“Hooked” on Mushing… and More

In 2011, after embracing winter, we took our three kids and our new found love of the season to the dogsled capitol of the world; Ely, Minnesota. This is where we met local musher, “Basswood Bob.” Where our initial dog sledding experience on the Gunflint trail had been methodical and rule bound, all caution was thrown to the wind with Bob. Not that he was reckless with us, we like to think that he just sensed our raw, natural mushing talent. Our journey began with Bob unloading dogs and directing us where to harness them in the gang-line. With a lot of howling, jumping and peeing, we learned; the faster the better. When the teams were complete, Bob boarded the lead sled and casually instructed us to pull the anchor hook out of the ice after his team had set out. And with that, he was gone. Apparently, we were in charge of our own sleds and dogs! Not quite knowing what we were getting into or even where we were going, I looked back at my husband and we shared a look of hesitation. The dogs instinctively wanted to follow their leader, leaping and lurching forward – encouraging us to go for it. Balancing on one ski of the sled with my daughter balancing on the other, I reached down and jarred the anchor hook out of the ice. With a quick release of power, adrenaline, and dog poo, we too were gone. When the dogs paced themselves and the snow settled, I saw Bob’s team heading into the sunrise and my husband’s team galloping up from behind – like animations in a vintage snow globe. From one pristine lake to the next, we crossed over portages and cut through forests of giant pine trees. We emerged onto a lake that bordered Canada and tied the teams up next to the boulder shores of a snow-covered wilderness island. The dogs immediately curled up to rest and the falling snow blanketed them. After the guys drilled holes and set out ice fishing tip-ups, we built a warm fire right on the lake and waited. One by one, little orange flags popped up and the fishing frenzy began. We pulled in one lunker after another, laughing at the excited wide eyes of our children. When one of our daughters caught a 38 inch pike and coddled it like a baby, Bob said, “I’ve seen a lot of things, but I’ve never seen a girl hug a fish before.” And when our kids skillfully and enthusiastically mushed their own team of dogs on the way back, we knew we were hooked. Hooked on more than the ice fishing or the winter wilderness or even the dog sledding… we were hooked on the adventure.

Stay tuned for more on our developing obsession…