My 100-Mile Birthday Bike Tour

My birthday is really close to the 4th of July and we often go on vacation that week. This year our vacation plans changed with our big trip coming later in the summer, which meant that I suddenly had no plans for my birthday and opening up the prospect that I would just go to work as if it were a normal weekday.

As if—nope, I was having none of that. Instead I schemed up a plan to ride my bike about 70 miles to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park and meet up with Sara to camp for a night.

After packing up the night before, I decided to leave the house nice and early at 7:00 am. It was slightly cool and foggy, which meant layering up with tall wool socks and with a high-vis yellow jacket. Since I bike 16 miles to work from time to time, the first stretch felt like a normal work day, except that I turned to ride south where I normally go north, and then turned west where I normally angle a little to the east. It was pretty mellow riding and there wasn’t a lot to see, or at least a lot to describe, since the area is mostly forest with scattered hayfields. Continue reading “My 100-Mile Birthday Bike Tour”

Microadventures

Let’s be honest: adventures are fun and exciting, but they can also be exhausting. There can be a lot of planning involved in launching the adventure. And then, if you really do it right and live it up, you can feel completely exhausted afterward (i.e., the dreaded vacation hangover—when you need a vacation from your vacation!).

But what if you could do smaller, more bite-sized adventures between the 9-to-5 daily grind?

Adventurer Alastair Humphreys proposes one solution: microadventures.

Think of microadventures as the expresso of all adventures Continue reading “Microadventures”

Dog Sledding for Rookie Mushers

Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or a snowbank!), you’ve probably noticed that dog sledding is hot in Upper Michigan. Sure, the UP200 Sled Dog Championship has been going since 1990 in the central Upper Peninsula, but the Keweenaw is rocking its own race with the CopperDog. Now in its 6th year, the CopperDog 150 has take the region by storm. That race is run with mushers leading teams of ten dogs a distance of 150 miles over three days. It’s great fun to watch, but you don’t have to be a professional to do it—you can try it out for yourself not too far from home!


We Went Dogsledding

It’s hard to describe the sound of thirty-some barking sled dogs as anything but loud.

It’s terrifically loud when we arrive for our dogsled adventure, with each dog trying to bark, yip, and howl louder than the next in hopes of being picked to go on the day’s ride.

Three dog sleds lay waiting amongst the dogs, geared up and only needing dogs and riders. Sally Bauer grabs the harnesses, while her husband, Tom, tells us what to expect.

Each person will have their own sled. Tom in front, then me, then my husband in the back. It’s been cold and hasn’t snowed much, so conditions are fast. We’ll take four dogs each instead of the usual six—unless, that is, we’re really wanting some action.

We’re not.

We’re complete rookies, and just here to have a good time and see what this dog sledding thing is all about. We signed up for a 6-mile tour through the woods and are curious to see what the afternoon has in store. Tom and Sally run Otter River Sled Dog Training Center & Wilderness Adventures from their home in Tapiola, offering rides and camping trips in the wild woods of the western UP.

They coach us through the basics. You stand on foot boards on the tops of the sled’s skis and hold onto the handlebar—just like in the movies. To keep from going too fast, there is a rubber mat between the skis of the sled. Standing on the mat creates friction and helps to slow things down. There’s also a foot brake between the skis, which drives spikes down into ground to stop the sled against the pull of the dogs. And, lastly, there’s a snow hook that serves the role of an emergency brake out on the trail. It’s a large metal hook on the end of a rope that helps keep the sled in place should the musher need to get off—or fall off.

Dogsled-Collage1

Nest, we start harnessing up our teams. Tom puts the teams together: Gwen goes in one of the lead positions on my sleds, Daffodil on the other. One by one, we harness the dogs that will go out with us and hitch them to the different sleds. Once all the dogs are in place, it’s time to go.

We step onto our sleds and get into position. Tom takes off first and then it’s my turn. Sally unhooks the sled from the post it’s attached to while I remove the snow hook and set it in the sled. My sled starts to move and my nervous excitement grows. The dogs pull, and we’re on our way.

My first few minutes are admittedly a bit clumsy as I get the hang of it. I test out how much pressure is needed to apply to the mat and the brake to stay in control on the fast, crusty snow at the beginning of the trail. My husband’s team is faster than mine and passes me early on. That’s probably for the better, since I was struggled a bit in getting around the first and most difficult corner—fortunately, Sally was staged there, ready to help out and give me a few pointers before I catch up with the sleds a head of me.

After that, it was easy to get the hang of it. The dogs pull, while I ride behind and take it all in. I stand on the skis to go faster and keep up with the others, and put weight on the mat if I want slow down. The dogs in my team follow the lead sled, making the turns and keeping a comfortable pace without any direction needed.

We wind around on trails through the woods. Although I know the general area, I don’t try to keep track of where we are and instead just let the dogs (and Tom) do the navigation. It feels relaxed and enjoyable, but I have the sense it would have been harder with six dogs.

To run ten dogs, like they do in the races—or even more than that—seems unimaginable. Or, perhaps, unimaginably awesome.

When we return, the cacophony starts back up, the dogs at home welcoming our return. We use the ice hooks to secure the sleds, but the dogs on our sleds are not as eager to pull as they were earlier. We unhook them from the sleds, and remove the harnesses. Many of the dogs are happy to walk back to their particular doghouse on their own to curl up and relax in their beds.

They seem pretty content after the day’s adventure and so are we.

Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff

A quick special post this week. I was in Vermont for work and had a little time to take a stroll in the woods. When I looked at what might be nearby in the Green Mountains, I honed in a trail named Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff. I needed to go there.

Mt. Horrid and The Great Cliff—how could I not go there? It sounded so mysterious and exciting, like a Harry Potter movie or something. Continue reading “Mount Horrid and the Great Cliff”

You’re Not in Wisconsin Anymore

This week included a quick trip to the Finger Lakes region of New York. I think it was my third time in the state—the first time was to Buffalo (nope, didn’t make it to Niagara Falls), and the second was to Albany and Saratoga Springs—and it was the first time that I was there in warm weather when I could really get out and do things.

I wasn’t quite sure what this part of New York would look like. My conclusion? Wisconsin. It felt just like eastern Wisconsin. Rolling hills with fields and forest, gambrel-roofed red barns, Holstein cows. Even the town names were familiar: Manchester, Palmyra, Waterloo. Show me pictures and I don’t know how well I could tell the difference.

New-york
This is New York, but looks exactly like the place in Wisconsin where my mom grew up.

Continue reading “You’re Not in Wisconsin Anymore”

My Trek to Find a Forest Island

When I visit cities, I like to walk. I will walk until my feet hurt and I get blisters, but I rarely get sick of walking someplace new if there’s ample time and my feet are up for it. 

Washington DC is a great place to walk. It’s clean, it’s pretty, there’s plenty to see, and public transportation is usually nearby  if a trip needs to be cut short. I feel like I’ve walked over enormous swaths of metro DC in past visits there. On this most recent visit, I really wanted to walk someplace I hadn’t managed to visit yet: Theodore Roosevelt Island

TRI-6
Teddy Roosevelt Island is in the middle of the Potomac River. The island is on the right, Virginia on the left, and Georgetown is across the bridge.

Continue reading “My Trek to Find a Forest Island”