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   Trail Updates


Week 14: The Finale

Week 13: Quyanapak!

Week 12: ANWR's Colors

Week 11: A Piece of Heaven

Week 10: Caribou People

Week 9: It's a... Bear!!!

Week 8: Caribou Kidneys...

Week 7: A Way of Life

Week 6: Polar Husky Power!

Week 5: End of the Road!

Week 4: Celebration Times!

Week 3: 80 Pounds of Butter?

Week 2: Check. Check. Done!

Week 1: Preparing

 


   This Weeks Quick Links


Earth Zone

What is Climate?

Field Research

Expedition Scrapbook

 

WEEK 1: THE DOGS ARE READY...

 

Organizing the Gear

Meet the Bivy Bag

Clothing Chaos!

Date: 02.13.06
Location: Education Basecamp
Weather Conditions: Cloudy, snow flurries 31F/ 0C

Well at least the dog are ready! The rest of us are still checking-off lists, answering phone calls, looking for boxes, writing last minute instructions, and watching the clock. What time is it? What day of the week? Already!!! Really???

Expedition Basecamp has been buzzing like a beehive with activity - day and night - for months on end to get everything ready. 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!

Before the team can pack it all up and drive the dog-truck to the expedition starting point in Circle, Alaska – everything must be 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, dogsleds, bivy bags, rope, carabineers, stoves, fuel, communication equipment, solar panels, laptop computers, sunscreen, cameras, ax, shovels... (Get the picture?) are all checked-off the list.

24 bags of dry milk for the trail.

 

One thing that is not ready yet is the people food. Still waiting for a few boxes to arrive, it will be mid-week before we actually load everything into the trailer and the dogs into their boxes on the dog-truck. Once we head-out from Expedition Basecamp, we will be driving to Minnesota where we will be having a big “food pack out” with friends and family over the weekend. It can easily take almost a week for a few people to pack all the food; getting it ready to be boxed and flown-out to our re-supply locations. But when we all come together, it can be done in a day! Now that’s teamwork for you.

Paul's dad, Mike, irons on the many patches.

 

Teamwork is what expeditions are all about. It is important to realize that to make an expedition happen, like GoNorth! Arctic National Wildlife Refuge 2006 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!

Paul sprays the mukluks.

Watch about mukluks

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, format the curriculum, 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. This year’s expedition is a little different in that we are not all heading out on the trail at the same time and that we have literally been in all ends of the world throughout the year leading up to this expedition. Paul and Mille, who will be traveling the entire length of the expedition, have been working with the Polar Huskies at Expedition Basecamp in Southern Michigan; although Mille has spent a great deal of time on the University of Minnesota campus working with Aaron at Education Basecamp.

The metal holder in which the little snow crystals travel back to NASA from the field.

Watch the NASA Equipment

 

Aaron will join the expedition for the last two weeks, once the team makes it out onto the coast of Alaska in the community of Kaktovik. With him will be Teacher Explorer Amy Vargason, who has been busy teaching her 5th graders in Pennsylvania about adventure learning (she also taught many teachers over the summer). On the other side of the globe is Jens, who has been working in his native country, Denmark. When he meets the team in Arctic Village to travel to Kaktovik for a month, Henry will join as well. Henry can almost be considered a local though, living and working on his research of traditional ecological knowledge in Eagle River, Alaska. The last team member, Shari, unfortunately will not be joining us all on the trail but her work is still an instrumental part of our research effort. In solidarity she will surely be taking a spin or two with local sled dogs at her home on Baffin Island in northern Canada.

Mille checks out the new rufs that just came from ...Alaska! Not for fashion, these protect our faces from freezing. The top one is wolf; the bottom one is wolverine.

 

Now, we are of course, are all super excited to go. As we set out to explore a new region we all brim with eagerness yet hold a little doubt in our hearts about “why we are exploring.” 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? Traveling by dogsled, meeting new people, making observations on the land, sharing your explorations with others, and learning about new places is a thrill. As a matter of fact, we can’t wait to read about YOUR explorations in your neighborhoods as you post them in the EXPLORE Collaboration Zone. But for Team GoNorth! it can also be dangerous, and at times, nerve wracking. Thin ice, bad winter storms, and polar bears are all concerns. When you ask Expedition Leader Paul Pregont what is the crux of this year’s expedition, he does not hesitate for a split second to tell you it is, “Getting over the Rocky Mountains!”

