Paul in the trailer, making final check-marks!
Location: 45°3'N 92°7'W, Osceola, Wisconsin, USA
Weather Conditions: Sunny, clear blue sky 5F/-15C
Paul is standing in the trailer, thoroughly engrossed in
the pages of his notebook - alias the “Expedition Bible.”
You could feel the intensity in the pole-barn at Expedition Basecamp
as every item for the expedition was being checked off the list. Each
big check-mark was followed by a triumphant smile for a job well done.
Mille's sled is the first item loaded into the trailer.
inside the trailer as it is being loaded
By Thursday all of the missing boxes had finally arrived
and Paul began the process of loading the trailer. The finale of a year’s
worth of work, this is a jubilant but also very exacting process. A
large tarp is spread out on the floor, then each item going on the expedition
is placed upon it, and highlighted on the list. Once everything accounted
for, Paul goes over it all one last time. Then it is finally loaded
into the trailer, where Paul puts the final check-mark on his list.
This “check, double check, and triple-check” may seem excessive
to an outsider, but consider for a moment that every single item carried
on the sled is with us for a very good reason, and once on the trail
we cannot just run to the nearest store to pick up what might be missing.
Having the right tool for a task can be a matter of survival as we travel
across Arctic terrain in frigid temperatures - be it a chain functioning
as a break to slow the speed of the sleds going down the mountainside,
a proper star screwdriver to tighten the plastic on the runners of the
sled if they shred and need be replaced, or a throw rope to rescue a
team member that has fallen through the ice.
All items going on the expedition are set-out
on a big tarp.
The task of putting together a long dogsled expedition in the middle
of some of the most remote areas of the world can seem a bit daunting.
Our team relies on years of experience, encompassing both what we have
been taught by Elders in communities we have traveled through and our
own experiences on the land. This know-how is all compiled in the “Expedition
Bible,” that lists out every little item and task. Each year the
notebook is updated from the year before to include notes of lessons learned
on the trail that were added during that expedition. Yet, Mille notes,
“It always seems like a miracle when it all pulls together and we
take-off with loaded sleds and peace-of-mind because we know we have prepared
ourselves as best we can.”
Aksel stayed very busy this week, keeping an
eye on the loading of the trailer.
The most important things to prepare are the dogs. With
their spirits lifted, they are ready to do the two things they love
the most - run and pull! Paul and his crew of helpers planned to get
good night’s sleep before take-off the next morning but the hours
between Thursday and Friday were not quiet ones at Expedition Basecamp.
Having observed the commotion all day and knowing very well that this
means take-off - despite a lightning storm and a down-pour of rain -
the Polar Husky kennel was howling all night long, longing to be loaded
in their dog boxes and get on the road.
Lipton is the first to be loaded - and he is happy about that!
When the key was turned in the dog-truck the next morning,
the dog yard exploded in an uproar of ecstatic dog noise. It was a beautiful
morning, sunny and 60° Fahrenheit, making for a very “hot
work-out” loading the dogs. Luckily, the Polar Huskies are pros
when it comes to loading. They simply cannot get in their boxes fast
enough. It is a sight to behold as they sprint full-blast to the truck
and then run around it looking for an open box door, so they can jump
in – longing for new adventures and some cold, crispy weather.
And “colder” came soon. Arriving at the initial destination
on the Minnesota/ Wisconsin border nine hours later an “extreme
cold danger warning” was in effect. It was minus 14° Fahrenheit
and blistering winds made it feel like minus 40° Fahrenheit! But
for the dogs and people alike, that was just what we were wishing for!
Loaded to go the dog truck leaves Expedition Basecamp in Sawyer, Michigan.
The expedition is well on its way, Expedition Basecamp may
be closed down, but Education Basecamp is as busy as ever. There is
not a dull moment with new classrooms signing up everyday, the program
in its first week, and the press eager to cover the excitement of teachers
and students. Understandably, we were very happy to welcome our new
Education Basecamp Manager, Eric Lanegran, who just started this week.
How’s that for being thrown into the action!
Aaron is being interviewed by Kim Insley of KARE 11 in Minnesota.
