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WEEK 1: PREPARE FOR TAKE OFF!

 

Working on equipment - checking the stove, Paul and Jens are excited to head out on the trail. They get a laugh warming their hands over the tent stove as they will do so many times on the trail.

Date: 02.14.05
Location: Education Basecamp
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, flurries 31F/ 0C

It is hard to believe that its actually time to leave - Expedition Basecamp has been like a beehive buzzing with activity - day and night; but now there is really nothing left to do but pack up and go. In a few minutes we will be loading everything into the trailer.

And when we say everything...we mean everything! Can you imagine carrying all that you need to live and survive in a twelve-foot long dogsled? That's what we have to do!

Having their first collar put on, it is a big day for the Polar Husky puppies. Mille checks to make sure that the fit is just right for Polar Husky puppy “Good Thunder.”

Before being loaded into the trailer everything is carefully inventoried, checked, and double-checked. Leaving something behind could prove disastrous for us out on the trail. Things like snow hooks, dog food, snowshoes, skis, dog sleds, bivy bags, rope, carabineers, stoves, fuel, communication equipment, solar panel, laptop computers, sunscreen, cameras, ax, shovels... (Get the picture?) are all checked off the list.

Twenty-four Polar Huskies need to get loaded into the dog truck too. Each dog travels on a comfortable "bed" of straw in their own box. Dogs like Fuji, Khan, and Reggie are always very excited to go. The dog yard explodes with eager barking as we begin loading dogs. They know that they will end up somewhere new and will soon be able to do two of their favorite things: run and pull. Once on the road, we usually stop every seven to nine hours to let the Polar Huskies (and people) out to stretch, eat, and go to the bathroom.

Actually we are loading seven Polar Huskies other than the 24 that are going out on the trail. The puppies are now nine weeks old, and they are all going out to stay with families for a while. So they will ride along to be delivered to their adopted homes over the weekend. Yesterday they each got a nice red collar with a blue tag– except for Lightning, the only female in the litter. She got a purple collar with a red heart shaped tag!

Paul’s Dad, Mike, has smoked us some delicious salmon for the trail. Yummy!

One thing we will not have loaded by the time we head out from here is the people food. On Monday morning, by the time you all will be reading this, Amy, Aaron, Paul, Jens, and Mille will be visiting Eden Lake Elementary School in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, where a crew of 50 students will help pack up the food needed for the training trip. Now that’s team work for you.

Team work is what expeditions are all about. It is important to realize that to make even a short journey happen, like this GoNorth! Training Expedition 2005, involves the skills, talents, and efforts of all members of Team GoNorth!. And for us, team members are not just the people on the trail!

Jens works on one of the sleds. Attaching the snow hook, he burns the rope so it will not fray.

As a group we need to trust one another to do a good job and complete tasks efficiently. Each of us is responsible for one part of the whole. Separately we cannot accomplish what needs to be done. Together we have been able to feed the Polar Huskies, fix sleds, visit schools, work with teachers, develop the website, contact sponsors, acquire and test new equipment, fix old equipment, fund raise, keep up with accounting, attend trade shows, train the Polar Huskies.. (Get the picture - again?).

Needless to say a big part of preparing for a dogsled expedition is for both dogs and people to get into shape. Those of us going on the trip need to be prepared both physically and mentally. We are, of course, super excited to go. Every step, twist, and turn of the trail ahead will be a new adventure. Imagine traveling to a different place almost everyday! Sounds exciting, doesn't it? While traveling to new places and meeting new people can be very exciting, it can also be dangerous, and at times, nerve wracking. Thin ice, bad trail conditions, and winter storms are all concerns.

The Polar Huskies started training in early November. In the summer the dogs just hang out and relax most of the time. It is too hot for them to move around too much but that is okay because you have to remember they just came off the Arctic Transect 2004 expedition the end of June, after working in winter conditions for more than six months. So, the summer is vacation time! They get to sleep all day in the sun and run around with each other for a couple of hours every night. As fall approaches, with cooler air, they become more antsy and impatient. They sense that it is time to start training. The dogs get in good shape pretty quickly but they also have to train their "moves" - to work together as a team. Over the summer, lying around, most of them gain some weight - during fall training they become trimmed and tuned. The last few weeks we have actually been fattening them up again. For the trail, it is important they have a good layer of body fat to stay warm at night since they will be working hard out there.

This week’s Polar Husky Superstar Cola overviews the preparation of the dog boxes on the truck in her role as Senior Supervisor of DTF!

This weeks’ Polar Husky Superstar Cola, is actually a Polar Husky that is not going on the expedition. Still a vital part of the team, she is the great-grandmother of the puppies, the mother or grandmother to most of the kennel, and continues to holds the position as Queen of the Kennel. Going strong with her incredible mind and spirit, Cola takes part in all aspects of preparation from puppy patrolling, food inspection, pep talking, and acting as the Expedition Basecamp greeter to offering mental support in the office. With her steady nature, Cola stays very busy, between the naps.

Today she acted as Senior Supervisor of DTF (Dog Transportation Facilities). Even though a senior, she can still become stressed when there are 24 boxes to check and it can take up to eight hours to check that the straw is just right in each one of them! But with many a dog truck journey to expedition departure point, followed by thousand and thousands of dogsledding miles under her paws, Cola, better than anyone, knows the importance of her crews being well rested and feeling great for the trail ahead!