Aaron jump on snowmobiles as fast as they could. The next day, Aaron came down on the ice to visit us with his wife, Cassie. Hugh came, as well, with Amy and their little daughter, Wynne. I remember them all from before the expedition began, back in Minnesota. I loved staying at Cassie and Aaron's house. I would dig holes in the garden, and she was always so kind to me, bringing water and lots of hugs. It was really nice of them to come all the way here to see us.
Actually, lots of people have come down to visit us every day here in Iglulik, especially on the day we came running into town. It has been a long time since I have seen so many people at once! It all started right around lunch on Friday. I am pretty good with the time of day, so I knew we were getting close to lunch when I saw something in the distance. At first it looked like a snowmobile. Maybe!? But it sure did not smell like one. It was a dog team from Iglulik, welcoming us! The guys had lunch with the musher, Nat, and his grandson. I heard Hugh talking about how coming into Iglulik was like coming home. I guess he has lived here in Iglulik before. With all of the exciting people welcoming us, it seemed kind of like a homecoming to all of us. For the last miles of running, we were surrounded by fifty or sixty snowmobiles escorting us to the shore of the community and a sea of people waiting to see us. It was an incredible feeling, making me really proud to be part of the team!
It has been a fast few days. Running, running, running as fast as we could last night, and we came to a new town...I was really excited! I knew we were supposed to be coming into a community, for one, because the guys have been talking about it for days, and I could see their excitement as we got closer. But also, I heard Mille tell Aksel yesterday morning, just before take-off, to "take us to town, big guy." Aksel is quite a pro at that, and we always have a blast as we pull closer and closer. It is almost as if we are 'on the hunt'! Sure enough, as the day went by, we ran faster and faster. Both Mille and Aaron were yipping us, telling us that they could see buildings. Well, I have to say it took a loooooong time. I think it was right after lunch when I heard the first loud holler from Mille. She always gets a bit wild when she sees a community - or anything fun, really. We could see these huge, weird looking things way out in the distance. They did not look like anything I have seen before. I was pretty sure they were not rocks. They were too big...and Mille really does not normally get that upbeat about rocks. When we finally passed these things, they were probably as big as any buildings I have ever seen through the door of my dog box riding down the highway!
I heard Aaron and Mille talking, calling them 'DEW line station satellites'. I guess they were used to see if anybody was coming to attack us. When I heard that, I have to admit that I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anybody was coming. However, I soon got distracted again when Aksel's tail went straight in the air and his head and ears popped up. That only means one thing - town ahead. I was sure glad to see that. Mille had been yelling and yipping for so long, "Hall Beeeeeeeach ahead." I have to say, in the end, I did not really believe her anymore. But Aksel was definitely right. I could smell the town, see the buildings and hear the snowmobiles. We went flying down the trail, not stopping until nice people came towards us to shake hand with the guys. Behind them, I could see lots of dogs!
We had a really nice visit in the community of Hall Beach. There are twelve dog teams there - big dogs like us, which I have never seen before on any of the expeditions I have been on. It was great. We shared lots of stories all night long.
This morning we headed out on the trail again, wagging good-bye while we were zooming down the trail. I guess we should smell another community already tomorrow. I love it!
I am back! I was so happy to find out that all of you actually wanted to continue to hear my tales. We have put a lot of paw prints in the snow since you heard from me last, but I trust the team has done a great job keeping you updated?! I understand that I am now suppose to tell you all the exciting stuff I see and hear out here just a couple of times a week, instead of daily.... That will be hard. I do have a lot to tell!
All of my Polar Husky buddies and I are doing terrific out here. I am loving it. I have to admit that I almost had a little too much excitement at the beginning of this week -- when the hugest of all polar bears REALLY surprised me, suddenly standing right there in front of me!!! Did you see the pictures? I could not believe I did not see or hear it any earlier. It really snuck up on me from behind these large chunks of ice. Pretty smart. I could almost feel it breathe on me, see its whiskers, and, boy, did it smell. I barked as loud as I could to get the guys to come out to help. Yeah, it was scary. I have to admit, I was pretty happy when we headed for land again. I still try to sleep with one eye open, making sure nobody can sneak up on us like that again. However, I hear there a fewer bears here on land.
