Thursday was a beautiful winter day in Northern Minnesota. The sky was a crystal blue and clear. The sun was bright and white against the blue of the sky. The ground was blanketed with a layer of sparkling white snow. It was 7 degrees above zero with an expected high of 31. This was as lovely a day as we could hope for on our first ever dog sledding adventure.
The dogs were friendly and happy. They excitedly greeted each one of us. We walked amongst the dogs giving them hugs and loves. They were as excited as we were about the days adventure. It was to be a day long experience that would cover 15-30 miles in Superior National Forest.
It started out with the guides teaching us how to drive the sled and mush the dogs. The most important lesson learned was how to stop the sled; the dogs needed no encouragement to go. They loved to run. Instruction halted for a bit when a dog came over looking for affection. Theo (one of our teachers) stopped what she was doing to give the pup what she was looking for. I was impressed by the love and respect the animals were treated with. Our guides taught us how to safely and kindly harness the team. Lead dogs in front, team dogs in the middle, and wheel dogs in the back. As we secured them to the line, all of the huskies started barking and howling, saying they too wanted to go on the excursion.
As we set off into the middle of the forest, the dogs were excited and wanting to run. Marty (my amazing husband) was driving the sled while I was tucked safely inside, ready for an experience unlike anything I have done before.
We glided through the crystalline world, encompassed completely by nature. Giant boulders, some as big as our house, stood as reminders of the glaciers that dropped them there long years ago. The uphill climbs were slow and steady, while on the downhills the canines poured on the speed. The sound of an occasional bark was the only noise other than the paws on the trail and that of the sled. It was breathtaking! Large pines and bare birch trees stood in alliance protecting this sacred space. We pulled out of the trees to journey across a frozen lake. As we first glided onto the lake, one of the sleds lost its balance and tipped, throwing its driver. The passenger continued on behind the enthusiastic team in the sled, on its side, for a good 20 feet before the team came to a stop. I thanked my lucky stars that Marty had kept us upright. We stopped for lunch on the lake. A fire was started and brats were cooked on sticks found in the woods. Homemade cookies and hot chocolate rounded out the meal. While we ate and chatted, the dogs lounged in the sun. One of the younger dogs barked excitedly but the older dogs took it easy or rolled and played in the snow. The crackle and smell of the fire, which I usually associate with summer, was in such contrast to this silent cold environment.
After a nice break, we loaded back up, tummies full of warm food. As soon as the teams saw us coming they got all lined up and start making a joyous sound, more than ready to get going again.
The trip back was faster and with tighter curves. There were times my shoulder brushed trees as we raced on. As we came around one turn, the end of a downed tree protruded from the snow into the trail. Marty tried to shift the sled to avoid it but it caught us just right and our sled was pushed over onto it right side. Luckily Marty held on and the team stopped after a somewhat short drag on my side. Marty pulled the sled back upright and the dogs immediately took off before he could get himself situated. This time we were thrown onto our left side. Marty got the sled upright and again, the dogs took off. The fact that I was not dragged away is because Marty threw himself on the brake and held the team back until he could get situated. Dan, our other excellent guide, had tied off his team and was running back to help us, but by now we were all set and ready to go again.
The rest of the trip was a wild ride through the evergreens and naked brush. I can not describe how exciting and fun it was to be zooming through this majestic forest, pulled onward by these amazing animals. I am so impressed with the dogs and their enthusiasm. As we neared the end of our trip, a large cast iron bell hung in a tree. I reached up and grabbed the rope and rang the bell as we glided under it to let them know of our return.
We pulled back into the dog yard. The dogs were happy to be home and only slightly winded. We thanked each dog with pets, hugs, and treats. We got to help unharness the team and get them safely back to their homes.
This was a great adventure. I was in need of some forest bathing time and this was a beautiful and fun way to get to experience northern Minnesota nature in March. I recommend, if you are looking for something different to do during the frozen months, to give it a try! You will learn a lot, have a new adventure, and maybe even discover some things about yourself.
Adventure on my friends! I wish you a life filled with fun and new experiences.
Thank you Theo, Dan, and White Wilderness Dog Sledding Adventures for the grand day!
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