With the expedition team packing up gear and leaving on February 12, the training of the dog teams is also winding up. These last few weeks have been full of long dog runs into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and on the Beargrease trail on the shore of Lake Superior. The dogs are running nine hours at a stretch and are still pulling 700 pound sleds. It has been amazing to watch their progression from the beginning of the season, when we could tell how tired they were after a two-hour run. Now, the dogs are hammering in their harnesses ready to go after many hours of continuous running. They are quite strong and ready for the challenges of Baffin Island.
We welcomed the addition of a talented new dog to the yard a while back. Her name is Whisper and she comes to us from the dog yard of our friend Jamie Nelson of Togo, MN. Whisper, a three year- old Alaskan Husky and Iditarod veteran is an incredible gee-haw leader. This means she is very responsive to directional commands from the musher.
The final dog teams have been chosen for the expedition as of this week. We have two teams of 10 dogs each for the U.S. team members. We have Whisper, then playful Bullet and Cilantro, all-business Jake, the serious-pulling pair of Tuvik and Jones, talkative Sasha and Sparky, and powerful Jimmy and Skid in the wheel (back) position.
Leading the second team are Frank and Nyla, who have quite different personalities but balance each other out well in front. In point position, just behind the leaders, we have Teekona and Sonny who love to pull, then comes young Didgi and burly Bones, brothers Rudy and Pepe, then the hammers, Simma and Carlos, in the back.
The dogs’ positions on the team will routinely change during the trip. Different dogs will have the chance to lead, allowing established leaders to take a break and new leaders to gain experience. Dogs also enjoy the chance to run with new partners, which keeps things interesting for them during long days of travel.
The dogs will be departing from Ely, MN on February 17, headed to Ottawa to catch their flight to Iqualuit, Nunavut on February 20. They will be loaded into their own personal kennel on the plane and several hours later will arrive on Baffin Island, ready for new sights, smells, and adventures.