We had been traveling towards the sun every morning this past week, until a couple of days ago. Now we have the sun at our back most of the time. That is good, because it is really, really hot. It makes the snow sooooo heavy and wet, and the sled seems heavier. We have not seen much of the sun, though. Actually, it has been hard to see ANYTHING but white these last many days. The light is really weird, so we can't see a thing...not even the ground we run on. I have to keep a close eye on the tails in front of me to know whether it goes up or down. A couple of times I actually thought the sled in front of us had lifted from the ground making its way straight up into the sky. But I guess that it just looks like that! We are now running on a trail made by the many snowmobile that have come by. I love when we meet all these friendly people out here - it always means we get to nap for a bit. I guess we actually have a small vacation coming up. I heard we should be in the community of Iglulik real soon. I will tell you all about that on Friday.
February 1 [63.09N, 106.19W]
You did not hear from me yesterday simply because I stayed hunkered down the best I could. It was pretty windy! I guess the team had already decided not to be traveling as they had hauled computer boxes, generator, and satellite communication equipment into the tents the night before. I saw the lantern in the tent go on real early, and Aaron came out to start the generator. I figured it was time for them to work on the program...what I know is the real reason we are all out here having fun! Anyway, it sure turned out to be quite windy, and I am not sure it would have been a good day to travel. Actually, in the late afternoon, Will and Hugh came out of their tent and made a trail of skis, shovels, and ski poles between all three tents. Late at night, the whole team met in Paul and Aaron's tent...and when I peeked, I noticed how they all followed the trail! Pretty smart!
I actually love when it blows like that - it makes all these wild snow drifts change the landscape all around. When I got up this morning, it looked like a whole new place. I think that maybe it gets the team excited, too. At least they get out their shovels and start moving and digging in the snow. It kind of looks like they are playing and building stuff! The wind is great for another reason, too...it really packs the snow hard, so we can run fast.
We did great today! I overhead Will tellingAaron, who was running my team today, that we did 18 miles. Even though it was REALLY warm today (at lunch I heard Hugh say it was -1C (30F)?!!!) we are zooming...Eyeberry Lake here we come!
That said, the time has come where I need to concentrate on my other jobs - moving this expedition forward and keeping a look out for polar bears, wolves, and whatever else come our way. Oh, and of course I must do my barking-cheerleading job, keeping everybody on their toes. Besides, the team members have plenty to do, preparing and writing the weekly education report now. It will be live from out here every Monday until May...weather permitting. The first one is tomorrow. Make sure you check it out, as well as the weekly video, audio, and QTVR - I think I am in all of them, actually! Maybe I will return with my talks in May; I have not negotiated that yet...until then...so long!
Timber's Final Tale -- January 30 [63.14N, 106.49W]
I guess it is good that I am not a lead dog! But today was one of those days where most of the time it was pretty easy -- once we got going. I never really know where we are going, since I am not very good at following the commands from the musher. I like to just put my head really low, keep my line as tight as I can, and follow my buddies. It was windy this morning and most of the day. That means you can just close your eyes and let the wind hit you at the same place all day - almost. See, first of all, we don't hardly ever travel in a straight line, and secondly, some days, like today, the wind actually changes directions during the day. That makes it a bit difficult for my buddy Aksel, the main lead dog. He listens to the commands and turns the directions where the wind should hit him. I really admire him. He is a brave guy out in front all the time like that!
January 29 [63.08N, 107.14W]
Yes it was sure barren today! It is quite unbelievable. I heard Paul saying that it is like he would envision it would be to travel on the moon. Traveling is such that we really don't know sometimes whether we are on a lake or simply traveling on the ground. Everything blends together. I'm not sure if I like it or not. It definitely is different from traveling where there are a bunch of caribou and wolf tracks around. The only thing I saw today was a bunch of rocks. But let me tell you - they are huge! It was fun following Paul this afternoon. He skied in front of us so we knew exactly where we were going. Mille and Hugh like it too. I heard them say thata it was relaxing, as they didn't have to be yelling "gee" and "chaw" all the time. Everyone knew exactly where to go. Tonight is sure cold again. I know it is at least as cold as last night, but once again Eric dug me a nice hole in the snow to curl up in. We are off bright and early tomorrow again, as I heard Eric tell Mille they are getting low on food. I heard they want to get to Eyeberry Lake for the resupply as soon as possible!
