Monday, February 1, 2010

One Man's Treasure......

It never seems to fail as soon as a book project gets put to bed, new visuals that would've worked perfectly for that project are dropped in your lap just a week too late. Its like trying to keep up with technology, you just struggle to stay on top. Well, I came to terms with that a long time ago. It just happens and I'm delighted I'm still able to be in a position to experience the thrills of new visual discoveries.

Last week, I went North to Ely, Minnesota where I conducted my 16th Annual Wintergreen Dogsledding Photography Workshop. We have a blast dogsledding in and out of the BWCA and Superior National Forest telling stories with our cameras. The maze of trails through black spruce bogs, dense forest and across frozen lakes offer numerous peeks at life in the North. Wolf tracks imprinted in the snow were everywhere and the treat of a full moon Saturday provided the icing on the cake. I'm told through some unusual moon orbit, the moon was 30,000 miles closer to earth this full moon phase than other months. It certainly looked larger! We had a very cold week with morning temps each day at minus -25 F and only warming to minus -10 F. Only on our last day the temps rose to 7 above zero and it felt like Spring! Funny how that works.

The day before arriving in Ely, the area was truly void of snow pack and new snow was desirable....and necessary for most winter activities. Well, they got smacked with a substantial snowfall. The problem was freezing rain came first before turning over to snow. It looked like a winter wonderland and post card picture perfect everywhere you turned. Tree's were coated in snowfall, globs of at least eight inches of snow clinging to everything. And, with the rain beforehand, like an ice storm, everything was leaning or bending over with all that weight.

What became so beautiful to witness blocked access to our dogsledding trails. Trees were splitting and breaking, and new buds were torn off with the weight of the icy snow. Indeed there was a price for this beauty. The area's woods were crippled. The rain had literally glued the snow to the trees. Even the winds that normally blow off fresh snowfall too quick for photographers to capture it remained frozen to everything.

Ever the creative genius, arctic explorer Paul Schurke, owner of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, Paul designed a snowmobile equipped with sled runners shaped like a dune buggy frame. It was designed to protect his face and arms from the icy branches hanging over the trails as he inched his way down normally open dogsled trails. I can't think of anything more stinging that getting whipped in the face with a thin branch when its minus -25 F outside. New cuss words find their origin in times like this. When I arrived at Wintergreen, Paul already had a bloodied face, evidence of a tree whipping. I immediately understood his reason for building this unusual snowmo spaceship. He also installed cut birch trees attached to the sled behind to knock off snow from the trees with hopes they might respond by reaching for the sky once relieved from the weight of the ice and snow. Most trees do not so it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Such is life in the northland. We continued to take photographs and capture the results of snow and ice, below zero temps, and the dogs loving the cold weather. We were forced to travel over open lakes on the ice with only a few short cuts through the forest cleared by Schurke and his expert staffers.

I had thought several times, Ohhhh, that image would be great for the winter chapter in the PADDLE NORTH book coming out next Fall. That one would be too, and that one!!

Enjoy the included pix from last week in Ely. One, guide Kate Ford's beautiful new stain glass window installed in the new Wintergreen sauna.


  1. Oh, I missed another one! I'll make it up dogsledding yet, Layne. Your pictures are beautiful. Looks like you had a great time.

  2. Sounds like the dogsledding was challenged.

    That photo of the tent at night -- awesome. Love the smoke coming up.

  3. Brrrrrr! Somehow things work out no matter if too much or too little snow. Looks like you may have another book in the making. We have our dogsledding and your on our walls and look at the everyday and the two great trips we made. Stay warm.

  4. My parents are gona bring me dog sledding next winter up in Ely Minnesota.

    I'm gona dress so warm that even falling from a 100 feet I'd be alright..:)