Erin Altemus

Erin Altemus lives with her husband and a kennel of Alaskan racing huskies in the deep woods off the Gunflint Trail. She has run the Beargrease Marathon, canoed all the major rivers of Northern Ontario and worked as a nurse, farmer, teacher, waitress, newspaper delivery person and kayak guide. She enjoys adventuring through the woods via dog sled, canoe and on-foot.

Please follow and like us:


Recent Articles by Erin Altemus

Life in the Deep Woods
posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2017
My husband Matt and I moved to Cook County almost four years ago, with 25 sled dogs, three vehicles, a storage shed full of belongings and nowhere to call home. We felt we had perused the real estate listings enough to see that there were plenty of properties to buy within our price range. When we put our feet on the ground and started physically going to the properties, we found everything in our price range was either on a really bad road, many miles from town, lacked all basic…

Sleepless in Handler-land: Reflections from Beargrease
posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2017
I’ve heard that the handlers sleep less than the mushers during the Beargrease. During the race, which started on a Sunday morning and ended 72 hours later, I slept eight hours, broken into two-hour increments. I didn’t do an exact tally, but I believe Matt slept about 15 hours. I am not saying that handling is more difficult than standing on the runners for three days. But sleep deprivation has its challenges. Stepping back, the race started on a chilly Sunday morning in a large gravel pit outside of Two…

Learning to Enjoy the Dog Sled Ride
posted on Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017
Mush Lake Racing Dog Blog A family-friend asked me recently what I think about for all those hours on the dog sled. A typical training run mid-winter can vary from two to six hours. It might be dark and it might be well below zero. Sometimes, I told her, I think about life—about things completely outside of mushing and dogs and where I am at that moment. But the majority of the time, I am looking at the dogs or thinking about my own condition—whether my fingers are numb, my…

Dogsled Training Blog
posted on Friday, Dec 23, 2016
Recently, while dogsled training, we have been on what my favorite forecaster from Minnesota Public Radio, Paul Huttner, calls a “weather rollercoaster.” I am admittedly obsessed with the weather. This time of year my most-frequented websites include weather.com, the Updraft Blog from MPR and NOAA. If there is a blizzard imminent, I update the weather forecast every 15 minutes. Snow is everything to us this time of year. We’ve run 600 miles with the dogs on the ATV—the loud hum of the engine and numb and sore thumb from pressing…

Let the Training Begin
posted on Monday, Nov 28, 2016
Our fall training season began Sept. 10 this year, on a morning when the temperature dipped below the 50-degree F. threshold that most mushers consider too warm for running dogs. Matt hooked up one team and ran a quick three-mile loop. Still feeling energetic, he hooked up a second team, only to have the tie-rod end on the ATV bust half-way back to home. With a front tire dragging sideways, the team of enthusiastic huskies with a summer’s worth of built up energy to run, pulled the ATV back no…

Keeping a Journal of the Good Things
posted on Friday, Oct 21, 2016
Keeping a gratitude journal can help you feel more positive emotions and improve your health. | STOCK For many of us, staying positive about our jobs, finances and day-to-day outlook can be difficult, even a chore. It is easy to look at others who are wealthier, or have more status and get caught up in negativity. Changing our outlook from that kind of attitude can be difficult. But during the month of Thanksgiving, it is worth thinking of how to feel gratitude. According to the Harvard Mental Health Newsletter, “In…

East rim of the Devil Track Gorge
posted on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
GRAND MARAIS—The final 2-mile stretch of the Devil Track River winds through a canyon deep enough to be called the Grand Canyon of the North Shore. While many of the North Shore rivers plunge over falls and through granite crevasses, the geography of the Devil Track canyon tells a different story. An A-frame timber bridge spans the Devil Track River and is a great place to rest. | ERIN ALTEMUS The 2.4-mile hike starts from a small parking lot on County Road 58. If you are driving from Grand Marais,…

Capture the Colors: The Art of the Fall Photo
posted on Tuesday, Sep 27, 2016
The Gunflint Trail beckons during the peak of fall colors. | PAUL PLUSKWIK When the maple leaves start turning from greens to reds, and the birch, aspen and tamarack transform to hues of gold, Minnesota’s North Shore beckons us to capture fall in a picture. There are two runs of color, and in a good year, each burst can last for weeks. “You have the maple run in mid-September with the reds, and then the yellows in the Boundary Waters,” said Paul Sundberg, a North Shore photographer who has spent…

Exploring Superior's Sunken Ships
posted on Monday, Aug 01, 2016
The ornate Chisholm engine in 140 feet. | BRETT SEYMOUR Lake Superior has become a virtual museum of maritime history. Below the aqua hue of Superior’s surface, ships rest along the bottom, preserved by the lack of oxygen and frigid water, and left for a rare few who explore the wrecks with the help of a dry suit, compressed air and knowledge of physics. Phil Kerber has a keen interest in this underwater window into history. He has been scuba diving for 40 years and describes diving to a shipwreck…

Betsy Bowen's Love for Art
posted on Tuesday, Jun 28, 2016
“Lighthouse” by Bowen is one of her newest images. | BETSY BOWEN   Betsy Bowen must exercise self-discipline to take days off from her artwork. And though Bowen is nearing 70, she won’t stop working anytime soon. The Grand Marais printmaker, known for her illustrations in children’s books, thrives in her art and the studio in which she works—a 113-year old church renovated into an informal artist collective. Betsy Bowen originally came to Grand Marais with her family from the Chicago area. Those first trips were short family vacations, but…

