RRHS students go on a sled-dog adventure!
By Ken Johnston
Who said high school isn’t an adventure? Well members of Rainy River High School’s Outdoor Activities Course definitely had one on February 19 and 20th!
The class had a slight delay on the 19th due to a storm that hit the previous day. However, the late start did not dampen their adventurous spirits as they travelled to Vermillion Bay by bus where they met up with Burton Penner of Borealis Sled Dog Adventures.
Once they arrived there Penner gave them lessons on how to harness the dogs and a few tips on driving. However, “It wasn’t hard for us to drive them as our teams just followed Burton’s,” said student Camille Johnson.
“It was harder stopping than anything,” said student Myan Miller, “You really have to apply the brake to get them to stop!”
Penner set up five dog sled teams on which two people took turns on each of them, riding and then driving. “We travelled 14 km across the lake, some creeks and overland portages until we reached his trap line cabins,” said teacher Guy Arpin. “The ride was rough as the storm and wind from the previous day had created drifts that we had to cut through.”
Riding with Penner was student Victoria Clifford who really enjoyed the ride, but said driving was more fun. Arpin said it was fun, “Until Victoria dumped the sled with Burton in it!” No one was hurt and after a laugh them continued on.
Once they reached the cabins they had plenty of work to keep them busy. They learned how to take the dogs off the harness and leash them. Then they had to cut spruce bows for the dogs to lay on as it was brutally cold out.
Prior to the trip the students learned winter survival skills and how to build Quinzee snow shelters. But due to the delay in getting to Vermillion Bay, they arrived late in the day at the cabins and did not have time to make Quinzees. However, Penner had two already built and when bed time came he offered to let one of the students sleep in one of them with him. Nick Haw took him up on it. While Penner said it was the best night of sleep he had in years, Haw said, “I woke up a lot. I was a bit concerned about sleeping in one but I wanted to try it and it was fun.”
Before they retired for the night, the students, Victoria Clifford, Joey Halverson, Joey Thunder, Myan Miller, Jenna Jarvis, Camille Johnson, Zac Tolen, Nick Haw and teachers Guy Arpin, Jenelle Lowes and Mark Jodoin, also fed the dogs. They were surprised what the dogs ate. Joey Halverson said, “It was a mix of dog food, warm water and beaver chunks.” Arpin noted that Penner recycles all of the animals he traps, putting meat in the dog’s food.
The next morning they went out to check Penner’s traps. Halverson and Penner went out farther than the dog teams via snowmobile and found a rare Blonde Marten in a trap. The previous evening they had also watched Penner do a skinning demonstration of a Marten; one he had already trapped.
Prior to the trip, Jodoin, who is teaching the college credit component of this dual-credit course, brought in Brian Love, a trapper from Mine Centre, to teach the students all about trapping and the different animals that are trapped. So the experience on the dog sled trek was something they completely understood.
With the delayed beginning the students had less time to do more while on the adventure, and most agreed that it should be made into a three day adventure. Arpin and Jodoin said it is something they will look at for the future.
The next trip for the class will be a canoe trip to Lerone Lake near Quetico Provincial Park. At present the students are designing and making their own paddles that they will be able to use on the canoe trip.
All the students enjoyed the experience with Penner and his dog sleds. “We never heard one complaint from any of the students,” said Jodoin.
Victoria Clifford and Myan Miller respectively said, “It was awesome and fun-tabulous!”