Malamute Expedition Update

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Here is the Malamute expedition update. Because of 11 days of extreme cold temps the rivers have broken loose with deep overflow. This has forced us to reroute.

The team traveled every day during one of the most severe cold snaps I’ve seen in a while. Temps ranged from -45F to -72F wind-chill.

The dogs maintained their original fat levels during the cold snap while consuming on average 1.72lb dry kibble per dog a day 100lb+ dogs ate less than 80lb dogs. The Malamute’s low metabolism and ability to cope with extreme cold is incredible. Myself, I consumed more than 10,000 calories a day and still lose weight.

Got Cold?

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Today is -72F wind-chill.  For those of you that don’t know what heading into a -72F wind-chill it feels like eat very quickly as much ice cream you can until you are numb.

Yesterday was a little chilly -50F but the team did great. Retrieved a cache I had buried before a steep hill before the three blizzard onslaught. I was lucky to find it.

On the trail….

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On the move again with my best trail breakers in lead, Farmer & his son Jr. -42F windchill, clear skies, & northern. -45F today, & the team is doing great. Tough going as the snow is drying out to the consistency of sand. Typical Arctic.

 

First Blizzard – Snow Tunneling

 

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Update after 34 hrs. the blizzard is raging with a nastier temper than ever before. Mother Nature is pissed. Now, 30F-40F wind-chill blowing snow persists and drifting deep. It was a struggle to escape from my tent this am. When I pulled the zipper on the door I was greeted with solid white after tunneling through the snow like a mole I managed to escape. The dogs are doing well. One sled is buried & cannot be seen, the other sled is partly buried.

Getting Started.

Good news. We had some communication issues, but we believe it has been fixed. Joe has made some progress this week, but became wet today. Many of the rivers and lakes are not fully frozen, causing issues for the team.

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21 Alaskan Malamute Team

This is one of my favorite photos taken last winter. The picture itself describes the pure love for pulling that’s ingrained in Alaskan Malamutes. These guys, Farmer, Bear and Boss, are leaders of a 21-dog team pulling a 2,500 lb. load of supplies in Alaska’s arctic. Angus Mill captured these three photos on his second 21 day expedition with me and the team.

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2014 Alaskan Malamute Expedition

2014 Alaskan Malamute Expedition

The proposed date of the 2014 solo, unsupported, dogsled expedition will begin January 22nd.and end April 1st.

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The team and I will travel through the most remote, rugged region in Alaska’s Arctic Brooks Range where never in modern recorded history has a dog team traveled. We will not be resupplied for the entire multi-month expedition. The supplies, including one ton of dog food, will be hauled on two large freight sleds with 22 freight dogs hitched to the sleds. Our innovative traveling technique is unprecedented and has allowed the dog team and me to travel in so-called inaccessible regions of the Arctic for as long as four months without resupply.

The terrain in Alaska’s Brooks Range is treacherous and is well known as having one of the most brutal environments on earth. I expect to endure hurricane force winds with -100F wind-chill and deep snow. The 2014 Arctic expedition will be the ultimate proving ground for equipment, clothing, and technical gear. I do not expect to see another human being during the entire expedition.

Mission; is to raise awareness of a growing worldwide homeless dog population in rescue shelters. Now, with our increasing international popularity of our expeditions, I have a greater opportunity to raise awareness of this crisis than ever before. Our audience encompasses the globe with many thousands of people which virtually follow the team and me trek across the rugged mountains. I have pledged to contribute a large percentage of expedition donations to shelters in the United Kingdom and U.S.A.

We appreciate any donation amount. We have set up four levels for donors.
1. $10 Receive Expedition Email Updates
2. $25 Email updates & T-Shirt
3. $100 Email updates, T-Shirt & Signed Expedition Print
4. $125 or Email updates, T-Shirt & Signed Expedition Print & Honorary Sponsor Recognition

Sponsor’s support and products will be highlighted in my speaking engagements. In the past I have given presentations in Europe, Scandinavia, and the US. Additionally, I will write reviews in magazines and mention sponsor’s products in social media sites, blogs, and websites. Also, I have an upcoming book that will be published fall of 2014 in which my sponsors will be highlighted.

