Tuesday, 17 March 2015

 I'm looking forward to guiding a couple of back to back Floe Edge trips this coming spring near Pond Inlet Nunavut.  Both trips are base camp based and last about nine days.  The first one is the Sea Kayak & X-C Ski trip where we explore both ice and water by either means and return to our base camp nightly.  The second trip is the straight up floe edge base camp trip that suits birders and wildlife fanatics alike.

  In either case, whether you opt for the more adventurous kayak & ski trip or the pure base camp trip there is always the option of opting out of any activity and just doing your own thing in camp.  Whether you want to come for adventure, Inuit culture, the experience of camping over 500' of sea water or hoping for the chance of a lifetime sighting of a Polar Bear or Narwhal, North Baffin in the spring is the best place in the world for it.

To join me, Steve Ruskay and Mark Scriver this spring go to www.blackfeather.com

 On route, Bylot Island in the background.
 Co-guide David Reid on the look out for sea life.
 Co-guide Elijah Panipakoocho Kadloo testing the ice thickness near a lead.
 Natsiq, ringed seal.
 Qilalugaq Tugaalik, Narwhal

 Akpait, Thick Billed Murres
 Cook shelters and dining shelters with Marcus in the foreground, an aspiring guide from Pond Inlet.
 Pooling in the sea ice, North Baffin in the background.
 The group enjoying beautiful high arctic spring weather.
 Watching ringed seals through a crack in the sea ice.

 David listening to the sounds of the deep on the hydrophone.
Co-guide Mattiasi Qaunak during a lunch break near the nesting site of a white phase gyrfalcon.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Kayak training on Georgian Bay in May

I went down south to Whitesquall on Georgian bay to challenge the Paddle Canada level 2 instructor course as well as the basic instructor trainer course.  I brought a couple of Cadets from Kuujjuaq who have excelled in our local qajaq program and are quite enthusiastic.  These two guys are the real stars of the trip as they both walked away with two National certifications and both are now certified basic kayak instructors.  Perhaps the first two certified Inuk qajaq instructors in Nunavik, but I don't know for sure....
Greg Mason, David Johnston and Tim Dyer where all wonderful instructors and I walked away richer because of them and ready to teach at new challenging levels.  Many thanks are due to Kathy and Tim for welcoming us into their home and to the Squall staff for making us feel welcome.

Following the two courses I stuck around to help a friend and co-guide teach the sea kayak component of Blackfeather's annual guide warm up training.  Staff warm up training at BF is always fun and really diverse.  Topics range from R3 courses, to predator defense training, to WFR, logisitcs, risk management and much more.  Given where I live, I don't always make it south for the warm up and have to keep my certs updated on my own which is fine.  With that said it is always fun to get together with a crew of fun, diverse and  professional people absent of any elitism.  This is my 9th year working for BF and the vibe hasn't changed.  Guiding for Blackfeather is the outdoor equivalent of playing for the habs (from the perspective of a habs fan).  You get to go a out and do great things, but it is the foundation of the club or family or whatever you wanna call it that makes it so awesome to begin with.  The people that come on our trips further add to this experience.  I am not the only guide that exchanges emails with BF alumni or meets past participants for lunch.  So thanks to all you fellow guides and to you trippers who have made it so fun over the years!  I am looking forward to another summer on the ice and the water.

 I've never heard the VHF say "unusual presence of lake ice" so many times......

 The above photos where taken on the Bay during the Level 2 Instructor course which ran alongside the level 2 skills course.
Basic Kayak Instructors & their trainers, Cole Lake.

Below are Blackfeather staff training shots.....

Easter Weekend

Easter weekend was spent 20 some kilometres north of town camping at Tasirlak.  A few families including us have set our tents in the same spot for the last couple of years.  I makes a for a cozy and safe tent city as we can rely on each other.  Tasirlak is also where the Easter games took place on Easter Monday so it was a convenient location to be.  It was our first time having the dogs pull a fully loaded sled with the whole family (a had done a solo test run by myself the weekend before).  There was a 4 dog race that took place on the Monday which I partook in with an 8 year old, a 2 year old and two 7 month old pups.  They did remarkably well.  All I hoped for was to be able to finish the race, but in the end I placed 5th and walked away with a hundred bucks.  Not bad.

                                          Waterproof Iqartiliik
                                          Two Cuties
                                          Fire in the hole
                                          Irnik 5 Gallon
                                         Tasialuk Racing (the only race I know of where you can drink tea while racing)
                                          Approaching the finish line

                                         Apuukuu while Anaana sleeps
                                         Checking out the dogs on a misty Tuesday
                                          The results of that mist later in the morning on the way home

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


It has been a while sine I have updated anything on this blog.  Between family, dogs and the making of equipment I've been far too busy to post anything here.  I have however, taken photos along the way.
We have since added two new pups to the group form Iqaluit.  These pups were born on the same day as each other from different mothers on the same team. They are genetically unique from one another but act as brother and sister.  Also, conveniently they are only three days younger than our other pups, making them an ideal fit.  Their names are Kajuk and Misty.

I've also been busy making some new equipment.  I've eye spliced a bunch of lengths of three strand twist (for use as traces) and made uqsiit for the sled side of the lines. More harnesses have been sewed to fit the pups and a whole bunch of sanniruujait have been made for existing harnesses as well as new ones.  I also built a 14' qamutik with 24" napuiit.  After building the qamutik my one year old son helped me assemble the box that mounts on the front of it.

This front mounting box is real Nunavik style.  I had decided I was going to go this route mostly out of tradition without realizing it's unique benefits.  Prior to building the box I had used the qamutik without it.  On ice it really doesn't matter where the box is mounted or if there is even a box at all.  Most of Nunavik doesn't have any trees but there are a lot of land based dog sled routes where the front mounted box really helps in controlling the direction of the qamutik.  Especially in the wooded areas of Kuujjuaq where there is soft deep snow right beside the trail and trees within that snow it is really helpful to be able to grab the antler handle and direct the qamutik back on the trail when it veers off. Some boxes have wooden handles that extend off the sides that also help with steering.  The box closes with a beluga tooth toggle.

The pups are now all approaching six months of age and I've been integrating one pup at a time with the adults while pulling since they hit the five month mark.  There is much variation in opinion when it is deemed appropriate to put pups in harness and I am definitely on the less conservative side of this group.  Essentially you don't want to damage the bones or joints of pups, nor do you want them to be over disciplined creating a negative experience.  Early work in harness should always be fun and the pups should never be pushed to their limits.  They shouldn't finish the run exhausted nor should they pull too much or pushed too fast.  Every situation is unique and in our situation we need to keep the sled slow with some weight so the pups can keep up with the adults.  Even though the qamutik is weighted the pups aren't doing grunt work as they leave that up to the adults.  This is an instance where the fan hitch really has an advantage as it is easy to monitor the pups individually.  In general three to five hour runs with pups at this age should be fine, but individual dogs vary and need to be monitored.  Your pups will tell you when to call it quits if you are willing to listen.

All pulling...
Pups dropping back...
The load it took to keep the adults at a reasonable speed for the pups.  There is a one year old in that amautik too.

Finally, the most important part.  Keeping kids involved:

With a close watchful eye and never ever alone.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Keepin' on

After the death of 3 pups out of 7 due to parvovirus and the subsequent loss of their mother likely due to a bone blockage in her bowels we've had no choice but to move on and make an effort to train a younger female as lead dog. Fortunately for the pups that survived parvo, their mother passed after they had been weaned.  Right now we are working on one female with an older male who she knows and is comfortable running with.  As the vaccine we receive here for parvo & distemper is a live vaccine, if it is suspected that your pups have been exposed they are better left un-vacccinated for the duration of the incubation period of the virus (5 days to 3 weeks).  That alone is a tough call to make, though there is apparently a parvo test butt swab available that is simple to use, making the decision to vaccinate at the present time or not a much simpler choice.  In the future I will likely order the test swabs form Montreal or Iqaluit once we are expecting a litter.  To clarify all this, the first symptoms our pups showed were 24 hours after the vaccine, pointing to the fact that they had likely been already exposed to the virus and perhaps the vaccine pushed their immune system over the limit. It is impossible to say for sure, though the parvo test in the future will help us make a more informed decision.  For the most part Inuit Sled Dogs need very little medical interference from their owners, often times too much "care" can be detrimental in the long run.  The weak for the most part shouldn't survive, nor should the ones who display "fear aggression" or other negative social traits.  Parvovirus & distemper however are relatively new in the North and Inuit dogs have very little resilience them.  Despite the loss of some dogs we are really enjoying the training process and are subsequently learning more in the process.  Here are a couple of shots from the 5th of December.