January 28 [63.09.20N, 107.38.22W]
Everyone has been talking about the barrens and I can now see why! Wow! There is nothing here. We traveled north on Artillery Lake, and, right after lunch, the team decided to go east, moving officially into the barrens. The only thing we have seen is a bunch of rocks. I guess they are known as "rock gardens." It was a bit difficult to pull the sled through them, but we made it thanks to a bunch of pushing and pulling. The main thing now is trying to stay warm - both my buddies and the team. Aaron was wearing a new one-piece suit today. I heard Will saying that it is perfect for these conditions, and I think he is right! Aaron was dancing around, celebrating his first day yet that he didn't get cold feet. That is great, because if I ever got cold feet I would hate it. I never have, and thank goodness..it has been very cold! I'm guessing it is at least -50F tonight. I am very comfy though, since Eric dug me a great big hole in the snow and also made me snow wall to block the wind. I just burrow into the hole, and I am soooo warm. The team really takes care of me and I sure do appreciate that!
January 27 [63.00.02N, 108.01.57W]
This morning was one of those...when I wake up and do my morning barking, shake up my bed a bit, and all I really want to do is curl up and catch some more rest. Luckily enough, it turns out that this was the plan of the day - it is officially a rest day! My buddies and I can keep on snoozing away in the sunshine. I do like to keep an eye on all the happenings that the team is doing on these days. One may think that a "rest day" would mean that all six team members stay in their sleeping bags all day, but it is far from it. They do sleep later in the morning, but then they seem in constant motion. Running in and out of the tent, filling fuel bottles, hanging their sleeping bags on skis to dry out, fixing sleds, filling food from the large outside bags to the tent bags, firing up the generator - I think to charge all of their technology - and yes they haul in satellite phones, cameras, and computers and work away into the late evening hours. I also heard they are having a team meeting tonight. I guess one of the things they talk about is the route ahead for the next week. I like that! It is so great to see that they always know where we are going. Oh, I forgot something exceptionally important yesterday. Whoever made the maps around here named a bay on the west side of the lake after me! Yes, really. Yesterday we passed a bay called Timber Bay. From what I could see, it looked beautiful. Lots of little trees. The trees are actually disappearing, especially here on the east side of Artillery Lake where we travel. I guess we are heading for the land of no trees!
It was COLD today! Besides the fact that my breath would turn into ice crystals, freezing my whiskers almost instantly, both Aaron and Mille were walking and running most of the time, instead of skiing next to the sled. Unless it is really, really, cold the team usually only runs or walks next to the sled if they need to be pushing it in very deep snow or if we are traveling in difficult terrain - through pressure ice or rock gardens. I heard Will tell Eric that it was -52F at tonight's camp. The team worked like lightning tonight setting up camp. I really appreciated that. I'm always nice and comfortable when we are running, but when we are done for the day, I am hungry and ready to roll myself up tight in a ball, covering my nose with my tail to keep it warm and get cozy. On a day like today, it is especially important to be smart about the cold. All of us out here on the trail know that we have to be very careful not to touch metal, as it freezes to you. Early in the day, Mille was fixing Nazca's line in front of me. I wanted to support her and check out what was going on, so I stuck my head between her legs ready to give her a big kiss in the face. At the same time she moved the carabiner in the same direction - it got stuck in my mouth. Ouch! I shook my head and grabbed it with my paws, and I was ready to go again!
Just before camp tonight we reached Artillery Lake! I know it is so because Mille let out a loud "yippee," and the entire team was really happy. When we got to the top of yet another portage, Will announced that at the bottom of this hill was the lake. Actually it was more like a mountainside. Luckily, it was very deep snow, so we could all leap forward, landing with powder flying everywhere. It was fun! At one point, the team did seem a little tense, though. We had to make a ninety-degree turn as we zig-zagged our way down. Unfortunately, all of these annoying willows were jumping out of the deep snow and into our faces. So we dogs had to slow down while the sled continued in a straight line. I could hear Aaron and Mille 'whoa' us in a panic, and we all came to an abrupt halt. When I looked back, the sled was basically on its way out over the cliff. While Hugh held back the other two teams behind us, Eric, Will, Paul, Aaron, and Mille pushed, shoveled, and shoved to turn the sled inch by inch so that it would instead follow us down the hillside. Of course they succeeded. They are strong! They proved that! A few minutes later, when we came flying down the last part of the hill, the sled went flying landing on its side. Now, I know how heavy that sled is. But Paul, Will, Aaron, and Mille looked at each other, called for super power - 1 - 2 - 3 - and the sled was standing up right again. Wow! The other two teams behind us came down without too much trouble. It looked wild and a bit scary for a few seconds when Paul got caught in the dog lines and fell right in front of the sled that Eric was driving. Luckily, the sled plowed into a huge snowdrift and Paul made it out. I'm glad because Paul is one of my favorite people in the world!
What a day! Three of my favorite things happened today. I was in the lead team, running with Eric, Mille, Freja, Nazca, Tucker, Buttra, Charlie, Lipton, Misha, and Ruby. I ran next to Ruby - as I told you she is one of my favorite girlfriends. We had lots of fun today cruising the islands of Pike's Portage. In between the islands, there were tons of tracks from Caribou. Ruby and I had sniffing contests, trying to see who is best at guessing how close or far away they are. A couple of times they really surprised us, jumping out from behind the island. At one point, I had not even noticed them, and they were only 150 ft away. We stopped and sat to look at them. They were so close we could see them breathe as they ran back and forth in front of us. One of them, a big bull, was making acrobatic moves in the air. I think he was showing off! It looked incredible. They run very differently, holding their heads high and their backs straight. I think they could carry dog food on their backs and not lose it while they almost float through the air. I tried to run like that today, but I just stumbled in the deep snow we were running in. Mille didn't seem to think that was a great idea! At the end of the day, I made both she and Eric very happy, though, as I pulled in true Polar Husky style up a looooong portage - head down, rounded back, and tail up!
We have been following these huge paw prints from a wolf all day. It has been really exciting! He apparently loves to climb, just like me. We've pretty much been going up, up, up, all day. Except one time, when we went flying down. I was on the last team with Mille, and she had unhooked us all. We were just pulling with neck lines while she put these large chains in front of the runner, which also slowed us down. So we went down this huge hill without much problem. But I heard from Aksel, who was leading the first team, that part of the handlebar on Paul and Aaron's sled broke! And I saw what looked like Hugh and Aaron on the sled ahead of us tried to take down some trees along the way. Maybe they were thinking it would be fun to have another bonfire. Actually, I don't think so, because they did have to saw down the tree their sled was hooked on - and they didn't bring it with them. I heard Mille say that "we have to do it or else we will break the handlebar." At the bottom of the hill, we were having lunch in a nice swamp when a snowmobile pulled up. It was Roger, who we stayed with a few days ago, and his son Gus. Then I saw something I have never seen before. Will grabbed the snowshoes and jumped in the sled behind Roger's snowmobile. I guess they were going to scout the route. Instead we got another team member...Gus stayed behind to travel with us. He's not very big, so he couldn't push like the other team members. But it was nice to hang out with him when we were waiting for the teams ahead to move forward up the hills. At camp tonight, Will came back. I heard the team saying that we have now climbed 700 of the 800 feet in elevation before we get to the barrens. We're camped on a nice lake, and I hope we have a peaceful night. Last night was a little hectic. Mille and Eric did a lot of running in and out of their tent. They apparently couldn't get enough airflow, so their stove and lantern could not burn and they were getting sick. But they figured it out, and they were both happy pushing and pulling today - just like me.
I didn't have time to talk to Roger's dogs last night...or this morning. The team came down from Roger's house bright and early. Before I knew it, they were having their team meeting and we were being hitched up! It definitely was cold this morning. Eric said it was -38C, but it was very clear. It was a great day for traveling! The team was all excited, as today we were going to leave the Great Slave Lake and start our portage out to the barrens. We made it to the end of the lake, but Will and Paul could not find the portage. They went off on skis and about one hour later they returned and had found it. The portage was tough. Wow! It was just about straight up in some areas. The entire team would come and pull and push on one sled until we would make it up the hill. They did that all afternoon. They were laughing, so I think they were having fun. I was having a blast! Anytime I get to help the team and they are helping me it is great. In fact, Paul gave us some treats before we started so we all tried extra hard. Tonight we are camping on the portage. It is quite nice and very still. I'm lying very close to Paul and Aaron's tent tonight. I can hear them laughing. They must be happy with our accomplishments today. Well, good-bye to the Great Slave Lake. I will miss it, but it will be fun to move on.
I really like those lazy day where we lay around to rest - but I have to admit I like it even better when we are on the move again! I was not really sure what the deal was this morning. I saw the guys were up and moving around in the dark early this morning, thinking that meant we were heading out, I got up and did my morning bark as I always do. But when the light came around and they normally come out to lash the sleds down they were no where to be seen. I heard from Nazca, who stayed up by one of the cabins that they were busy with satelite antennas and generator stuff. I had kind of given up on them today and had settled in for another rest day, when all of a sudden after lunch they all came barrelling down to the sleds with all of their gear and the Olesen family. It did not take long before the sleds were loaded and we were getting hitched. Yahoo, time to get on the trail again! Everybody gave lots of hugs and waves and off we went. I made sure to wave lots to Annika and Liv with my tail! It was perfect running today - my whiskers were not freezing, the snow was hard packed underneath my paws so I could really get a good grip and everybody was roaring to go. I ran next to another one of my girlfriends "Flicka", in the lead team with Paul and Will. We ran full blast towards the sunset across the bay. I was pretty sure we were going somewhere because Paul did not seem to be looking for a camp site around the usual time. I didn't feel like stopping anyway, so that was okay .Then I could smell the smoke stack...we got to the other shore and there was a large cabin sitting on a cliff. A guy came out to say hi and I heard his name is Roger. He has a great kid "Gus " and two dogs and he invited us to stay here tonight. It is pretty cool around here. There are lots of hides and horns hanging around. I think Roger is a hunter...I will try to learn more from his dogs.
It was just another relaxing day today and the weather was beautiful! Well, as beautiful as it can get on the Great Slave Lake on January 20, 2004. It was about -25C (-15F), but it was so clear that I could see the caribou once again on the lake. There were so many of them! I just sat and watched them and wished I could be out there playing with them! The entire team was working on their sleds today. I heard Paul talking to Aaron and he was telling him that the sleds needed to get much lighter as there is a huge portage coming up in a day. I heard the portage is seven lakes, about 15 miles, and a huge increase in elevation. So the entire team is lightening their loads. They are minimizing the dog and people food they are taking along so the portage is much easier for everyone….I really appreciate that! The Oleson family also came down to play again today. The kids are so much fun to play with. Well, I better get some sleep, Khan told me we are leaving early in the morning and I want to be well rested.
Last night's meal was amazing! David Oleson, who also has dogs, gave me some of their Hoarfrost Power Meal which consisted of rice, water, lard,big lake trout, and some dry dog food which had been cooked all day over a slow boil fire. It was sooooo good! I wanted seconds in my little dish in which it was served, but Paul was no where to be found after I had finished eating. I think we had gone to eat a great meal cooked by Kristin Oleson. Sable said she heard that I received it because I was a "hard worker." I'm glad they think so because I love to pull hard everyday. This morning was so relaxing. As you know, today was a day of rest. So this morning I got up early, barked for about ten minutes to wake everyone up and bring in the beautiful new morning. However, the only one who was up was Aaron who I saw talking on the satellite phone. The only other team member who was up was Beacon. Beacon is young so he wanted to play for a bit. He doesn't know that he should be resting on his day off. Around lunch Eric and Hugh led down Annika and Liv. They were dropping to say hi and give me a few licks! It was so nice. I guess they had been showing Eric and Hugh their dogs and now it was their turn. Other than that, I have just relaxed today,licked my paws to get in tune for the next thousand miles, watched the many caribou east on the lake, and enjoyed the weather.