This year, I will document the expedition with video, still photography, and a written daily log. I plan is to post daily updates on twitter, outdoor enthusiast’s blogs, and Face Book, via Delorme InReach device.

A L’envoi

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L’Envoi

You who have lived in the land,
You who have trusted the trail,
You who are strong to withstand,
You who are swift to assail:
Songs have I sung to beguile,
Vintage of desperate years,
Hard as a harlot’s smile,
Bitter as unshed tears.
Little of joy or mirth,
Little of ease I sing;
Sagas of men of earth
Humanly suffering,
Such as you all have done;
Savagely faring forth,
Sons of the midnight sun,
Argonauts of the North.
Far in the land God forgot
Glimmers the lure of your trail;
Still in your lust are you taught
Even to win is to fail.
Still you must follow and fight
Under the vampire wing;
There in the long, long night
Hoping and vanquishing.
Husbandman of the Wild,
Reaping a barren gain;
Scourged by desire, reconciled
Unto disaster and pain;
These, my songs, are for you,
You who are seared with the brand
God knows I have tried to be true;
Please God you will understand.

-Robert Service

The Lone Trail

IMG_1456The Lone Trail

Ye who know the Lone Trail
fain would follow it,
Though it lead to glory
or the darkness of the pit.

Ye who take the Lone Trail,
bid your love good-by;
The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail
follow till you die.

The trails of the world be countless,
and most of the trails be tried;
You tread on the heels of the many,
till you come where the ways divide;

And one lies safe in the sunlight,
and the other is dreary and wan,
Yet you look aslant at the Lone Trail,
and the Lone Trail lures you on.

And somehow you’re sick of the highway,
with its noise and its easy needs,
And you seek the risk of the by-way,
and you reck not where it leads.

And sometimes it leads to the desert,
and the tongue swells out of the mouth,
And you stagger blind to the mirage,
to die in the mocking drouth.

And sometimes it leads to the mountain,
to the light of the lone camp-fire,
And you gnaw your belt in the anguish
of hunger-goaded desire.

And sometimes it leads to the Southland,
to the swamp where the orchid glows,
And you rave to your grave with the fever,
and they rob the corpse for its clothes.

And sometimes it leads to the Northland,
and the scurvy softens your bones,
And your flesh dints in like putty,
and you spit out your teeth like stones.

And sometimes it leads to a coral reef
in the wash of a weedy sea,
And you sit and stare at the empty glare
where the gulls wait greedily.

And sometimes it leads to an Arctic trail,
and the snows where your torn feet freeze,
And you whittle away the useless clay,
and crawl on your hands and knees.

Often it leads to the dead-pit;
always it leads to pain;
By the bones of your brothers ye know it,
but oh, to follow you’re fain.

By your bones they will follow behind you,
till the ways of the world are made plain.
Bid good-by to sweetheart,
bid good-by to friend;

The Lone Trail, the Lone Trail
follow to the end.
Tarry not, and fear not, chosen of the true;
Lover of the Lone Trail, the Lone Trail waits for you.

-Robert Service

Alaska, Bear, and Man Eater

When Alaska was young and known for its rugged frontier lifestyle most folks that lived in the bush worked summer jobs as lumberjacks, gold miners, or road construction workers.  In winter they lived off the land in subsistence, self reliance lifestyles.  During those early Alaskan years we lived in a small log cabin without electricity or running water and our only transportation in winter was a dog team.  Life revolved around our dogs and we depended on them as much as they relied on us to survive.  It worked both ways.  One couldn’t survive without the other.

