Monday, March 10, 2008
PUWWA2008 March Adventure at Gunflint Lodge
The Points Unknown Women's Winter Adventure 2008 at Gunflint Lodge was held March 6th through March 9th. We had six participants traveling from places as far away as California and Michigan and those traveling just out their back door, from central Minnesota.
After an orientation that included staff and participant introductions and everyone had some time to settle in, we all met for some social time at the Red Paddle Bistro within the lodge.
J.D. Fratzke, formerly the executive chef for Muffuletta on the Park in St. Paul, was with us for the third year in a row, serving up many wonderful creations. J.D. opened his own restaurant in late fall called The Stripe Club Meat and Fish. Since its opening, it has been quite a busy place and most certainly worth checking if in the Twin Cities Metropolitan area.
This year we had quite a treat when J.D. brought his entire family along for the adventure. Lisa served as his kitchen assistant and also attended portions of the adventure while 3 1/2 year old Nina was the one in charge.
Karen came up for the Chicago area with her team of Siberians to assist with the Intro to Mushing. Kate from the Three Rivers Park District and Erik from the Arrowhead Wilderness School were here for the third year in a row. Kate taught the navigation workshop. The women learned how to navigate in the woods using maps and a compass and also got a shot at starting a fire with only items found in the woods. Erik taught the wilderness survival workshop and focused on how to keep warm in the winter while outdoors.
Our first day was spent out on Gunflint Lake and each participant met the dogs, learned the basics of the sled and then got a chance to run their own six dog team with the musher either on the runners or in the sled for support and assistance.
Were we surprised when we stopped for a break at Camper's Island only to be met by Kenny with hot chocolate for all. Kenny has set up an elaborate camp on the island and stays there four days out of the week, all winter long.
Our lake adventure included dodging photographer Layne Kennedy, who was contracted to cover this adventure by Sierra Magazine. One of the participants is a writer for the magazine and will be writing a story on the Points Unknown Women's Winter Adventures to appear in the November/December 2008 issue of the magazine.
Three teams were on the lake in the morning session with one participant and one musher in each. The afternoon session consisted of two teams with one musher and either one or two participants in each sled. During each session, during breaks, participants switched sleds in order to pick up different information from each musher as all mushers do things a little differently.
Our days began with full rich breakfasts. Lunches were lighter and consisted of mainly soup and sandwiches and at the end of each busy day, we were met with hearty gourmet dinners. Flourless chocolate torte was always on hand for those wanting a quick chocolate fix.
There was even an outdoor hot tub that was very inviting despite the outdoor temps of single digits on this particular night.
Intro to Dog Mushing was the afternoon workshop on the second day of the adventure. The participants got to the know the dogs better then ran their own three dog team around the dog yard loop supported by the other participants and staff.
The temps were in the mid 20s on this day and the California participant, not being accustomed to the cold temps, commented on how warm it felt.
The last day of the event was open for those who wanted some free time to try other things not on the agenda for the workshops. The group chose cross country skiing and Kate from Three Rivers Park District was on hand to give everyone a skiing lesson.
The ski trail was only a two mile loop, giving those interested in additional adventure time for other things. A few of us climbed the trail to the "high cliffs". This is not an easy task when done in ski boots but just added to the adventure.
Once at the top, we had a vast view of Gunflint Lake and Canada to the north.
Climbing down the trail was even more challenging and done best sliding down on our rear-ends while hanging onto branches to slow our travel.
Skis back on, we continued on the rest of our ski.
The Gunflint Northwoods Outfitters is a good place to rent snow shoes and skis and to pick up some souveniers.
The weekend wrap up was in the dog yard with a last good-bye to the dogs.
Of course we had to get this shot of our California friend and Sierra Club writer. What a great sport!
Our adventure came to an end and while everyone was walking away to their cars, a bald eagle flew over the dog yard. What a way to end the day!