21ST ANNUAL APOSTLE ISLAND SLED DOG RACE – BAYFIELD, WI | #AISDR

According to the Smithsonian website, exactly how long canines have provided companionship just got a revision: Instead of pinning domestication at about 11,000 to 16,000 years ago, new genetic evidence shows that man’s best friend may have split from wolves 27,000 to 40,000 years ago. This new evidence proves dog power has been used for hunting and travel for quite sometime and the human-animal bond travels beyond anything we can measure.

Yearly, we make the trip to photograph the Annual Apostle Island Dog Sled Races in Bayfield WI. The excitement seen and heard during this event is exhilarating, specially at the start of the race. To watch the bond between the dog sled team and musher is beyond any words I can say.

Assembling a dog sled team involves picking leader dogs, point dogs, swing dogs, and wheel dogs. The lead dog is crucial, as this fearless leader will lead its team to the success of completing the task. Powerful wheel dogs are also just as important since they are needed to pull the sled out from the snow. Point dogs (optional) are located behind the leader dogs, swing dogs are located between the point and wheel dogs, and team dogs are all other dogs in between. The wheel and swing dogs are selected for their endurance, strength and speed as part of the team.

A team of sled dogs has as many different personalities as a team of co-workers in any business. The musher must know and respect each personality of its team; placing each one in a position where they will give 100% during a race or outing. There are many different factors that go into picking the right sled dog and for what position they will play as part of the team. Qualities include, but are not limited to the following:

Pulling ability
Speed: The right pace at the right time
Endurance
Attitude or determination: a desirable specimen displays a positive mental and emotional attitude towards his work. Attitude is contagious!
Intelligence and Trainability: Responding quickly and positively to a driver’s efforts to teach him commands or procedures and to be aware of encountered obstacles.
Co-operation
Docility: a desirable specimen is easy to handle, manageable and docile. He does not pick fights with other dogs and even turns aside from other dogs’ aggression.
Bonding: A bond to musher and team needs to be strong.
Movement: Both speed and endurance are negatively affected when a sled dog has an inefficient movement.
Courage: They will display awareness of danger on the trail without being fearful.
Temperament: Stability is important; they are neither nervous nor aggressive, but just right.
Climate Hardiness
Health, Viability and Longevity
Leader quality: Once you have a good lead, everyone wants to follow.

Before I go, I thought I would share the story of one musher and his team, “Racey’s Rescues”. This team is a favorite among the crowd, not because they are the best team and win every race, but because these “underdogs” were brought together because they were in need of rescue. All dogs on this team was rescued from poor situations and were trained to work together, maybe not to win, but to live a life filled with fun runs and excitement. I give credit to pack leaders, Sally Hedges and Jim Lynch, as it took patience and a lot of hard work so that these four-legged wonders could overcome whatever situation they came from – enough to enjoy life and come together as a team to push through obstacles that would have otherwise stopped them in their tracks.

I highly recommend this event no matter if you are a spectator, a volunteer, or a participant.  I know we will be there year after year, cheering each team along.

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Grinding our way south… Pickwick Mill

grist•mill (ˈgrɪstˌmɪl)
a mill, esp one equipped with large grinding stones for grinding grain.

We were tipped off earlier in the year about a gristmill located in Southern Minnesota that is still operational after all these years. After more research, we actually found a few within a days drive from home that we would like to visit.  Our eyes opened to a beautiful June morning, so we decided to pack up our gear and the girls (Tindra and Audrey) and head out for a day trip to Southeastern MN in search of the whispered gristmills.

The first stop was the Pickwick Mill located near Winona, MN.  Thomas Grant and Wilson Davis built the mill during the years 1856 to 1858 and is one of the oldest water powered gristmills found in southeast Minnesota.   This old gristmill has some history as it ran 24 hours a day during the Civil War and produced 100 barrels daily for the Union Army. After the war, the mill became a flour-milling center for most of southern Minnesota and portions of Iowa and Wisconsin.

The mill was built from locally quarried limestone, with a timber frame that was so closely fit, that nails were not used (outside of the floor). The six-story building is now registered as a historic site by Pickwick Mill, Inc., a privately funded, non-profit organization.

As we walked into this old mill we were greeted by a courteous volunteer who was so eager to share its history.  After a brief video, the volunteer went over to the water-shoot and opened the forces that powered this mill.  As the creaking noise of the turning waterwheel became louder and louder, the vibration started and shook the entire building.  Feeling the power of this mill straight down to your bones was an amazing sensation.

We had a great time learning about this mill and I would highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.

Click on the following link for more information:    Pickwick Mill

Days and Hours of Operation
The Pickwick Mill will be open
* Weekends during May, September, and October
* Tuesday through Sunday during June, July, and August
Hours of operation:
10AM – 5PM Tuesday through Saturday
11AM – 5PM Sunday
Tours at other times available by appointment. Call 507-457-0499,
507-457-3296, 507-457-9658

Ticket Purchase
Tickets cost $3 adults, $2 teenagers over age 12, $1 children age 12 or under. Group tour prices available.

Off we go…  Into the wild blue yonder to our next destination, Schech’s Mill located south of Houston, MN.