New Year Escapes
If a prerequisite for holiday cheer involves relaxing near the fireplace with a dog stretched out on the hearth, then you can leave behind the other distractions of home and head to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. This is a region of unsurpassed beauty, where wolves and moose roam freely and the most practical form of winter transport is mushing a sled behind a pack of trained huskies.
Learning to dog sled is far easier than one would imagine. "The most important part of learning is the dogs," says Don Beland, a partner at White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures. "If the dogs know what to do, they'll teach you the ropes." White Wilderness is one of several outfitters that offer multi-day mushing trips into the pristine winterscape of the Boundary Waters. They offer winter camping excursions and day trips from their lodge. All the detailsfood, gear and lodgingare handled by the guides, but the dog handling responsibilities are shared among the guests.
"This is a hands-on experience," says Beland. "Everyone learns to hook up the dogs and then drives the team on their own." A day on the trail starts early, with a big breakfast, and, once the dogs are hitched, will involve 15 to 35 miles over frozen lakes and through evergreen forests. In the middle of the day, the group stops to build a fire and stomp out impromptu benches in the snow. Lunch is served around the blaze, and the dogs are treated to snacks and a well-deserved rest.
Evenings back at the lodge are rounded out with another sumptuous meal around the big dining room table. The log structure has a quaint, outback feel to it, despite the amenities of hot showers and electricity. Finish up the night with a steaming mug of cocoa in front of the enormous fireplace, and finding cheer for the new year will never seem so easy.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication