On Trail in Minnesota
What do you do when not mushing? Your mushing experience will likely be the richer for having soaked up the Northwoods atmosphere in numerous ways above and beyond being on the sled. Wintergreen knows this, and teaches a whole bevy of winter-relevant outdoor skills alongside mushing; they also treat their clients to natural-history seminars and a final-night celebration. Check with each outfitter to see what they offer besides mushing.
You should also keep in mind that there is a wide divide between operators and lodges that cater to lovers of silent sports and those that cater to lovers of all things motorized. The latter usually offers snowmobiling, ice fishing, etc. On the other end of the spectrum are the silent-sport camps, which offer cross-country skiing, boot hockey, saunas, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, classes in yurt buildings, storytelling, and so forth. You'll definitely find such places along the Gunflint Trail, which is bracketed to both north and south by the snowmobile-free BWCAW. Down on the Ely side, you'll find outfitters of each variety.
What's the food like? Winter trail food is generally more gourmet than summer trail food because you can keep it frozen. Outfitters can thus bring along shrimp, beef, hefty meats. The trick is that it's all pre-prepared so that they don't have to spend a lot of time in the cold dicing and mixing. You'll eat lots of stews and soups and calorie-intensive dinners.
Where and in what do you sleep? You usually sleep on frozen lakes, in special tents, or in snow-built yurts. Lots of winter campers prefer yurts to tents, but it all depends on when you get to camp, how much snow there is, and how active the campers want to be.
How much contact do you have with the dogs? With an outfitter like Wintergreen, a lot. You feed them and you mush them, so you really have to get to know them. There's always a guide/handler along who likes to try to make sure that the dogs are being taken care of in the best possible way. The dog thing works on a sliding scaleyou can be as involved as you want to be, because the guides always need help feeding, etc. Or you don't have to do much of anything, because these chores are really the guide's job.
What's the ballpark price range for dogsledding adventures? The answers to this question will vary wildlymany outfitters offer trips only to guests who are staying at their own lodge, and the lodge price is lumped in with the mushing price, whereas a few others use different pricing structures. Very roughly, you can expect to pay between $100 and $350 per person, per day to get out on trail, including food and lodging.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication