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Jens arrived in January to help train dogs and finalize equipment selections.  Here he is fixing one of the expedition stoves.

Prepare for Take Off!

Date: 02.25.02
Position: NOMADS Base Camp Grand Marais, MN USA
Weather Conditions: Light snow 23F/-16C

Its hard to believe that its actually time to leave - not that leaving comes as much of a surprise.  Everyone at NOMADS base camp has been watching the clock on the website for the last two weeks.  After months of preparation, there is really nothing left to do but pack up and go.  In a few minutes, we will be loading everything into the trailer.

And when we say everything... we mean everything!  Can you imagine carrying all that you need to live and survive for over a month in a fourteen foot long dogsled?  That's what we have to do!  So, before being loaded into the trailer each item is carefully inventoried, checked and double checked.  Leaving something behind could prove disastrous for us out on the trail.  Things like snow hooks, dog food, people food, snowshoes, skis, dog sleds, rope, carabiners, stoves, fuel, communication equipment, a small generator, IBM laptop computer, sunscreen, cameras, ax, shovels... (get the picture?) are all loaded. 

Eighteen Polar Huskies need to get loaded into the dog truck, too.  Each dog travels on a comfortable "bed" of straw in their own box.  Dogs like Fuji, Khan and Nuka are always very excited to go.  The dog yard explodes with eager barking as we begin loading dogs.  They know that they will end up somewhere new and will soon be able to do two of their favorite things: run and pull.  Once on the road, we usually stop every six to eight hours to let the Polar Huskies (and people) out to stretch, eat and go to the bathroom.

On the trail, each of us will need to eat over 5,000 calories per day - that means eating a healthy well balanced diet with extras like cheese and butter. 
Freja relaxes in comfort before the door is closed.  The dog yard explodes with barking and excitement when we begin loading the dogs.  All the dogs want to come along!
After all the gear and food is loaded (including all the NOMADS team members) we will drive north on Hwy 61 to the Canada.  On the way we will pass through Grand Portage, a famous place where voyager fur traders gathered and is currently home to the Grand Portage band of Ojibway and their reservation. A few miles farther down the road, we will stop the Pigeon River Customs station at the US / Canadian border.  Then, its north to Thunder Bay where we will "hang a left", head west and finally veer north toward Red Lake, Ontario. All told the drive should take around a day and a half.

The area that we will be traveling across is, by no means, unexplored territory.  People have crisscrossed this region for various reasons throughout history.  From the ancestors of the Ojibway and Cree to fur traders and voyagers to the region's current residents, northern Ontario has seen its fair share of the human race.  Regardless, its hard not to think that we will be acting kind of like explorers.  Many of the places we will visit are fairly remote and are only accessible by plane.  As NOMADS "explorers", we will not be looking for fortune or fame; instead, our goal is to educate about the environment, land and people of this unique area. 

For us, this territory is new, fresh and relatively unspoiled.  Every hill, every valley, twist and turn of the trail will be a new adventure.  Imagine traveling to a different place almost everyday for over a month!  Sounds exciting doesn't it?  While traveling to new places and meeting new people can be very exciting, it can also be dangerous, and at times, nerve wracking.  Thin ice, bad trail conditions and winter storms are all concerns.  

Although she would much rather be out on the trail with the rest of the team, Mille will be in charge of base camp during Pimagihowin 2002.  She will play a crucial role facilitating the educational program, updating the website, and of course, working with the remaining Polar Huskies.
 We also want to make sure to leave a good impression on the people we meet.  We want to be respectful and sincere.  In the past, explorers have accomplished many great feats.  They have also brought disease, famine and the destruction to most Native cultures they encountered. 

(If you have ever wanted to become an explorer or you have an opinion about some of the effects of exploration, participate in this week's online chat and discussion boards.  You discuss this issue and "chat" with NOMADS team members on Thursday, February 28th at 10:00am and 12:00pm central time.)

Now, its important to realize that Pimagihowin 2002 couldn't have happened by itself.  Working alone, there is no way that one person could have trained the Polar Huskies, fixed sleds, prepared marketing brochures, designed the expedition website, met with teachers, contacted sponsors, acquired and tested new equipment, fixed old equipment, fundraised, kept up with accounting, researched the educational program, wrote and edited the curriculum, attended trade shows, fed the Polar Huskies... (get the picture - again?).

Being able to plan, prepare and participate in the Pimagihowin 2002 expedition took the skills, talents and efforts of all the NOMADS team members.  As a group, we needed to trust one another to do a good job and complete tasks efficiently.  Each of us is responsible for one part of the whole.  Separately, we could not accomplish what needed to be done; however, together, Sarah was able to feed, train and care for the Polar Huskies, Mille and Paul were able to manage NOMADS, attend trade shows and promote the Pimagihowin 2002 expedition and I was able to write and edit the education program.  Cassie's insight and teaching expertise helped create the 2002 Curriculum & Activity Guide.  Mary Ann managed the office and even Jens came over from Denmark to lend a helping hand.  For us, team members are not just the people on the trail.

During a normal winter, there would be almost 3 feet of snow on the ground by this date.  Instead, we have around 8 inches.  So, Sarah still trains the Polar Huskies with a one of NOMADS ATV's. (Here with Spook and Norma)


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