Close to home, yet a world away…
Where the Adventures are If you delight in seeing white, then Bayfield, Wisconsin— the gateway to the Apostle Islands—is the place to go for a winter getaway.
The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Training Race, planned to complement the main sled dog race in February, will take place January 7 in Bayfield. The event will feature up to 20 sled dog teams in two mass starts, one at the 20-mile and another at the 30-mile race class.
“This is an exciting new event,” says Heath Hickok, marketing manager of the Bayfield Chamber of Commerce. “It gives the mushers an opportunity to practice on the course (prior to the sled dog race February 4 and 5).”
The weekend of February 3-5 will be bustling with sled dogs, mushers and spectators as everyone gathers for the wildly popular Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. Pre-race activities begin at 6 p.m. Friday, February 3, with a “Meet the Mushers Dinner” in the Lakeside Pavilion. The dinner is open to the public.
Four different races will begin at 10 a.m. February 4 and continue on February 5. Half of the total race distance is completed each day. The races include an eight-dog, 80-mile race, a six-dog, 60-mile race, a 20-mile Sportsman’s Race and a 16-and-under Family Race.
Spectators can enjoy hot food and tasty beverages along the beautiful Sand River Trail System while cheering for more than 100 dogsled teams. Excited barking will fill the crisp air as the dogs race along the course, doing what they love best—pulling and running.
Bemidji, 235 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, will be hopping with activity in February. February 4 is the Annual Buena Vista Logging Days, where visitors can enjoy a ‘lumberjack camp style’ meal, go on an old-fashioned sleigh ride, listen to live music, head out on a golden horseshoe hunt, participate in a lumberjack costume contest and watch entertaining re-enactments of old-time logging techniques. The events will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Buena Vista Logging Village, 12 miles north of Bemidji on County Road 15.
Snowmobilers who enjoy a good “snow machine” from the past should plan a trip to Bemidji February 11 for the “One Lunger 100,” a 100-mile vintage snowmobile race on Lake Bemidji. People from across the state gather for this fun, unique winter event.
Another event drawing people from near and far is the Minnesota Finlandia Ski Marathon—one of America’s premier cross-country skiing events, held on President’s Day weekend.
Learn about music, food, sports, games, arts and crafts at Concordia Language Villages, a program of Concordia College. Language villages for Finnish, German, French, Norwegian and Spanish are held year-round near Bemidji, including the weekend of February 17-20 (President’s Day weekend).
Another place to go when it snows is the Grand Marais Moose Stomp Snowshoe Festival, set for January 27-29. The event is new this year.
“We haven’t had a winter festival in Grand Marais for a few years, and that seemed like a shame,” says Diane Brostrom, director of the Grand Marais Area Tourism Association. “The Moose Stomp Snowshoe Festival will include fun for all ages. It’s a great reason to come on up to Grand Marais.”
The weekend will include guided snow-shoe walks, 5 and 10k snowshoe races sanctioned by the national Snowshoe Association, a kids race, a chili feed, a fun game of snowshoe softball, and a star watch.
“Snowshoes will be available free of charge during this weekend,” Brostrom says.
She points out that there is also plenty to do indoors, with great lodging, shopping and restaurants in the area.
Serious sled dog racers trying to qualify for the Iditarod in Alaska can use the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon as a qualifier. This fun event is held in Duluth on Sunday, January 29. Events include the annual “Cutest Puppy Contest” at Fitger’s Inn and Brewery complex from noon to 2 p.m. on January 28 and the Beargrease Gala Event and Explorers Seminar January 27 and 28 with Polar explorer Will Steger.
After you embark on outdoor adventures close to home, listen to four dynamic explorers who have traveled through 2,000 miles of African forests, discovered a whole world of lost dinosaurs in the Sahara Desert, photographed underwater life from Africa to Indonesia, and investigated stories in Iraq, Colombia, Israel, China and Chechnya.
The National Geographic Live! Speaker Series 2006, presented by Hennepin Theatre Trust and National Geographic, will take place at 7:30 p.m. at the State Theatre in Minneapolis. There are four different speakers participating.
