If you love the snowy outdoors and tackling challenges together, learning to drive a pack of Alaskan Huskies on a dog sledding weekend could be the experience of a lifetime. And, you’ll see the Upper Peninsula’s most beautiful and secluded places cloaked in white.
Several kennels in the UP, including Nature’s Kennel Dog Sledding (see below) offer two-day treks that require no experience. Instruction covers simple commands and test runs to get a feel for the tension and pull behind the running pack.
But the real adventure begins on a 25-mile run behind a team of six. During those three-hour rides, the only sounds to be heard are sled runners and paws padding against snow. Come nightfall, a campfire provides warmth and acts as a cook stove for dinner. The next morning, driving comes easier. As the dogs skirt frozen lakes and snow-laden trees, you can focus on the scenery and savoring the experience together.
Last Chance Kennels at Russ Creek Acres in Mancelona and Nature’s Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing & Adventures in McMillan offer lessons and educational programs for all ages, as well as sled rides.
Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs is partnering with Nature’s Kennel for a fourth season to offer half-hour and hour-long rides. Take the hour ride and stop midway for a cup of hot chocolate, learn about the sport and take photos.
Teams of Alaskan Huskies are waiting to give you the ride of your life at Wilderness Trail Outfitters headquartered in Rapid River. Be sure to bring along hand and toe warmers to be prepared for sub-zero temperatures. The folks at Wilderness will advise you on the proper clothing and accessories you need for your ride. Sled guides are with you all the way and teach you the ropes to lead a sled of eight to ten dogs. There are more than 70 dogs trained for the trails – they are not race dogs though they can travel at speeds up to 24 mph. These dogs have been specially trained as trail dogs, and will run all day at about 4-9 mph.
Enjoy a romantic dinner for two plus a dog sled ride at Snowy Plains Kennel in Gwinn. Alaskan Husky dog teams lead the way for journeys up to 5 miles. One of the owners was inspired to write five children’s books on sled dog adventures.
Book a stay at the Double JJ Resort in Rothbury and take a dog sled ride among other winter activities. Ask about winter packages that include lodging, breakfast, horse drawn sleigh ride, snow tubing and horseback trail rides.
Over the next several weeks, you’ll find a number of sled dog races. One in particular—the premier of dog sled races-- takes place mid-February, where teams from Michigan to New Zealand will be ready to mush for the UP200 and Midnight Run Sled Dog Races, February 17-22, 2011. The race is considered the top mid-distance dog sled race in the lower 48 states and a qualifying event for the Iditarod in Alaska. The annual UP200 is a 240 mile course that begins and ends in downtown Marquette. Two other races start in the town of Gwinn: the 91-mile Midnight Run that ends in downtown Munising and the Jack Pine 30 that finishes in Marquette.
But the fun and excitement doesn’t stop there There’re several other notable races that you should take notice of below: