Northern Wilds Magazine
A beautiful cool morning on a new trail means lots of wagging tails. | ERIN ALTEMUS
Dog Blog

The Times are a Changin…

In April, we moved from our off-grid cabin on Mush Lake to a home in the County Road 14 area east of Grand Marais. The horseshoe of County Road 14 has been home to many mushers over the past few decades, including Iditarod racing kennels and large tour operations. Our new home was built by a musher who had a mushing apparel business (Arrowhead Trading Company) and raced the Iditarod twice, as well as other local races.

The mushers on 14 built a large network of trails that are not a part of any DNR snowmobile or ATV trail network (though still accessible for multi-use). In our up-sized home and down-sized lot, we begin a new season with a few new dogs, new trails and a new name.

We are one month into ATV training. The trail takes off from the back of the dog yard into Superior National Forest. Where we used to live far from any neighbors, we are now part of a neighborhood, so we are conscientious of our dog yard noise. Accordingly, we hook up at first light, which nowadays is close to 7 a.m. It’s barely cold enough. Morning temps have been in the 40s—still no frost as of early October. We are as efficient as possible hooking up the team, and we can accomplish the task in under 15 minutes if all goes well. Then we slingshot down the trail, bumping along over tree roots and rocks, at first doing a 3-mile loop and now up to 7 miles. Soon we will bump up to the next loop at 9 miles and increase every week to 20 miles by the end of October.

My husband Matt is taking over a dogsled building business that has been handed down from musher to musher over many years. Dog sled hardware, forms for the runners, wood, and plans have been accumulating over the past few months in our shop, waiting for assemblage.

My own view of a small and isolated lake in the pines has changed to a maple forest, right now a thousand hues of orange at the peak of fall color. There are five puppies waiting for their daily walk (the Goonies, named after my favorite Spielberg movie of the 80s), wood to cut, and a house to clean (at age 4, Sylvia is busy building forts and making art projects in her free time). Mush Lake is home to a new family as we settle into our own.

The scenery for the dogs has changed as well. They are located in our open back yard where they can see all that is going on, including deliveries from UPS, the house dogs out and about, the puppies and their activities, and anything else going on. Dogs seem to thrive on routine and the expected so anytime something usual or unexpected happens they get amped up. Their proximity to each other and our house has made everything from chores to dog petting rounds easier and I think they have settled in.

I signed up for the Beargrease marathon again this year. The 25-team roster filled in two days and I was lucky to get one of the last spots. A handful of teams from Canada and Alaska will be here to compete and it should be a good race. Another race to watch for in Minnesota is the Klondike Derby which takes place on Lake Minnetonka. It is a 40-mile race on the lake and sports a $40,000 purse. There are a number of Cook County teams participating, but it might be too fast for our dogs. We are planning a full season of long and short races to accommodate both the A-team and the B-team of yearlings and A-team retirees—perhaps going to the Apostle Island races which we haven’t done for years, likely going to Maine if our leader situation seems agreeable and of course the Gunflint Mail Run.

With lots of changes in the past year, we go forth, ready for new adventures.

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