Saturday, March 1, 2014


In August 2012, I created a bucket list that had many different things that I wanted to do in my lifetime. One of the things on the list was to mush a dogsled.

Mushing a dogsled team at Wintergreen.
This was one of many beautiful trails we were on.

One of the first things we learned was that it takes a considerable amount of clothing and gear to go dogsledding. Each of us had multiple layers of clothes on to stay warm.

Olivia with all her clothes for dogsledding.

This was essential given that the temperatures were in the single digits and the windchill was even colder than that.

Sophia with her clothes for dogsledding.

On Monday and Tuesday (Feburary 24th and 25th), I had the opportunity to do that at two different places: Ely and Duluth.

In Ely, Sophia, Olivia, and I went dogsledding through Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge. The lodge is co-owned by Paul and Sue Schurke. Paul went with Ann Bancroft, Will Steger, and other explorers to the North Pole in 1986.

Sophia and Olivia with Paul Schurke and Greg (our guide)
and our two dogsled teams.

Paul greeted us as we arrived at Wintergreen, helped hook up the dogs, and accompanied us for part of the ride since it was our first trip.

There were about 60 Canadian Inuit Dogs at Wintergreen. This breed, according to Wintergreen's website, is considered to be the "Sherman Tank" of the mushing world. The breed evolved with the Arctic cultures which employed them as draft animals.

Sophia with her two-dog sled team.

As the Wintergreen website said, "[The dogs] truly are athletes. An Inuit dog will pull at least twice its weight in payload at a pace of 4-6 mph for hours at a time. Their thick double coats and tough demeanor allow them to thrive in extreme conditions. In fact, the colder it is the harder they pull."

Olivia and I shared a sled with four dogs since she did not want to be on her own. Sophia had her own sled with two dogs.

We followed a guide who was on cross-country skis.

Our four-dog team of dogs.
I'm making them wait while Greg skis off on the trail.

The dogs maintained a steady, controlled pace since we were limited by how fast the guide could ski. At times, we would stop and let him ski ahead so we could give the dogs the opportunity to run a bit faster.

The sleds were designed specifically for Wintergreen and had a platform to stand on. The brake system was behind the platform and gave the musher the opportunity to control how quickly or slowly the sled should go.

Wintergreen was an excellent introduction to dogsledding; and provided the knowledge and confidence to move to the next level at Positive Energy Outdoors.

On Monday afternoon, after we finished dogsledding in Ely, we drove to Duluth. On Tuesday morning, we went dogsledding through Positive Energy Outdoors.

The experience began with a kennel tour, where we met a lot of the Alaskan huskies. Some of the dogs had a bit of greyhound mixed into them, so they appeared quite different from the Canadian Inuit Dogs that we saw at Wintergreen the day before.

One of the sled dogs.

We learned about the sleds that we were going to use and how they differed from the ones at Wintergreen.

Two braking systems were between the two runners.

These sleds had runners (versus a platform), two different braking systems (one that was similar to the one at Wintergreen and then another one that was used to gradually slow down or add drag to the sled), and a snow anchor.

Steph showing the snow anchor and 
explaining how to use it.

We had the opportunity to bring down the dogs to the line, put harnesses on them, and hook up the team.

The girls bringing down a dog to the line.

Positive Energy Outdoors used belts that we wore around our waists. Attached to them was a rope and clip that attached to the dog's collar. Bringing some of the 17 dogs that we used on the two teams was an eye-opening experience: they were incredibly strong and powerful! In some cases, it took both Sophia and Olivia to bring down just ONE dog.

Harnesses set out for each of the dogs.

It was interesting to see all the work that is involved with getting ready to go on a ride.

Almost ready to go.
We are hooking up each dog to the sled now.

At Positive Energy Outdoors, we were able to both be riders in the sleds as well as mushers.

Sophia with Blake (the guide) mushing their dog sled team.

We went on trails and onto Island Lake where we went through marshes, bays, and the lake itself where the wind was quite strong.

Our two teams of dogs 
(17 dogs were used between the two sleds).

We felt like we were in the Arctic with the cold temperature and biting wind.

The dogsled teams facing one another in the middle of the lake.

When we returned to the kennel area, we watched how they received treats.

Eager dogs waiting for a frozen meat treat.

Then we brought them back to their individual homes after unhooking their harnesses.

Olivia putting the harness on a dog.

Both experiences were wonderful, and they complemented each other in terms of what we were able to do and see.


Rita said...

Now that was an adventure!! I love all the pictures. What an exciting thing to have on your bucket list. Wow! :)

c.creativity said...

Sounds amazing, and a great hands-on experience, rather than just a passive ride!