The series will begin February 23 with explorer and conservationist J. Michael Fay’s “Wings over Africa: Tracing the Human Footprint.” Fay’s presentation will feature spectacular aerial images of the African landscape during his 70,000-mile, seven month, “MegaFlyover” adventure. His dream is that these snapshots of the African environment will heighten awareness of the ecosystem.
Paleontologist Paul Sereno, a legend in the scientific world for finding numerous fossils, will present “The New World of Dinosaurs” on March 16. He has discovered dinosaurs on five continents, and been described as a real-life Indiana Jones. Today he spends a lot of time leading expeditions in China, the Gobi Desert in Inner Mongolia, the Andes Foothills in Argentina and the Sahara Desert. He also teaches paleontology, evolution and human anatomy. Sereno will share recent discoveries from Africa—including SuperCroc—and offer a unique look inside the adventurous life of a dinosaur hunter.
David Doubilet, National Geographic photographer, will present “Underwater from Africa to Indonesia” on April 27. Doubilet estimates that he has spent over half his life underwater. He has shot over 60 stories for National Geographic and introduced a generation of readers to the mysteries and wonders of the deep. He will entertain the audience with his keen, dry sense of humor and underwater adventures, which include seeing everything from a thumbnail-sized pygmy seahorse to a newly discovered octopus species that changes shape and color to avoid detection.
“National Geographic Reports: A Global Perspective” featuring Lisa Ling, journalist and host of National Geographic Explorer, is the last presentation of this series, set for May 18. Ling has gone undercover into dangerous zones, immersing herself in the stories she investigates. She will feature dramatic video clips from Explorer and share personal accounts of her adventures, including images and stories from her recent National Geographic book, Mother, Daughter, Sister, Bride, co-authored with University of Minnesota anthropologist Joanne B. Eicher. The book is a compelling exploration of the historical, cultural, and emotional impact of women’s rituals around the globe.
Where to Get your Gear
From international explorers to those who prefer their adventures a little closer to home, no outdoor adventure would be complete without appropriate outdoor gear.
At Wintergreen Designs, Inc., products are designed, cut and sewn in Ely, Minnesota. The outdoor products are tested by the Wintergreen Dogsledding Adventures program to make sure they can withstand the elements.
“We use only the highest quality technical fabrics in the construction of our clothing rather than substituting knock off cheaper fabrics,” says Judy Fredrickson, operations manager of Wintergreen Designs. “Since we produce the clothing right here in northern Minnesota, we can make changes to our designs quickly to suit our customers’ needs and personal interests.”
The products appeal to outdoor enthusiasts who tend to be family-oriented and care about the environment and social issues, Fredrickson says. “They are people who enjoy getting outside and enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities such as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, dogsledding, canoeing, biking, hiking, running and walking.”
Popular products include the fleece, shell anorak, Northwind coat, shell guide pants, mittens and hats.
“The Wintergreen anorak was originally influenced by anoraks of Scandinavian and Inuit arctic design employing the layering function,” she explains. “The two-layer system allows for year-round flexibility for a variety of weather conditions. They can be worn separately or together.”
Wintergreen recently opened a second store in the Fitger’s Inn complex in Duluth and are looking for skilled seamstresses to help keep up with demand.
When the snow melts and it’s time to get outside and ride, Penn Cycle can handle any cycling need. Family-owned and operated since 1957, Penn Cycle has six locations in the metro area.
“We sell all styles of bikes, from your child’s first bike to the Trek Madone that won the Tour de France for the last seven years,” says Bill Randen, general manager. “Penn Cycle was just voted ‘The Best Family Bike Shop in America’ at the Bicycle Leadership Conference in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Penn Cycle has over 4,000 bikes in stock, including main brands such as Trek, Gary Fisher, Lemond, Giant, Felt and Haro, a huge women’s cycling area, and all sorts of cycling gear.
The friendly, experienced staff goes out of their way to make sure every customer feels comfortable and finds just the right fit—from beginner to avid cyclist.
Where to Stay and Play
Adventure Weekends at the historic Lutsen Resort & Sea Villas are perfect for people looking for the next step in outdoor adventure, says Adam Harju, activities and recreation director at Lutsen Resort.
