This is my 10th attempt at starting this blog post. Each time I get about 3-4 sentences in, I change direction and hit the delete button. There are multitude of reasons why I keep doing that but I think I’ve finally figured it out the main reason. This trip wasn’t just about dog sledding, though that was my motivation for taking the trip. This trip turned out to be about stepping outside my comfort zone and pushing my limits. Who knew that a road trip to Minnesota would do that.
If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that I was very apprehensive about this trip. There was the whole outhouse thing, lack of internet and cell service and probably most frightening for me, I would have to share my feelings. But I soon came to the realization that I could either embrace this trip and all that it was or go into it with a bad attitude. I choose to embrace it, which isn’t easy to do when you don’t know what to expect.
I had made the decision to drive over to Iowa so Emily and I could drive together to Minnesota. The typically four hour drive took me about six hours because I kept stopping at stores to buy “one more thing” along the way. Unlike other vacations where you go out and buy something that you forgot, we wouldn’t have this option. The lodge that we were staying at was in Brimson, MN. Population 200. There would be no running to Target to grab a few things. After stocking up on more wool socks at Old Navy and exchanging my Kamik’s for a larger size I made it to Iowa at 12:30 am.
The next morning we packed up the Prius and headed to Duluth. Four bathroom stops later, we finally made it. I’m not sure what Duluth is most famous for but I know it as the city that hosts the Grandma’s Marathon, a race that is held every June. We stayed in the Canal Park area and after having a few adult beverages and an appetizer, we headed back to our hotel room knowing that this would be the last night we had cell phone and internet access. Surprisingly I didn’t spend all my time on social networking sites, instead I accepted the fact I would be unplugged.
When we woke the next morning, it was snowing. A light snow in Minnesota is 3-6″. In Charlotte and Jonesboro, the cities I lived in before moving to the Chicago area, the prediction of that much snow would have triggered school and church closings. In Minnesota, that’s just a normal day and everyone goes about their business. We cleaned the snow off the Prius, reloaded our suitcases and set off for Brimson.
Welcome to the Dog Yard
After driving through the snowy roads, we finally arrived at our destination, Wintermoon Summersun. We drove down a picturesque, snow-covered driveway surrounded by pine and aspen trees. As we approached the main cabin, we were greeted by the sound of 40+ Alaskan Huskies. To anyone else, the sound of their barking and howling might have been intimidating but to me, it was welcoming. I had traveled several hundred miles to spend time with these dogs and couldn’t wait to meet every single one of them.
The dogs were situated on either side of the driveway. Each with their own dog house and chained to a pole. Now the domestic dog lover in me hated seeing them chained to poles but I soon learned the reasoning for this. One, they are working dogs. While Kathleen (the owner of Wintermoon Summersun) loves each and every dog just like I love my two dogs, she understands these are working dogs and their needs are a bit different. Alaskan Huskies are not recognized by the AKC. Instead of being a breed of dog, they are more a type of dog bred for sled pulling and sled racing. They are also arranged according to temperament and sex. Those vying for the alpha spots are typically surrounded by the opposite sex to discourage any battles.
Emily and I were met by Chris Heeter, a motivational speaker and owner of The Wild Institute. She helped us unload our bags and introduced us to our bunk cabin, the place we would be spending the next three nights. There we met Heidi and the Kristin’s and waited for the other three members of our group to arrive. The bunk cabin was nicer than I expected. There were 4 twin beds on the main floor and 3 twin beds and a full size bed on the second floor. Emily and I had a “private room” that had a doorway with a curtain that we could open and close. Wintermoon is run entirely by solar energy and has no running water, which meant no showers as we know them. Our cabin was heated by a wood burning stove that we each took turns stoking over the course of the weekend.
Out of My Comfort Zone
This was the first time my comfort level was tested (and definitely not the last). I hadn’t even met the dogs yet and I was feeling a bit of anxiety. I can rough it like the best of them but using an outhouse (still not sure what was modern about it) and not understanding how I was going to shower over the weekend made me a little on edge. No, it made me a lot on edge. Aside from the hygiene questions, I was also concerned about not having any down time. I’m definitely the type of person who needs “me” time. I like solitude and the thought of being with others 24-7 was a bit overwhelming. When I needed a moment or two to chill out on my own, where would I go? There were 6 other women who were sharing the bunk house with me in addition to three guides staying at the main cabin. Even though Wintermoon encompassed 400+ acres, I only had access to a small piece of that land and wandering off, potentially getting lost didn’t sound appealing in below zero weather.
I would later learn that moments of solitude can be found almost anywhere. It’s all about your mindset and being in the moment. Dog sledding definitely took me out of my comfort zone and I realized, I liked it.