Mille working with the maps.

Listen why Aaron loves maps!

 

About midway through the expedition we all (people and the twenty-six Polar Huskies) will be challenged to our fullest potential, pulling the loaded sleds up and over Brooks Mountain Range. To get over this most northern part of the Rocky Mountains, we will be following one of two native traditional routes. Mille says, “Even though I like to joke around about the fact that the passes are named after people that tragically lost their lives to the harshness of this area, I have full confidence in the route that Paul has planned out for us. He has worked on this for more than a year, studying the maps and every possible little detail of the area; talking with Elders in communities on both sides of the mountains – even flying through them with the new Google Earth technology!

Paul continues, “Reality is that we are not traveling where no man has gone before. But, one should never under estimate the significance of heading deep into Mother Nature’s heartland, surrounding ourselves with walls of mountains reaching 5-6-7,000 feet into the sky, with just one way to go – forward. We are not alone out there and will be looking for stone markers – (Inukshuks)– along the way as we traverse in the footsteps of the Native people that have lived, hunted, and traveled as nomads in this land for thousands of years. He grins, adding, “The people that passed away after whom the two passes are named, were some of the explorers who set out to map and chart these areas. As long as we follow and pay respect to the traditional knowledge of the Native people, we will be ok!”

Ginger getting her rabies shot from the Vet at the Kennel.

Watch the dogs being trained by 4-wheeler

Yes, we will be ok as long as the mighty Polar Huskies are in shape - which they are! The Polar Huskies started training in late October. In the summer the dogs just hang out and relax most of the time. It is too hot for them to move around very much. So, the summer is vacation time! They get to sleep in the sun all day 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 rather quickly but they also have to train their "moves" – learning 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. Since they will be working hard out on the trail, it is important that they have a good layer of body fat to stay warm at night.

Just like a housedog can sense when the family is going somewhere, the Polar Huskies can sense the intensity as we are getting ready. The six one-year-old “pups” - Good Thunder, Trigger, Lightning, Jupiter, Kodiak, and Baffin - do not actually know what IS happening. This will be their first expedition. But they do know from monitoring the older dogs of the kennel, that whatever it is, it is exciting!!! The old veterans in the kennel are monitoring our every move very closely. Within the last week their intensity level has skyrocketed (sort of like a bunch of 6th graders getting excited and ready for a school trip) because they know that soon it will be the real deal. Just hearing the sound of the door opening on the dog-truck, the dog yard explodes with howling.

Peto - Polar Husky Super Star.

Peto is noisy to go!

 

No single dog is noisier than this week’s Polar Husky superstar, Peto. Just turning eleven-years-old, Peto will be the oldest dog on the expedition, but by no means the mellowest. Peto can still match all the youngsters in craziness, plus he sure can out-pull any of them with his incredible technique and never-ending eagerness to go anywhere in the world where Paul is going.

As Mille explains, “Peto can simply drive me nuts if I am running him in second team following Paul out ahead. If and when we stop, you will hear Peto from the second the sled comes to a halt until he gets the pleasure of starting it again. He just cannot go fast enough.” And that is a good thing, because that’s exactly the kind of spirit, technique, and experience the team will need heading up and over that mountain range.

Polar Husky Super Star - Trigger.

 

The old dogs teach the young dogs the ropes of Arctic expeditions beyond learning how to tell when it is departure time. Peto’s love of doing his jobs is infectious. This week’s other Polar Husky Superstar, Trigger, was the most hesitant of the up-and-coming crew of puppies from last year. Like all the puppies of that litter, he enjoyed living with families for a long while, during last year’s training expedition and into the summer.

Trigger throws himself into the air.

 

Trigger actually lived with two different families and became incredibly at ease with people, shopping malls, streets, cars, and other elements of living in a big city. He is a very intelligent and sensitive dog. Although he is one of the smaller males of his litter, his smarts quickly established him with his siblings upon their return to the kennel. However, it took him a while to get comfortable with the whole scenario of running with the big dogs. At first we ran him next to the more mellow veterans, thinking that would calm him down. But it turned out that running with Peto, getting smitten by his enthusiasm, was just what Trigger needed. Today he is as wild and eager as the other seasoned Polar Huskies, roaring to go!