“The concept came partly from guests wanting a more in-depth experience, and partly from our instructors,” he explains. The Adventure Weekends draw on specific instructor interests and expertise and were designed for all skill levels.
The winter Adventure Weekend will allow participants to explore areas in the heart of Lake Superior’s North Shore that rarely see winter traffic.
“We will combine backcountry snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and photography to ensure a memorable adventure for guests,” Harju says.
Adventure Weekends in the spring, summer and fall include sea kayaking and rock climbing for people who want to develop their skills in a new discipline.
“There are no pre-requisites for these programs, just a willingness to learn something new,” Harju says.
Lutsen Resort isn’t far from Lutsen Mountains, “the Vail of the Midwest,” and the area boasts over 200 km of groomed cross-country ski trails through varied terrain.
“The North Shore is a magical experience any time of the year,” Harju comments. “I feel that the Activities Program pro-vides high quality service that is truly unique to Lutsen Resort. Whether you are a grandchild, a grandparent, or somewhere in-between; we have something for you that you will remember for years to come.”
Caribou Highlands Lodge, the largest slope-side resort on Lutsen Mountains, offers ski-in/ski-out access to nearly 90 runs, which means more time to recoup after a long day of skiing or boarding. To avoid long ticket lines, Caribou Highlands Lodge will have guest’s lift tickets ready at the resort when they show an online ticket confirmation.
According to Melissa Dressely, marketing coordinator of Caribou Highlands Lodge, Caribou guests can relax by an in-room fireplace or whirlpool, unwind in the indoor pool, soothe tired muscles in the sauna, or refuel at Tracks Restaurant and Lounge, located right at the lodge. The resort also offers a game room, three whirlpool areas, a large stone fireplace, free movie and game rental, and for an additional charge, massage therapy.
As Mother Nature transforms the area into a winter wonderland, guests staying at Caribou Highlands Lodge can take advantage of direct access to miles of state trails for cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and snowshoeing (with free snowshoe check-out).
The month of February is a great time to visit Caribou Highlands Lodge, with their “Four for Three Lodging” special. Guests that stay four nights are only charged for three nights of lodging.
Old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh rides and dogsledding adventures are also popular activities in the winter.
Amazing views of Lake Superior can be viewed from every room in the recently-renovated Best Western Superior Inn & Suites, located in the village of Grand Marais. Capture the beauty of an early morning sunrise from your balcony, walk to unique shops, galleries, restaurants and attractions, snowmobile along 450 miles of the Gunflint and North Shore Corridor Trail System (with sled-up gas adjacent), downill ski at Lutsen Mountains just 18 miles away, or learn a new craft at the North House Folk School.
After a busy day out and about, guests can relax in the whirlpool, surf the Internet, or just enjoy the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore. Special packages and pet-friendly rooms are available.
If you’re looking for a lodge off the beaten path, you’ll find a cozy retreat at Cove Point Lodge in Beaver Bay. The lodge is in the middle of an underdeveloped wilderness area—the perfect getaway for the city dweller itching to leave the hustle and bustle of city life behind for awhile.
Those who like to snowshoe or ski will love that the Spirit Hiking Trail is right outside their door, and four major cross-country trails are only ten minutes away.
The Scandinavian-style lodge has lake-view rooms, a pool, spa, sauna, dining room and great hall sitting area with a cozy fireplace serving as the focal point. The lodge is close to Gooseberry Falls, golf courses and beautiful state parks. Guests staying at Cove Point receive free use of snowshoes in the winter and canoes in the summer.
Outdoor adventure can also be found at Bluefin Bay in Tofte, 80 miles north of Duluth on Lake Superior. Over 200 km of groomed and tracked cross-country ski trails are right outside the door, the ice skating rink is illuminated at night, snowmobilers can ride on the North Shore Mountains Corridor Area, and skiers and boarders can grab some air at Lutsen Mountains, just ten minutes away. Bluefin Bay provides a free shuttle to the mountains.