Guess what? I got 38 new friends today! I was running last sled with Aaron and Paul, which I was a little bit bummed about at first, because I knew we were heading for Dave Olesen's Homestead and probably lots of excitement. Mille was on the front sled with Aksel leading out and I could hear stuff was happening but I couldn't see anything. Then, just like yesterday at lunch a whole bunch of good looking super fast sled dogs pulled up in front of us. Except today there were two instead of one. One of the mushers was Dave who brought out the great cookies yesterday and the the other was his seven-year-old daughter Annika who ran her own team! Then out of the sled came Liv, Dave's four-year-old daughter. Then we all took off together. It was a blast! Pretty soon I saw all these black things in the horizon. I wasn't sure if it was caribou, musk ox...or wolves. I could see Aksel was getting really excited, so I pulled as hard as I could. It turns out it was a whole bunch of barrels and an airplane! I hear it is a Husky airplane - I didn't know Huskies could fly! This place is incredible! I heard it is called "The Hoarfrost Homestead". There are tons of cabins, a huge dog yard with 34 dogs - who have lots of cool stories to tell of the tundra where we are heading next. I guess we are staying here with Dave, Kristen, Annika and Liv for a couple of days, so I will have to tell you more tomorrow!
I woke up in a new place this morning. I mean we hadn't actually moved since yesterday, but it seemed like it. I could see ridges and tall hills in every direction, where yesterday it was all white. I love white, I love snow, but this was really pretty - especially when the sun came out as we were running. I also love sun. It is not very warm at all right now, but it still makes me wag my tail. I did a lot of tail wagging today. It was a great dog day. First of all, I got to run with my girl friend Ruby. I like her because she is always happy and has pretty green eyes. I think all the guys like her. They come from everywhere to meet her. Today, for example, a whole team of lean, good looking, super fast racing dogs snuck up on us just before lunch. Actually they came from the direction we are going! Apparently Will knew their musher Dave Olson. I hear they are all friends. It's amazing they found us out on this big lake! We had a great howling party and then they took off at a racing pace ahead of us, but we followed their trail. I heard the guys talk about that we are going to visit them tomorrow. I hope I can stay close to Ruby.
I almost caught a caribou today! Actually a whole bunch of them. I was running up in front of Mille and Will and my buddies again today. We also did lots of cool skating again. The guys seemed a little tense when we pulled out of Shelter Bay this morning. But it was a little warmer - I heard about -30C (-28F) so even though the wind was still blowing at us when we rounded the corner, it didn't make my whiskers quite as brittle. We covered the distance we back tracked yesterday very fast, sliding and gliding on the glare ice. I did get to see to the bottom of the lake today because Aksel kept leading us to shore. I thought that was fun. Mille seemed a little less excited. Maybe that was why she exchanged Aksel for Freja in lead after lunch. Freja is the master caribou hunter so my hopes skyrocketed. And sure enough, not long after Mille started yipping we went flying, plowing over huge snowdrifts making clouds of powder everywhere and crashing through pressure ice. But I tell you those caribou are fast. They made it to the shore and took on up over the hill. I tried my best to continue after them, but Mille did not seem to think that was a good idea either. Then around the next point Freja starting jumping in the air again and off we went for another hunt. This time we almost got them. We planned it perfectly. They got confused as we cut them off, then they almost ran into us. But for some reason Mille threw herself into the middle of the team, and then we had to stop. I watched them all the way to the top of the ridge. I think they knew it too - cause they were in a hurry. Right before camp Mille once again jumped into the team. I can't know if she was looking for the bottom of the lake as well, but she took a dive into the water with her foot. I know she loves swimming cause she does that all summer. But she didn't seem excited about this dunk. Maybe it was cold???
