5 Days, 4 Nights|
Guides, double occupancy lodging, sledding equipment and instruction, all meals and all group equipment. |
Transportation to and from Grand Marais, MN, winter clothing and accessories. Winter boots are available for rent.
What is a yurt? A yurt is an insulated tent of Mongolian origin which, when heated, offers the warmth and comfort of a cabin in the midst of the wilderness. Spend your days dogsledding the trails and remote lakes of northern Minnesota. Two nights at cozy northwoods lodges and two nights in isolated yurts supplies the perfect balance of civilized comfort and wilderness adventure.
Day 1: After arriving at our lodge we’ll get a chance to know each other over a delicious dinner. After dinner we’ll learn about the history of dogsledding and spend some time talking about the coming adventure.
Days 2-4: After a hearty breakfast we’ll head out to the trailhead for a lesson in harnessing and hitching our dogs. We’ll load our sleds and learn to harness and hitch dogs, and spend time throughout the day going over the techniques of mushing. We’ll spend the day mushing through the forests and stop for a lunch around a warm fire. We’ll stop for the evening at a remote yurt, settle in and enjoy a filling dinner and conversation around a campfire. On day four we’ll return to a cozy lodge for hot showers and a delicious celebratory dinner.
Day 5: We make our farewells over a sumptuous breakfast, and depart to drive home or catch our planes in Duluth. In order to provide the finest and most complete wilderness experience we strongly encourage and expect participation in all camp activities, including cooking, washing dishes and setting up and breaking camp while on the trail. **This Itinerary is subject to change.
Cold Weather Clothing and Description
The system of wearing lots of clothes when you are cold and removing them layer by layer as you get warm, is an age-old idea. Its use today with modern garments gives you a versatile and thermally efficient way of dressing for all outdoor activities. By applying the layering approach, you'll find that the clothing you put together for this trip will serve you in other seasons as well.
The Underwear Layer
This is your base layer. While the long underwear layer provides some insulation, its primary function in winter is to draw perspired moisture away from the skin where it causes chilling. Wet skin loses heat 26 times faster than dry skin. Rather than absorbing moisture, synthetic fibers work by repelling water. They actually wick the water towards the exterior where it can dissipate in other clothing layers and evaporate. When you are active and perspiring, the synthetic fibers (i.e. polypropylene, Capilene and Thermax) keep your skin drier and warmer than absorbent natural materials like cotton, wool or silk. The bi-ply fabrics with an outer absorbent layer do this particularly well.
The Insulation Layer
Warmth results from trapping body-warmed air and keeping it from swirling around so that there is no transference of heat. This layer provides some insulation (trapping air), some protection from the elements (outside air and water) and absorbs perspiration. The air between layers gives additional warmth, so a loose, comfortable fit is important. An adjustable closure at the neck to vent excess heat becomes a handy feature. A turtleneck with a zippered collar, wool shirt, light wool or wool blend sweater, polyester pile/fleece pullover shirt, light wool pants or light polyester pile/fleece pants serve as suitable layers. Avoid cotton tops and cotton pants like jeans, corduroys and khakis as they hold moisture and feel clammy in the cold.
Warmth is thickness. This layer (or combination of several layers) should have ample fabric loft and the cut should be roomy to ensure maximum trapping of body-warmed air. A vest or pullover made of thick polyester pile/fleece, or those having synthetic insulation batting like Quallofil, Hollofil or Polarguard are suitable options. Thick polyester pile, fleece or heavy wool pants insulated with synthetic batting work well. Also, half or more of your body heat is lost through your head, so this layer should include a hat or hood. For active use, the ability to insulate when damp/wet is especially important. In this regard, synthetics are superior to their natural counterparts, retaining more loft and insulation while absorbing less water. Duck and goose down are virtually useless when damp. However, when kept dry, down is more efficient and can be more comfortable than synthetic insulation.
A shell may be your most important garment in the layering system. Outer shells are designed to protect you from wind, snow and even sun. Furthermore, windshells can add up to 25 degrees of warmth in calm weather and twice that in windy weather. Three basic types of cloth are used in constructing shells.
1) Cloth that is windproof but not waterproof, thus allowing maximum evaporation of perspired moisture (uncoated nylon/cotton blends). This choice is best for winter use.
2) Cloth that is windproof and waterproof but allows no evaporation (rubberized rain gear, urethane coated nylon). Unbreathable rain jackets are unacceptable for winter use. Unsure about your gear? Put your mouth against the fabric to see if you can force any air through it.
3) Cloth that is windproof and waterproof but allows some evaporation through microscopic pores (Gore-Tex, Entrant and similar fabrics). They work well if rate of perspiration is low and if outside temperatures are above freezing. Below freezing the pores tend to clog with frost. Nonetheless, they are acceptable for winter use. Long, hooded, lightweight jacket or pullover made of 60/40 cloth, Supplex, Sierra cloth or other breathable nylon or polyester blends are suitable options. Loose fitting wind pants made of a breathable shell fabric work well.
The main job of this layer is to protect your insulation layers from the wind and elements. Wind blowing through your insulation layers robs them of their warm air.
The layering system works well here, too. Synthetic liner socks wick perspired moisture away from your feet, while heavy socks provide insulation. Thermax, polypropylene or Olefin liner socks, with polyester, wool or wool/nylon blend insulating socks are a good combination.
Again, the layering system applies. A tight fitting, thin liner glove wicks away moisture, and allows you full dexterity when you need to work with the mittens off. Thick mittens serve as the insulating layer. Over that you need a water-resistant shell. Often insulation and shell are combined in one. Long cuffs seal out the wind. Thermax, polypropylene liners, wool or wool/nylon blend, Polar Plus or other polyester pile mittens; overmittens made of leather or nylon work here.
Don't skimp here. Cold feet on the trail will cause a dip in your fun meter faster than anything else. Boots with rubber soles and leader or Cordura nylon uppers are best. Avoid boots with rubberized uppers (they do not breathe) and steel shanks (the metal tends to conduct heat away unless the soles are specially insulated). Removable liners are essential (the ones with built-in liners can't be dried). Foam liners dry faster than felt ones. Removable foam insoles add an extra edge of warmth. Make sure the fit of the boot and liners is not tight; you should be able to wiggle your toes with ease. We recommend wearing one pair of liner socks and two pairs of insulating socks when you're getting fitted for boots. Tight boots mean cold feet.
Inevitably, your boots and liners will become dampened by perspiration during the day and must be dried around the campfire each evening. That is why we also recommend camp booties; they make your feet sing at night. Sorels, Timberland, LaCrosse, Polar Trek or other quality snow boots with rubber soles and lowers, leather or breathable nylon uppers and removable felt or foam liners are what you need. For a more traditional option, consider the Eskimo-style snow boots made by Steger Mukluks in Ely (218) 365-6634.
Over half of your body heat can be lost through your head. Optional headwear items you may choose to bring include a scarf, ear muffs, neck gaiter and ear warmers. Lightweight wool, wool blend, polypropylene, Capilene or Thermax with a thick insulating hat, cap or mask is what you need. Balaclavas are particularly comfortable to wear while sleeping on our camping programs.
Other Personal Gear
Camera and Film: Consider a protective case to guard camera in backpack and a shoulder strap so camera does not get lost in the snow. An electric chest strap is a convenient way to have your camera out and ready for the great shots you will get along the trail. Polarizing filters are helpful for bright snow scenes. Cameras with time exposure settings allow you to get campfire and night sky shots.
Sunglasses: Reflection of the snow greatly increases the intensity of sunlight reaching your eyes. Dark lenses are best. A neck strap and good case will keep them from getting lost or broken.
Flashlight: Headlamps and small flashlights you can hold in your mouth are most useful. Extra batteries & bulbs are a good idea.
Toiletries: Toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste (Crest does not freeze as easily as other brands), chap stick, skin creme, soap, tampons, contact lens solution, medications and a small towel are all you need.
Stuff Sacks: Three or four nylon stuff sacks or cloth bags make organizing your gear easier.
Miscellaneous: A small journal, pencil, bandanas, and a pocketknife.
Note: There are many variations of the above list. Should you wish to make a radical departure from the suggestions, please consult us first. You may be shocked at the cost of equipping yourself for the first time, but remember, the usefulness of all the gear will extend far further than this one trip.
- Winter Dance, Gary Paulsen
- North to the Pole, Steger with Schurke, Times Books, New York, 1987
- Bering Bridge, Paul Schurke, Pfiefer-Hamilton Publishing, Duluth, MN 1989
- Paradise Below Zero, Calvin Rustrum
- Winter Camping, Bob Cary
- The Spirit of Winter Camping, Harry Drabik
What is special about this trip?
Ely is famous as an access town for the Boundary Waters, but few people experience the beauty of Minnesota’s north woods during the winter. Dogsledding and skiing in the breathtaking, pristine backcountry is an unforgettable experience. Settling down in a very comfortable heated yurt after a day on the trail isn’t so bad either.
How do I get there?
You drive up the whole way along highway 53 or fly into Duluth and take 53 the rest of the way.
How and where will you meet me?
We will meet you at the lodge, or, if you are flying into Duluth, we can arrange a shuttle from the airport to the lodge.
How long will it take me to get there?
From Chicago it is a long drive but well worth it, about 10.5 hours.
Where should I stay overnight around there?
If you plan to arrive early or stay late, give the office a call for a recommendation on a great place to stay.
What money should I take?
You won’t need any money during the trip, but many folks wind up buying gifts in Ely.
Do they take plastic there? Are there cash stations?"
They accept major credit cards and have ATMs in Ely.
What's the weather like?
The daily highs range from about 20 degrees to the single digits with overnight lows below zero.
What are the accommodations like?
We stay in a very comfortable heated lodge, with hot showers and a even a sauna. On the trail we stay in yurts, very comfortable heated tents. They resemble cottages much more than they do tents.
What do I need to bring?
We will send you a gear list upon registration.
Can I drink the water?
There is potable water at the lodge. On the trail we purify water from the many pristine lakes.
What's the food like?
The food is very delicious and there’s plenty of it. The lodge employs a classically trained professional chef. On the trail the guides cook up winter camping favorites. The menu varies but the quality doesn’t. The meals are very delicious and substantial and provide the high quality calories you need to stay warm in the north woods.
How many people are on this trip? How many guides? Who are the guides / what are their qualifications?
We typically take between 4 and 10 people on this trip. The guides are experienced dog handlers and mushers and are certified in Wilderness First Aid.
How can I prepare physically for the trip? How much prior experience is needed?
No prior dogsledding, cross country skiing or winter camping experience is necessary for this trip.