Just about every recreational activity is offered at Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center on the shores of Lake Darling in Alexandria. When the weather is less-than-ideal, guests can play in the Big Splash Indoor Waterpark or get some well-deserved pampering in the Darling Reflections Spa. The area boasts over 500 miles of snowmobile trails, over 100 unique specialty shops, and the Runestone Museum. Within the next two years, Arrowwood will be adding townhomes and expanding their golf course to Championship status.
“(This) will only strengthen our reputation as one of the nation’s top leisure destinations,” says Amy Parod, director of sales.
Breezy Point Resort, located on Pelican Lake near Brainerd, has been attracting guests for 80 years. Some winter activities include skiing, dogsledding, snow tubing, snowmobiling, ice fishing for walleye, and playing snow golf on the nine-hole course near the bonfire area (participants use regular golf clubs and tennis balls). For those who would rather play indoors, Breezy Center has a pool, water volleyball, a Jacuzzi, a kiddie pool and a sauna.
Day-long and half-day programs for kids guarantee a fun time, as do the ping pong tables, video games and pool table. There are also traditional favorites, such as cards and board games.
Sweethearts will delight in the “Say I Do” weekend February 17-19, including romance packages and a vow renewal ceremony.
When winter melts into spring, and spring gives way to summer, an outdoor camping experience at the YMCA can become an unforgettable memory for kids and parents alike.
“When parents purchase a YMCA experience, they choose us because we align with their values—caring, honesty, respect and responsibility,” says Christa Getchell, general manager of camping services for the Minneapolis YMCA.
Day camps, overnight camps, family camps and wilderness camps are available.
The YMCA Teen Wilderness Adventures at Camp Menogyn in Grand Marais and Camp Widjiwagan near Ely show kids the value of respecting the environment and appreciating the beauty of nature in a safe, supportive environment.
Year-round activities include wilderness canoeing, backpacking, environmental education and rock climbing, all of which build skills for life and focus on developing the whole person—spirit, mind and body.
Every kid who signs up for YMCA overnight camp from January through May will receive a free youth membership to the Minneapolis YMCA, Getchell says.
“This gives them the availability to go to any Minneapolis YMCA and use the gym, the teen center or take classes,” Getchell explains. “It embraces youth development at a higher level. The YMCA is a safe place to grow, exercise leadership and have fun.”
The YMCA has 13 locations in the Twin Cities metro area.
Golfers who are ready to chase a little white ball over rolling terrain will find a beautiful, affordable, top-of-the-line course at Dacotah Ridge Golf Club.
Approximately two hours south of the Twin Cities in Morton, Dacotah Ridge is well worth the drive.
“The most common response to our golf course is ‘Wow! What a great course,’” says Peter Kurvers, PGA professional at Dacotah Ridge. “Players appreciate the variety of holes and the high turf quality Mike Nelson, our superintendent, and his staff maintain on a consistent basis. We have bent grass tees, fairways, and arguably the finest putting greens in the state.”
In addition to the conditioning and great course design (the course was designed by golf course architect Rees Jones), players also appreciate the small-town atmosphere and friendly customer service.
In addition to truly great golf, Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel offers 24 hour Vegas-style casino gaming, including the popular Texas Hold ‘em Poker. Dacotah Ridge Golf Club and Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel is the ideal destination for corporate outings, sales meetings and trade shows.
Thumper Pond Resort in the “Minnesota lakes country” of Ottertail, is a popular vacation destination featuring a must-play golf course. Not only can guests have fun in the winter and play 18 holes on a championship course (with pro shop) in the summer, but they can also rejuvenate at the Serene Woods Spa, stay in a Comfort Suites whirlpool suite, dine at the Red Pine Restaurant, enjoy a drink at the Eagle View Lounge and splash in the 12,000-square-foot indoor North Woods theme waterpark.
For those who are seeking a vacation property or beautiful area to retire, Lakota Lake Encampment (LLE), a wildlife preservation in the Black Hills of South Dakota, is breathtaking. Surrounded by a million acres of national forest, LLE is perfect for nature lovers. There are miles of scenic trails for horseback riding, and LLE is close to one of the nation’s best trout fishing lakes. The community features a private dinner lodge, outfitters cabin, horse stables and a unique in-mountain wine cave.