Trail Dispatch – Mushing with Simon

simons_dogs.jpg Coordinates: 64° 36 N, 67° 04 W
Distance Traveled: 15 mi/ 24 km
Temperature: -4 °F/ -20 °C
Wind: Variable 10-18 MPH/15-30 KPH
Cloud Cover: Mostly clear with passing low-lying clouds. Ice crystals in the air created a triple ‘sun dog’ around the sun
Sunrise: 6:38 a.m.
Sunset: 4:44 p.m.

All but one of Simon’s ten dogs are from the same family, the mother running out front in lead. Most are just over a year old, born 2 falls ago in Arctic Bay. Each wears a harness made from bearded seal (stronger than ring seal) with toggles attaching them to the sled-lines made from walrus tusk. Simon tells me how he made each harness by hand, sizing them to fit each dog specifically .

Later on I go over to Simon and Lukie’s tent to visit. It is warm and dry inside with furs on the tent floor. We talk more about dogs and dog racing…

Simon lets out a loud ‘Aieeee!’ and his dogs stand at the ready. I feel a bit like a dead weight sitting on top of the sled but his dogs don’t seem to notice. We are off and away across the wide snowy expanse. I pull my hood tighter around my face to block the wind. As we settle into a good pace for the dogs, Simon starts to tell me about his team.

Abby: How did you get get into mushing dogs?

Simon: I used to go out with my father, since I was a child. My family always had dogs. In my early 30s I was interested in taking polar bear hunters out. I went polar bear hunting a few times, with friends who had dog teams. Each year we caught bears and were very successful with hunting. This gave us more interest in raising dogs. I’ve been doing that – guiding – for several years out of Arctic Bay. After guiding for many years I started getting into racing and began to raise my own teams.

Abby: Tell me more about racing…

Simon: I am one of the organizers of the Nunavut Quest – a dog race that happens every year in Baffin Island, going from community to community. Each community send ideas for a logo each year. This year a woman in Iglulik won, and her design is what I have on my green parka.

Abby: How do you know Theo and Lukie?

Simon: I’ve known Lukie since I was a teenager. We are relatives. I first met Theo up in Arctic Bay when he was working as a Wildlife Officer. This fall, Theo asked me if I’d be interested in coming on this trip. I told him I had to ask my girlfriend. I asked her and she said “Why don’t you?” So I started packing. I don’t mind.

Abby: What are your goals for this trip?

Simon: I want my dogs trained really well. It’s the 10th year anniversary of a big dog race from from Iglulik to Arctic Bay and I want to be in the race next year. I also want all the kids from Nunavut who are following our trip to see us using traditional knowledge with dog teams. If they ever want to join, it’s fun. It’s really something.

Abby: It’s your birthday today…Happy Birthday!

Simon: Yes. March 1st. I am 54.

Abby: Anything else you want to say?

Simon: Yes..Hello to my girlfriend Eunice, and my little son Ishmael. I’m doing okay. My dogs are doing okay. And Qanuq (Snowflake, the dog) is doing okay.

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