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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

 


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WEEK 3: 80 POUNDS OF BUTTER?

 

Each team member eats 24 oz. of gorp in a week.

Watch Aaron and crew make yummy gorp!

Date: 02.27.06
Location: 60°1'N 128°8'W, Yukon Territories, Canada
Weather Conditions: Sunny, clear blue sky -35F/ -37C

484 Cliff bars, 272 envelopes of soup mix, 35 pounds of dried fruit, 714 tea bags, 25 pounds of sugar, 321 cups of pasta, and 1,088 ounces of gorp (trail mix). Those are just some of the items that were packed during this week’s food pack-out event. Gorp is short for “good old raisins and peanuts,” but we admit our version is a bit fancier. Plus, it’s probably the most fun to pack – getting out the huge bowl to mix bags and bags of roasted almonds, chocolate chips, and a splashes of colorful M&Ms.

Last stop. The cashier runs gift card number 15 of 18 that Mille is handing to her – all sponsored by NSF.

Watch loading of cart after cart of food through checkout.

Watch Aaron mastering the art of pushing a train of carts.

We really did have a blast packing-out the food last weekend. Now, “fun” is rarely a word used when talking about packing and planning food for an Arctic expedition. Getting an early start at 5AM, Aaron and Mille headed out to go shopping and pick up many, many last minute items; cart upon cart of food. To be exact, in less than four hours they managed to fill two vehicles entirely to the brim, so that opening any doors other than the ones on the driver side in either car would literally cause an avalanche of food to spill out. The night before Mille had been on another shopping spree - one of which she proudly announces, “I think I did the best job ever calculating my expenses as I was filling up the carts. I had a budget of $1,000 to use at Cub Foods Store. When the nice lady running the register took the last jar of jam across the scanner, the total rang up at - $999.99!! It was past midnight by then so there were not many people shopping in the store, but everyone cheered!”

Favorite jam in hand, Aaron begins to unload a car.

 

Meanwhile, as we told you in last week’s update, Paul and the dog-truck loaded with Polar Huskies had completed the 500-mile drive from Expedition Basecamp in Michigan to the home of his sister Kathy and brother-in-law Mike Beran on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border; about one-hour from Education Basecamp. Paul and a crew of people were hard at work setting their garage up to become “food-pack-out-headquarters.” Getting tables, a large heater, and other “food-pack-out-essentials” all set up and ready for action, by the time Aaron and Mille pulled in the driveway with the last of the food, a food-packing-crew of fourteen people were awaiting with rolled-up sleeves and high spirits.

Hands busy at work sorting energy bars sponsored by Cliff Bars.

The food pack-out officially began. Mille handed out lists to each designated “table leader,” detailing how each item needed be packed: the exact amount (in pounds, cups or spoons) to put into zip-lock bags (of varying sizes and quantities), whether it should be “double bagged” (in two zip-lock bags), if it had to be assorted by flavor, and how every bag should be labeled. Each table would grab an item (candy bars, Kool-Aid, oatmeal, rice…) and start unwrapping, sorting, and packing it into rations per the “food list” instruction sheet.

Watch the chocolate dust-storm as Mike Beran explains why some food is “double-bagged.”

Watch the food pack-out at full steam!

All the food is re-packed into zip-lock bags to make sure that on the trail the team carries the exact amount of food necessary to get them from one community to the next – from re-supply to re-supply. It is also re-packaged so that we can get rid of as much unnecessary refuse as possible. We try to limit the amount of bulky trash we accumulate while on the expedition since the team must carry all their trash with them in the sled from community to community, not leaving anything behind as they travel on the land.

Danny Wahlstrom taking a well-deserved break!

 

About ten hours later all the food was packed-out. That’s a record! We had never seen a food pack-out go that fast before and we were all exhilarated – and tired. Once again, teamwork truly got the job done. We owe a huge “thank you” to the pack-out crew of Chris and little Danny Wahlstrom, Matt Back, Eric Mattson; Tom, Mary, Molly, Thomas and Don Henderson, Mike and Lynn Pregont, as well as Mike, Kathy and Nick Beran for a job incredibly well done! As we cross up and over Brooks Mountain Range with perfectly loaded sleds, and just the right amount of pancake mix, we will thankfully be thinking about you all.

Watch Kathy going nuts...

 

Listen to Mille talk about the food-pack-out.

Packing the right amount of food is obviously a very crucial part of planning for an Arctic dogsled expedition. We really do not want to be carrying too much food when the mighty Polar Huskies haul the sleds up and over the mountains. At the same time we cannot be in a situation where we are running out of food, given the danger that would put us in. If we are not carrying the right amount of supplies - like if we run out of powdered milk, we are simply out of powdered milk - there is no store within a hundred miles or more to go pick up some more milk!

Oatmeal is a favorite for adding a hunky chunk of melting butter on the expedition!

Watch the “Ramen cruncher crew” perfectly setting up lunch for the team on the trail.

The process of packing the food spans several months from start to finish. Each team member on the expedition should eat 5-6000 calories a day. That’s a lot of food! Actually, it is about two to three times the amount recommended for adult human beings. The reason we can eat so much without a problem is that our bodies are craving food – specifically fat. Sleeping in the tent at minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit then skiing next to the sled for eight hours a day, pushing and lifting, and working in frigid temperatures, makes our bodies require a lot of energy, in the form of calories.

Boxes and bags of food before being packed-out...

Explore “food-pack-out-headquarters.”

The way our bodies stay warm in the cold is by burning calories and for people traveling in the Arctic, those calories come mostly from fat. The traditional diet of the Native Alaskan people was very heavy in animal fats such as blubber from seals or other fatty parts of animals. A true, customary delicacy is “Eskimo ice-cream” which is the inner lining of a caribou stomach whipped, then frozen and eaten just like ice-cream with some wild-berry sauce. It is really good! Mille says her favorite delicacy is “frozen caribou meat dipped in aged seal fat.” The rest of us think it smells much like aged-cheese. That is why we believe Mille loves it so much, being that she is from Denmark, and Danes like aged-cheese a lot! Since we do not hunt while traveling, we do not eat much seal blubber while on the expedition; beyond what the Native Alaskan generously share with us. But, we do eat a lot of cheese – and butter. Each team member eats a stick of butter a day. And you are actually so hungry that you can sit and eat it like it was a stick of ice-cream!

...and after: rows and lines of neatly labeled food – a lot of food!

So, yes – really, 80 pounds of butter! That would equal 320 sticks of the butter you probably use at home; each stick equals four-ounces or eight-tablespoons, making for a total of 2,560 tablespoons. Get the picture?! Every item going on the expedition has to be carefully measured-out into the right amounts on a daily basis. In total we each get about one-and-one-half to two pounds of food a day. And most of that weight is in cheese and butter – not least because these are two items we can share with the Polar Huskies should we start running low on food supplies (perhaps because we are delayed by sitting grounded in the tent through a long snowstorm or because when dogsledding through really deep snow, we can’t travel as fast as planned).

The trailer packed to go; Mille sits down to soak up the moment.

Now, that all said, the only thing that did not get packed-out last weekend was the butter, 80 pounds of cheese, 476 breakfast sausages as well as other meats, breads, and bagels. These items obviously must stay frozen or they will spoil. This is not a problem once they are loaded onto the sled and we head out on the trail, where all the food stays frozen in the frigid temperatures. But, we have learned from experience that it can be a problem to keep everything frozen until we get to the starting point. Considering the 3,500-mile drive to the expedition starting point in Alaska, and how unpredictable the weather is these days, we decided to wait to buy and pack these items when we get to Fairbanks in Alaska. As it turns out warm temperatures have not been a problem on the drive so far. Yesterday when the dog-truck crossed into the Yukon Territories in Canada it was minus 38 degrees Fahrenheit!

The dog truck crew, from right Mike, Dan and Paul – not sure which way to go within minutes of departure.

