On Trail in Minnesota

A Day with the Pioneer of Guided Dogsledding Adventure
  |  Gorp.com
Raucous days, silent nights, and beauty all round.
Another perfect musher's moment.

Summers, the Boundary Waters, and me go way back. As a second-grader camped out in the middle of Lake Ogishkemuncie with my dad, his pals, and my siblings, I would wake at sunrise, pad barefoot out of the tent in my flannel nightgown, bait my fishing pole with a fat speckled leech, and perch on top of a giant baked-potato of a rock. The walleye never bit, but I loved the ritual. And I loved summer in the Boundary Waters.

Winter, on the other hand, was a different story. In my second-grader mind I assumed that, like the bait shops in Ely, the BWCA just closed down from September to May. What could anyone possibly want with a frozen lake, anyway?

Twenty-three years later, the answer came to me in the form of Wintergreen Dogsledding Lodge. My visit to this Ground Zero of cold-weather recreation coincided with that of a gaggle of 40 Girl Scouts, age 14 to 18, from states as diverse as California, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Texas, and Arizona. These girls were the creme de la creme of the scouting world—they'd been hand-selected from a pool of 200 applicants, and had jumped through more hoops than your average job applicant in earning the right to be here, including writing essays and garnering recommendations from teachers. All for the chance to mush, ski, and sleep out on a ten-inch layer of ice for five days.

I pulled into the driveway, parked the car, and stepped into a moment of surreal confusion. A nearby massive Suburban disgorged a dozen or so clones, identically dressed in a rainbow of matching royal blue-, red-, and pine-colored anoraks—was I looking at some kind of Y2K sled-dog militia? I asked if they were the welcoming committee, and if so, whether they'd show me to the main lodge. From the puzzled looks on their partially hidden faces, I soon realized that they were just a bunch of Scouts decked out in rented Wintergreen garb, giddy and excited for their first brush with frostbite.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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