Tuesday morning Choko, Aaron, and Mille visited Eden Lake
Elementary School in Richfield, Minnesota. Kim Insley, the morning anchor
from TV channel KARE 11, was along with them to shoot a story about
how GoNorth! is being used in classrooms across the country and around
the world. More than 150 students gathered in the gym to greet us, ask
questions, and talk about the upcoming adventure – and of course
meet the real Polar Husky Superstar: Choko.
The students have decorated the halls with Polar
The hallways of the school were already brimming with Polar
Huskies. Walking through we were met with full-size cutouts of the Polar
Huskies attached to the walls, and even a full size sled! Some students
had drawn the most beautiful portraits of each Polar Husky accompanied
by a short bio – just like the kennel pages. When we entered the
classroom of Polar Husky lead teacher Mrs. Cater, we did so through
a doorway made to be like an “igloo entry” with snow created
from white paper.
Make sure to add YOUR Polar Husky drawings, as well as any
dog stories, dog poems, dog images, dog movies, accoounts of dog heroes...anything DOG in the
The students of Mrs. Cater's class gave great interviews about GoNorth! to KARE 11.
Mrs.Cater teaching GoNorth! and being taped by KARE 11.
Inside the classroom, huge snowflakes hung from the ceiling,
and everywhere you looked there were Polar Huskies or Arctic books,
pictures, and artwork. It was incredible! The KARE 11 crew was busy
getting it all on tape, from Mrs. Cater teaching the students a lesson,
to Kim Insley interviewing first students and then Aaron, Mille, and
A foot-high pile of Valentines cards and 700
Hershey Chocolate Kisses (one for each mile of the expedition)
- it was sure a very special Valentines Day!
“It was a real treat to visit Eden Lake Elementary,”
says Aaron. Mille shares, “For many months we have worked long
hours, every day of the week, to get ready for this program –
but once I stepped into Eden Lake Elementary, none of that mattered.
What mattered were the wonderful students, their incredible excitement,
and terrific questions. I was so amazed with how much they already knew
about the expedition, the Arctic, and not least - the Polar Huskies.
They and their teachers are so fired up, it makes every moment of hard
work worth it all.”
This week’s Polar Husky Superstar, Xena,
in her dog box ready to go!
to the Polar Huskies howling.
Of course, the Polar Huskies themselves provide endless
inspiration year-round, in the kennel and on the trail. One hardworking
and ever-happy Polar Husky is this week’s first Polar Husky Superstar,
Xena. She earns her star status for being very happy all through fall
and early winter as we trained to take-off. We just learned that Xena
is also the informal name used by scientists at NASA for a newly found
planet at the very edge of our solar system that is supposedly huge.
Now, Xena is one of the smallest dogs in the kennel – but what
she does not have in size she has in spirit. Always abundantly happy,
Xena is super-athletic and extremely hyper. She is very kind to other
dogs and really only has one thing on her mind - to run. Okay, maybe
two – the second being to be loved by Paul!
Jupiter earns the title of Polar Husky Superstar
this week as well for being a great traveler.
Jupiter making a first attempt at self-loading.
Jupiter happy in his box, greeting every other Polar Husky being
loaded with a woof.
Another very athletic dog (although he is already quite
large and becoming one of the bigger dogs in the kennel) is this week’s
second Polar Husky Superstar, Jupiter.
And yes, as we write this we realize he is indeed named after another
planet in our solar system! Jupiter loves to run fast and furiously,
just like Xena, and is very sweet with people. Growing up he first lived
with Paul's sister, Kathy, and her family. Then he lived for almost
five months with this year's Teacher Explorer, Amy
Vargason, who is joining the team on the last two weeks of the expedition.
Jupiter ran in fields with her two retrievers where we think he learned
to run like the wind and not necessarily return anytime too soon! He
also went to school with Amy at H.A. Snyder Elementary, in Sayre Pennsylvania
to hang out with her 5th grade students several days a week - getting
lots of love! All that love is paying off as today he is the most awesome,
loving Polar Husky and a very quick study. As a result of flying back
and forth from Pennsylvania at an early age, today he is a great traveler.
He earns his superstar for being so cooperative loading into the dog
box on Friday, even though it was his first time as a “big dog.”
But then Polar Huskies are always up for new adventures…