Saturday, October 17, 2009
Trail Scouting at Audubon Center of the Northwoods
The rain finally ended and opened up the skies to a beautiful blue with temps in the 40s. Despite feeling "cloudy" from the recent onset of a cold, I took a drive north of the Twin Cities approximately 2 hours and 15 minute to visit Audubon Center of the Northwoods which is where the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources(DNR) Becoming an Outdoors Woman(BOW) winter workshop will be held in February. Points Unknown will be providing the dog mushing instruction and, this being the first year at this location, I wanted to do some trail scouting to determine the best location for the mushing program.
A wetland trail area was recommended. On the site is a new log cabin that we have been offered as our accommodation. I was anxious to visit these trails, thinking that a wetland area would be relatively flat and wide open which would make for the perfect setting for our beginner mushers to get their first safe dog mushing experience.
The Audubon Center is located on a small lake. The site contains hardwood forests, restored prairies and wetlands. The main lodge appears relatively new with a two story high field stone fireplace in the middle. A small nature store is at the entrance of the building. There are various buildings dotting the campus that include a restored barn and farmhouse.
After a quick visit to the lodge, I went directly to the wetlands trail and log cabin, hoping for the best. Finding proper dog sled trails isn't always an easy task, not to mention finding them with the right qualifications for a short and safe first mushing experience. They should be wide and not too windy. There shouldn't be too many trees close to turns in the trail that could reach out and grab an unsuspecting participant. And there should be a loop which means the dogs don't need to be turned around in the trail which could make a nice tangle.
The trail was just what I had hoped. A few minor improvements and additions here and there will make it ideal. There are a few extra turns in the trail that will need to be blocked off with a straw bale to keep the dogs from taking our guests on a ride we didn't anticipate. In addition, some posts could be sunk near the cabin to tie off teams and to stake the dogs out between workshops. The cabin has no heat, electricity or running water but a wood stove and outhouse make it perfect for the mushers. We'll also use the building during the workshops for the introductions and overview before we head out and begin the hands-on portion with the dogs.
Here, you'll just get a taste of what dog mushing is all about. Our hope is that you fall in love with the dogs and want to join us for a more advanced adventure in the future!