After all the food was packed-out, it was divided into portions and boxed, ready to be shipped to our four re-supplies during this expedition – the communities of Venetie, Fort Yukon, Arctic Village, and Kaktovik. Paul once again orchestrated getting everything packed into the trailer. Then the Polar Huskies were loaded. Following lots of hugs and kisses from family, friends, Aaron, and Mille (she will meet Paul once he reaches Alaska but stay busy in Education Basecamp until then), Paul, his Dad, Mike, and friend, Dan fired up the truck and took off on the long haul to Alaska.

No worries - Paul never leaves without a map.

Watch the dog truck pass the 2000-mile marker from the departure of Expedition Basecamp.

With less than 600 miles to go – the dog-truck and crew is inching its way to Fairbanks. It has been a hard drive with many days of snow, high winds, and treacherously icy roads. On the third day out the conditions were so bad that they simply had to stop early, as cars and trucks were spinning out right and left. Paul started slowing down as they approached an exit, but the big truck and trailer just kept sliding right past it. Paul kept calm, straightened everything up (as the back of the trailer had moved toward the front of the truck) and continued on to where he could safely turn the vehicles around to get back to the exit. With the next town more than 100 miles away, it was definitely time to stop for the day. Check out phenology observations from the team in the EXPLORE Zone to see what else the weather treated them to during the week – and make sure to add your own phenology observations as well!

The Alaskan Highway

Though not quite yet in Alaska, the high point of this week’s travels was definitely pulling onto the wilds of the Alaskan Highway. This road really captures the imagination as it takes us through some of the most spectacularly beautiful country, scary steep mountains, and large frozen rivers. The hard-working spirit that went into making the road is amazing. A little more than 60 years ago, during the Second World War, 11,000 troops and 16,000 civilians built this 1,523-mile (2451 km) long road to Alaska with its 133 bridges and 8,000 culverts using “shovels and axes”– in just nine months!

Mile Marker 1

That’s a “Polar-Husky-kinda-feat.” The Polar Huskies are in high spirits traveling the road as well. More than ten days into traveling on the road, the dogs still love it and are excited to be loaded in their boxes to keep driving. When on long road trips it is always a concern of ours that the dogs loose their appetites because they are not out in the cold moving about. But this year, they are all acting crazy and eager at food time. “They are just plain wound up and ready to explore, exclaims Paul. “I am thinking they may even have a little too much spirit!”

Watch Polar Huskies roaring to get loaded back on the dog-truck after a pit stop.

It is understandable he thinks this. Two nights ago Paul did not get much sleep, as Nazca and Xena decided to independently tour the town they were in for the night. They took off! Paul had people drive around in vehicles looking for them all over town and even called the Royal Canadian Mountain Police to ask for their help. Xena was quickly found running down the road having tons of fun. Nazca, on the other hand, was out and about until 1:30 in the morning, when Paul finally saw her sitting in front of the dog-truck, wagging her tail and looking up at her box, just waiting to be loaded!

Polar Husky Superstar Elf

Watch Elf and Baffin loving food.

First, of course, she was looking for some dinner after the excitement if the evening. On the expedition the Polar Huskies eat about as much on a daily basis as their two-legged team members: 5-6000 calories a day. They each eat one to two pounds of dog kibble and fats, such as chicken fat or lard. This week’s first Polar Husky Superstar is ever-happy Elf , who is one of the dogs that loves to be fed the most! Actually, Elf is not necessarily the “biggest eater,” but he is definitely one of the happiest when food time comes around. He just loves people so much that when we feed him, he is really happy!

 

Polar Husky Superstar Baffin

This week's other Polar Husky Superstar is Baffin . Only a little more than a year old, Baffin is already one of the largest dogs in the Kennel. He is very heavily built and can be quite a brut to the other dogs but, just like Elf, he is extremely sweet with people. This will be Baffin’s first expedition and, without a doubt, he is ready for it. He is a great puller, who really likes to dig in and work hard. That takes a lot of energy so Baffin is indeed ALWAYS ready to eat – and he loves butter!