On Trail in Minnesota

Recapping the Day
  |  Gorp.com

When lunch finally rolled around, 20 or so Girl Scouts and I huddled into the lodge, stripped to our base layer, and sat in bright red folding chairs around the long pine table, sipping hot cider and admiring the framed letters of congratulation from Presidents Bush and Reagan. I finally got up the nerve to ask these Girl Scouts why they were voluntarily spending Christmas vacation freezing their tushes off. “I've wanted to dogsled all my life,” piped up Maggie Patterson from Charlottesville, Virginia; “It's like a dream come true.”

“Bragging rights is why I did it,” proclaimed Laurel Grandinetti, from Louisville, Kentucky.

“I saw [four-time Iditarod champ] Susan Butcher give a talk when I was in third grade,” said Kara Jeter from Middleton, Wisconsin, “and I've wanted to dogsled ever since.”

After the girls warmed up, digested their lentil soup, pasta, and chocolate chip cookies, and rebraided their hair to look like Bria Schurke's, we reconvened for the climax of the day's events: Half of the girls would mush down the length of White Iron Lake, while the other half would ski. When we reached the end of the lake, we'd switch places and mush our way home. We skiers giddily strapped into our bindings and high-tailed it to the lake, where we could hear yelps and howls from the dogs, who, up until this time, had been mysteriously absent from our skills workshops. But now, they were anxiously awaiting their mushers—just out of sight around a distant point, giving us goose bumps, as if they were a pack of hungry wolves.

A couple of minutes later, Whizzzzz, the first sled, piloted by two crimson-anoraked Girl Scouts, shot by. Woooshhhh, a second sled—precariously tilting to one side—slammed up and over a pressure ridge. Whaammm, came another sled, with the barking dogs playfully yipping at each other's necks as they ran. Wahooooooo!! yelled the next Girl Scout duo, as their dog team lurched ahead, tongues wagging eagerly, furiously pumping their legs, trying to catch up to the other teams. The four sleds and their Scouts passed us in a moment's time. And then, just as quickly as it all started, the dogs' yelps and howls faded into the distance and we were left to ski across the frozen lake alone, listening to the silence of our own thoughts, anticipating the journey to come.


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