Today was a blast. We set out chasing caribou smells - I was in the front team with Mille and she put me way up in the point today so I had a good chance of seeing them. We made it to the end of the bay without any caribou to be found. But we did find a BIG hill to climb! Actually I got to climb it three times - once with each team. I guess it is because I love to climb hills so much! I just put my head to the ground and dig in as much as I can. There was a lot of commotion. Mille was yipping and yapping. Paul was "hupping" us and Aaron, Eric, Hugh, and Will were all pushing the sled. It was a blast! Then, when we made it to the top we got airborne going down. I thought that was all the fun one could have in one day. At lunch I did hear the guys talk about how "Shelter Bay" fits its name and that we might have to prepare for some wild stuff around the corner. We rounded the corner and they were sure right. Incredible winds right in my face. I tried to bark as loud as I could but it barely made a sound! I kept barking anyway though to show Aksel, who was right in front of me leading the way, that I really liked it. I have to say the surface was a little tricky. It blew so hard it was glare ice. I tried to see if you could see all the way to the bottom! Anyway, the sled was like a big boomerang. We had to run with little steps to not lose footing, but it was fast. Except when the sled gets stuck on the snowdrifts, that is, because we can't get a grip because we are standing on glare ice. But then the guys helped push. All of a sudden Mille came up and turned us around. Now our sled was last and we had the wind in our tails. We went flying! WHOO! That was fast. We made it back to "Shelter Bay” real fast - where we are camped. It is nice.... not quite as windy.
Wow! I found some paw prints today that were bigger than mine - or any of my buddies. Even bigger than Lipton's! They smelled different too. I heard Mille say it was a wolf. I have met several wolves before Actually on my very first expedition I even played with one! He was real friendly. It really was a great day for smells. We were following caribou tracks all afternoon. I just love that smell! It makes me want to roll and roll. I guess at lunch the guys could actually spot in the distance a small herd of caribou. I kept trying to see if I could get a peak, but all I could see was snowdrifts. But I could sure smell them!
It sounds like there are whales underneath us tonight! It shakes, but not one is coming out of the tent so it must be safe. Spank told me once that the noise is from the ice contracting. We are back on the trail and those new full dog food boxes are sure heavy. We really had to work hard today, but I really like that. This morning I knew the fun was going to begin again when the team came down the hill from the school with all of their bags and loaded the sleds. I did my part getting my buddies going. I think I barked for an hour straight.
I just saw the coolest thing tonight! There was this thing that everyone was calling a bonfire! It was really bright and hot! I’m not used to all of that heat unless I’m pulling the sled. There were a bunch of cool kids that were running around too. I heard they were from the Lutsel ‘ke school. School was over and they came down to meet us and see the guys packing up all their bags and bags of food onto the sleds. Oh Yeah! This afternoon Paul, Aaron, Hugh and Will came driving in a big pickup truck right out onto the ice of the lake in front of town where we dogs are staked out along side the sleds. I am not sure where they got the truck but it said RCMP on the side. It was full of stuff – “resupplies” - which I heard was flown in from Yellowknife. There was SO much DOG FOOD! It’s awesome! I’m definitely not going to get hungry as we head out early tomorrow!
Peto woke me up this morning at 6:45 with his morning howl. I knew it was going to be a good day as the winds were very light and the temp was the perfect running temperature of -10. Everyone ate their delicious Endurance last night so there were no blocks laying around for me to snag. It wasn't long and I was hitched up and ready to go. I travelled with Mille and Aaron today and had a blast. I got tangled in the lines a few times, but Mille helped me out. At lunch, Buttra would not lay down and I was really tired of hearing him growl. The day, otherwise, was pretty uneventful. At the end of the day, Paul picked a great protected spot in a bay on the lake for resting over night.
It was freezing today! I thought it was going to be quite nice after the last two pretty warm days... and a rest day, but wow, it was -30! I actually love these temps. I can see my breath every time... it actually collects around my eyes and I have to blink to get all the frost off. I just kept barking and barking today to get all of my buddies going. The beauty of it is that it works! The only other one who really helps out is my buddy Peto. Well, I have to go for today, but please check back as I'm going to tell you about my travels throughout the Arctic!
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