Canoeing Wabakimi
posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016
At 2.3 million acres, Wabakimi Provincial Park is as large as Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) combined. The large expanse of wilderness is located a few hours drive north and northwest of Thunder Bay. While the area is incredibly remote, wilderness enthusiasts familiar with the BWCAW ought to prepare themselves for a somewhat different interpretation of wilderness in Canada. What makes the area remote is the lack of road access. Most canoeists will either take the train into the park or charter a float…

The Beargrease Debrief
posted on Wednesday, Mar 02, 2016
The pre-race vet checks were held in Beaver Bay on a glorious sunny day. Temperatures climbed to over 40 degrees in the sun. Inside our trailer, the bucket of snacks Matt so carefully made for the race—small patties of ground liver with an electrolyte supplement—all melted into a blob. The forecast showed a small decline in daytime temps in the days ahead, but we knew it would be a warm race. Veteran Beargrease Marathon musher Peter McClelland came up to me and asked if he could give me some pre-race…

Gunflint Mail Run Behind Us, Beargrease Ahead
posted on Friday, Feb 05, 2016
In almost any condition Mother Nature presents, we like to say it’s good training for the dogs. If it’s 20 below zero, it’s good training. If there is 10 inches of fresh powder and the dogs have to break trail—it’s good training. If it’s warm or if it’s raining or we are running through beaver ponds—as the case was this fall—it’s good training. The only time it’s not good training would be if conditions are not safe (too icy), or we teach the dogs to do something we don’t want…

Mushing Memories
posted on Monday, Jan 04, 2016
Our decision to live in the woods with a few dozen sled dogs didn’t happen overnight. While some are born into the mushing tradition, the rest of us fall into it, dog by dog, until one day we are telling people who ask, “How many?” that there are 27. Just a typical December run this year. | MATTHEW SCHMIDT Matt and I had a taste of mushing at YMCA Camp Menogyn in the winter of 2003-04, running loops around the lakes with guests, taking care of the dogs that Menogyn…

Mush Lake Racing Dog Blog: Marsh Mushing
posted on Thursday, Nov 19, 2015
Last year at this time, I vividly recall freezing my extremities in frigid November weather. We had enough snow on the ground to provide a little cushion on the dogs’ paws and winter felt imminent. This year, we are enjoying 50-degree days and it barely freezes at night, if at all. We’ve had a couple bouts of flurries and long stretches of rain. While the extended fall is nice on our woodpile, it’s stifling our training program. Erin and Beezus share a moment after Beezus led the team through the…

Let the Mushing Season Begin
posted on Thursday, Oct 29, 2015
We hit the reset button on Sept. 9, one of the first cool mornings of autumn and also my birthday—a perfect day to think about what lies ahead. The mushing season—seven or eight months of good dog-running weather—begins again. We’ve taken stock over the spring and summer of everything we did right last year, everything we did wrong and what we want to change. We rested the dogs long enough to heal any nagging injuries from last season’s races and we’ve given ourselves a mental break. We are excited to…

Gettin' Flowy With It: Biking on a Single-Track
posted on Friday, Oct 02, 2015
  Not all trails are dirt. Boardwalks and bridges keep it interesting. | MATTHEW SCHMIDT My first impression of single-track biking at Pincushion Mountain, was that I would have been better off on foot. I strapped on my helmet in the parking lot and took off behind a seasoned trail rider and a couple of newbies, like myself. The trail winds downward from the beginning and I put my brakes to work. Soon my legs burned from holding my butt off the bike seat enough to absorb all the trail’s bumps,…

The Mayor Runs and Not Just for Election
posted on Thursday, Aug 27, 2015
This year alone, Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux has run the Superior 50k Trail Run, Grandma’s Marathon, the Ham Run Half Marathon, the Fisherman’s Picnic Trail Run, biked the Lutsen 39er and completed the Ride Across Minnesota, a 300-mile bike ride that benefits the Minnesota Multiple Sclerosis Society. In September, he will run the Superior 50-mile Trail Race. And that’s just the event miles. He runs 30-40 miles a week in training. Arrowsmith DeCoux, 32, is also mayor of Grand Marais. Mayor Arrowsmith-DeCoux enjoys a training run along the ridge overlooking Lake…

Where to See the Birds: Fall Migration
posted on Thursday, Aug 27, 2015
Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory On a September day, a sharp-shinned hawk will begin its migration south from its summer home in Canada. As the hawk nears Lake Superior, it will likely veer southwest along the lakeshore. The ideal wind will be from the northwest and the bird will conserve energy, riding the warmer thermal currents high above the cooler air that settles on the Big Lake. This hawk and thousands more of these raptors will circle upward toward Skyline Drive as they near Duluth, soaring over Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve.…

Day Trip into the Wild
posted on Monday, Aug 03, 2015
August has arrived and with it, some hot, sultry days. The bugs have mostly dissipated and vacation time will soon be over. If you want to find a cool lake for swimming and get a taste of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) but aren’t ready for a big expedition and all the planning and packing that entails, try one of these day trips. Here are some easily accessible, scenic places in the BWCAW that are great day trips. You don’t have to go on a multiday trip to…