Monday, December 29, 2008
The propane gas industry adds a rotten egg smell to their naturally colorless, odorless, and very explosive propane product. That's a good start.
However, sometimes that could lead to unsafe confusion. Is that rotten egg smell a dangerous propane leak, or just the Thanksgiving leftovers reminding me of their long-ago demise in the frig?
Alas, some snappy dogsledding guests suggest a stellar and ultimately safer idea: add dog farts to the propane.
The idea arose after our first morning of dogsledding. Our dogs are Canadian Inuit dogs. They eat a special high fat, high energy diet of working dog kibble. It results in especially pungent flatulence. These nice folks picked up on it right away. Then they came up with this brilliant idea!
And, yes, this working dog flatulence is distinct enough that you could never blame a dog fart scented propane leak on, say, your spouse on the couch.
The above pic shows Panda in lead next to Fudgee, thinking: "Was that you?"
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
His doghouse is near the main entrance to the kennel. That means he gets extra petting from guests.
He's one of my favorites because he is ultra-consistant and reliable. That means I give him some extra attention.
But, he's really lucky to just be alive. He was born a cute white puppy in Greenland. However, cute white pupplies don't have a long life expectancy in parts of Greenland. The reason is tied to a proud tradition of Inuit (or "Eskimo") hunters, and Arctic customs.
The Inuit men proudly wear polar bear chaps during their dogsled hunting journeys to kill seal and polar bear. When an Inuit family bears a son, it is tradition for the infant boy to be given similar "polar bear" chaps. However, actual polar bear fur is too coarse and abbrasive on an infant's tender skin. In contrast, the soft fur of a cute white puppy works just right.
Fortunately, an Inuit family gifted Buster to Paul Schurke, the owner of Wintergreen Dog Sled Lodge, during one of his Greenlandic expeditions. Now Buster lives in northern Minnesota - far, far away from his birth place. He lives one of the best lives a sled dog could ask for: Pulling sleds through the snow, working with other dogs in a team, and pleasing the people who come to experience the thrill of dogsledding.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
For more details, contact the Ely Chamber at www.ely.org; or click here for the actual printable coupon and list of participating businesses.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
I ski to work at Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge. It's about a 15 minute ski from my cabin, depending on the weather and snow conditions. The short mid-December days mean that I'm typically skiing the route in the dark.
Today I skied to work in about -20 degree temps, and skied home in about -10 degree temps. But, man, it got up to 0 this afternoon, and it felt like a heat wave!
This pic is of a frosted up Red Pine on the shores of White Iron Lake, along my ski route to Wintergreen.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Case in point. When I started guiding Boundary Waters trips in the mid-nineties I would sometimes camp on Ham Lake. A forest fire has since dramatically changed that lake.
In May 2007, a camper on Ham Lake, just on the edge of the Boundary Waters along the Gunflint Trail, apparently failed to fully extinguish his campfire. The result: the largest forest fire in the region in at least a century. Referred to as the "Ham Lake Fire," it burned more than 75,000 acres, nearly 150 structures, and the above canoes. It also temporarily closed several Boundary Waters entry points. Although the fire did not directly impact our Ely area entry points, we empathize with our friends northeast of Ely who are still rebuilding.
The U.S. attorney's office indicted a Washington, DC, man for starting the wildfire. The case is pending. The government claims the defendant started a fire at a campsite, did not fully extinguish it, and then lied about it. The accused reportedly visited the Boundary Waters annually, and inadvertently started the wildfire. The Associated Press first reported late last night that the defendant has committed suicide.
Above photo dated May 7, 2007, by Sue Prom, posted at http://fire.boreal.org/hamlake/
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Our dogs are purebred Canadian Inuit dogs and they are, quite literally, born to pull. For thousands of years, the Inuit (or Eskimo) people have relied on the breed for pulling large sleds (called "sledges" in Arctic lingo) over long distances. Pulling our sleds through the North Woods with adventuresome participants comes naturally to these dogs, and gives them purpose in life.
We recently harnessed up these pups for the very first time, hitched them next to a more mature dog on a dogsled team, and let them do what their instincts crave. It is incredible to see a puppy almost instantly transform from neophyte to real puller. They typically go from being a perplexed pup tethered to a big and boisterous sled dog team to a confident puller working in unison with the rest of the pack in mere minutes.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Those smart folks at the National Weather Service got it right this weekend. The following forecast came true:
If the above report peaks your curiosity, yes in fact, the good ole' Wintergreen folks are out dogsledding today. The dogs thrive on the cold temps. They prefer 20 below over 20 above any day. They seem to kick in a special low gear and pull especially hard when the temps dip.
Weather report for Ely:
... Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 12 PM CST Monday... Snow intensity will increase through the afternoon... persisting overnight. Snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches an hour. Winds of 20 to 30 mph... combined with the heavy snow... will result in blowing snow and reduced visibilities of a quarter mile or less at times.
Delay travel if possible. Traveling will be very difficult or impossible today and tonight. Additional snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches are expected today... with drifts of 2 feet or more. Storm total snowfall of 10 to 16 inches is expected through Monday morning.
Be aware that much colder air will blast across the region this afternoon and tonight. The combination of wind and cold air will generate wind chills of 20 to 30 below zero for this evening through Monday. If you must travel... use extreme caution and allow extra time to reach your destination.
When not dogsledding through the North Woods (or when travel by car is "very difficult or impossible") you may opt for snowshoeing. It's definitely not as fast, but it is a lot of fun in a deep, fresh, powdery snow. Just ask David and Julie Rochford (above), who ventured out today. David is using a traditional ash wood and rawhide snowshoe with a leather binding. Julie has a cutting edge MSR brand plastic snowshoe with flotation extenders and oversize mitten-friendly rubber bindings.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Kate and I cut it with a bow saw, yelled timber (appropriate for its size), and bro-in-law David dragged it to the cabin. This is the largest Christmas tree of my lifetime. It stands 12+ feet tall. Once in the cabin, we positioned the tree next to the loft. It is the only way, short of setting up cumbersome scaffolding, we could get the star positioned on top. This pic shows Kate continuing the important tradition of placing the star on top.
Yes, the lakes are frozen, but we think of summer paddling with the sight of several canoe ornaments on the tree. And some canoeing supplies under the tree, possibly?
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
However, we are fortunate to have friends who are dogsled racers. One of those good friends is Eva Kolodji (above, in red shirt). Eva is a 17 year old musher from Hibbing, Minnesota. She has worked with racing dogs since the second grade, and has competed as one of the youngest mushers in the circuit.
Eva's a really hard worker, and that is paying off. We are very excited that she is taking a big step forward in her dogsledding career this year. She is entered in Minnesota's (and one of the world's) foremost dogsledding competitions - the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon (http://www.beargrease.com/). She is competing in the mid-distance race.
This year Eva will be wearing brand new, custom sewn adventure apparel specially designed and sewn for her by the generous folks at Wintergreen Designs (http://www.wintergreendesigns.com/) in Ely, Minnesota. Kate and I stopped in today while Wintergreen Designs owner Sue Schurke (above, in navy sweater) fitted Eva for her new gear. The generous support and sponsorship of Wintergreen Designs is helping a young person achieve her dreams. Seeing that generosity today really put me in the Christmas spirit.