There were a few small villages and gold mining communities in our area, and people locally knew me for my knack in training dogs, especially the dogs that were “untrainable.”  Mushers from many miles around the region brought me their unwanted dogs that were either too large, slow, mean, or just couldn’t be trained.  Of course, I didn’t have the heart to turn the dogs away, knowing that their other options were bleak, so I adopted and rescued the dogs and eventually integrated them into my team.

I remember one dog that I adopted was named “Man-eater”.   He stood eye to eye to me while on his hind legs and voiced a rumbling growl that made the hairs on back of my neck stand up.  Man-eater was renamed Bandit and soon he became one of the friendliest, harmless, powerful giant malamute-husky mixes I’ve ever had.  And he pulled like an ox, too.  Then there was Bruiser.  He was another large malamute mix that had the softest brown eyes you’d have ever seen.  If you looked closely into them you’d see someone starving for attention.  And that’s all it took for the big Bruiser, just lots of attention and he quickly transformed from an outright aggressive, 140 lb. brute, into a cuddly fella that loved nothing more than a belly rub.

However, there’s one dog that I’ll forever hold and adore deep in my heart as the miracle dog.  He came to me unexpectedly while I was away on an enduring cold and strenuous dogsled journey in search of caribou for our family larder.  When I arrived home with a heavily loaded sled I noticed a small black pup tethered to a tree next to the cabin door.  As I approached him he frantically fought the chain’s hold on his collar and attempted to hide behind the small spruce tree that held the chain.  He shook like a leaf as I calmly whispered and talked to him.   After a few minutes of coaxing, he allowed a soft pet and stroke on his muzzle and soon I was holding and running my fingers over his bony ribs and hips.

“You’ve had a tough life little fella.  Let’s go inside and I’ll cook you a big, juicy, caribou steak,’  I said as I cradled him in my arms and carried him through the doorway where my wife was waiting inside.

My wife immediately told the story about the small dog.  Apparently, a local dog musher had heard that I was adopting unwanted dogs.  He had a disastrous gold mining season and couldn’t afford to keep many of his dogs so he mushed 30 miles, enduring high winds, and -50F temperatures to deliver the pup in hopes that I could give him a better life than he could.

I was thankful for the dog musher’s care and perseverance in risking his own health for the pup’s sake and promised the little guy he would become a member of our family.

As time passed, the black puppy with deep brown wanting eyes became handsomely broad shouldered with a deep chest, thick bones, and large feet.  All held together with a thick layer of dense muscle.  But he had one unique marking that stood out prominently.  It was a small white tuft of fur on his chest that resembled the marking of a black bear.  So I named him Bear.  Bear settled comfortably into our home and became a member of our family.  His shyness melted away revealing one of the most unique and intelligent dogs that I’ve ever had.  It seemed that he knew our daily routine and what we had planned before we planned it.  He studied my body language intensely and anticipated every move I made, whether it was chores inside or outside the cabin, hauling water from the river, or loading my rifle to go hunting.  He was there to follow me wherever I went, or whatever I did.

The following winter it was time for Bear to prove himself in the team.  When I slipped a harness on him, attached the neck and tug lines, he dug his claws into the hard packed snow, lunged forward, and snapped that tug line so tight that it sang.  He was certainly born to pull and eager to go.

Instinctively, I knew some day he’d become a great leader and guide me and the team across the continental divide and into territories where few dog teams have ever stood.   I also knew his bloodline would flow in my dogs for many, many generations to come.  He was certainly a godsend.

Now, Bear lives in our hearts and memories.  And every time I see his off spring take command in lead, or sing an ancient tune to the stars, I’m reminded of my dear old friend Bear.

However, there is something that I neglected to mention about Bear.  Aside from being a tough and enduring Arctic lead dog, additionally Bear had the golden opportunity to play a major role in the 1990 Walt Disney movie White Fang.   He was the leader of the dog team in the story.  So, in a sense he continues to live for all of us to see.