On Trail in Minnesota

  |  Gorp.com

Perched on a rise above the white-pine-studded shores of White Iron Lake just southeast of Ely, Minnesota, Wintergreen is the Aspen of dogsledding. Paul Schurke, the owner, is the modern-day equivalent to Admiral Peary—albeit much more successful. Schurke made his exploratory mark back in 1986 when he and Will Steger became the first unsupported team to mush to the North Pole under their own power. He's been back to the North Pole four times since, earning him plenty status as the reigning stud of snow, ice, and cold—one reason Wintergreen is the most well-known of two dozen or so dogsledding operations between Ely and Grand Marais. His wife Susan is an explorer's Versace, heading up Wintergreen Designs, a clothing business that specializes in adorable yet expedition-worthy outerwear. The two live with their three kids in a sizeable Nordic spread; just a few steps in one direction is their kennel of 65 Inuit dogs, and in the other direction lies Wintergreen Lodge.

As if the Shurke resume and the pine, birch, and snow aesthetic aren't enough of a draw, Wintergreen's one-man culinary team is Bernard Herrmann, a Cordon Bleu-certified chef from Alsace, France, who fell in love with Ely a few years back and decided to “retire” here, by opening a summers-only restaurant in Ely, The Mantle House. He cooks for Wintergreen on the side in his off season. (That first evening, Bernard would whip up a feast that, translated from the much fancier-sounding French, boiled down to roast pork, green beans, mashed potatoes, and banana pudding. The girls were particularly enthralled with the little French “crepes Bernard” that would accommodate the banana pudding.) Sadly for the folks going out on trail, Bernard doesn't come along—which isn't to say that Wintergreen clients don't eat like kings out on trail.

Wintergreen accommodates every level of cold-weather immersion—from lodge-to-lodge mushing, to week-long photography and writing workshops, to multiweek explorations of Hudson Bay, Ellesmere Island, and the North Pole, in price ranges from $450 to $6,000. The Girl Scouts, however, were taking the middle ground with a four-night camping trip in the Boundary Waters, mushing seven to seventeen miles a day, sleeping out in tents at night, and covering an eight-lake loop. Their departure was planned for noon tomorrow.


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