“Man versus Dog”– Human Perseverance versus Pigheaded Puppies

A dog team in hot pursuit of skier Heidi Loosen at "Man versus Dog"

The first reaction most people had when they heard about Bearskin’s “Man versus Dog” Wilderness Pursuit ski race was generally, “Pffffft. That’s crazy. Skiers can’t beat dog teams.”

Oh, yes, they can. The results are in for Sunday’s “Man versus Dog” ski race and it turns out that what human skiers lack in four-legged canine speed, they make up for in persistence. A skier will pass the finish line for the first time and then willingly go around for a second loop. Teams of dogs—well, not so much.

Skiers gather for the start of "Man versus Dog" at Bearskin Lodge

With careful timing and race course measuring, the plan was for the dogs to travel a parallel race course to the skiers, covering just enough extra distance to compensate for the dog teams’ additional speed. For awhile it looked like amazing planning. On the return stretch of the first 5k  loop, the dogs were closing in on the fastest skiers and it appeared that they’d all reach the turn-around at the spectator area together.

But that was before the three dog teams realized they were almost “home.” All the dogs that participated in the race this year regularly take guests on mushing trips across East Bearskin Lake. It’s usually fun to watch the teams speed up when they catch sight of Erik’s tipi on the west end of the lake. There’s no place like home, even if you are a dog. But during the “Man versus Dog” race today, the teams needed to turn around to do the second 5 K loop before they headed back to the tipi. Not every dog was convinced that this was a great idea.

Shall we discuss whether we dogs plan to continue this race?

The teams being run by mushers Erik Simula and Adam Harju needed to be persuaded that no, the race was not quite over. While both mushers were in deep discussion with their dogs, David Demmer’s dog team drove in, circled smoothly around them all, and headed back out in pursuit of the skiers. (It does help to know that there were quite a few puppies in this race—you know how stubborn kids can be.)

Sometimes a musher just has to show those dogs exactly what he has in mind.

 Meanwhile, our skiers all still looked strong after the first 5K  and they rounded the bend to do the second 5K without whining, complaining, or barking.

Andrew Grimm — who had another big event this weekend, his wedding — won the race. Dave Seaton from Hungry Jack Outfitters came in a close second. Heidi Loosen, from nearby Camp Menogyn, was the first woman finisher.  The winning musher was David Demmer, since he actually stayed on the race course.

Andrew Grimm and Dave Seaton at the finish line of "Man versus Dog"

We knew the “Man versus Dog” idea could be fun, but that the race would need a little fine tuning to perfect the concept. The timing and course length worked well, and in the future, puppy obstinacy can be solved. Bearskin hopes to hold the race again next year. If you’re a skier, consider being part of “Man versus Dog” in 2012.

Visit us at the Outdoor Adventure Expo this weekend!

If you’re visiting the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Adventure Expo in Minneapolis this weekend, stop by the Bearskin booth and say hi to Quinn, Kate, our musher Erik Simula and one of his friendly sled dogs.

Grab a Bearskin brochure –there’s a $50 off coupon secretly tucked in there, good on a new reservation of 3 days or more that can be used by anyone.  Usually we have a coupon like this available for new guests who have never visited Bearskin before, but the Expo coupon will work for anyone.  You can also enter a drawing to win a free stay at Bearskin.

Erik will be speaking about his amazing 1000 mile birch bark canoe journey  at 12:45 Saturday at Cowles Auditorium. As anyone who has been on a dog sled trip with Erik knows, he is an articulate, interesting speaker.  He has beautiful photos from his Arrowhead Journey, as well as many fascinating anecdotes about the trip.  If you’re thinking of attending the Expo, make plans to time your visit so you can catch Erik’s talk.

Quinn will also be giving a presentation at the Expo on 12:30 on Sunday at the Humprey Center.  He’s going to be talking about the Volks Ski Fest  and encouraging people to come up to be part of the first ever Volks Ski relay. You don’t have to be a fast skier to join a relay team for Volks Ski.  If you can stand up on skis and move forward in the snow, you are a potential relay team member!  Quinn will also talk about the 400 K of great ski trails in the area.

 The Outdoor Expo is free and is great weekend entertainment. Besides all the informative outdoor information at the Expo, there will be numerous food and beer concessions. Stop in to visit the “state fair of the outdoor community!”

Summer, summer, summer

Our 2 year anniversary of buying Bearskin Lodge came and went on July 20th. As usual, we were way too busy running a resort to celebrate the day.  But surprise, surprise, 2 years have gone by and Bearskin has survived us. We know of many resorts that are having a tough summer so we’re endlessly thankful for our loyal guests who return year after year after year. 

It’s been a summer of good fishing.  Of all the surprising fish this season, this fish is probably the biggest and best.  The 31 inch walleye was caught by Harley Handegard (who does take his fishing pretty seriously) in a “not-to-be-disclosed” location. 

Big walleye, caught by Harley Handegard
Big walleye, caught by Harley Handegard


Moosilyn, our moose mother with her calf, has not been sighted on the resort for about 3 days now.  We don’t know if we miss her or are relieved.  Many guests who checked out last weekend reported they had  somewhere between a hundred and a thousand pictures of our moose.  She provided almost a month of great resort entertainment, sort of a Disneyesque “Moose World” for our guests.  But it did get a bit old for some guests to stay perpetually on alert for an immense animal crashing and crunching around their cabin.  Brandon spotted Moosilyn and her calf back by the brush pile yesterday, which may be a better spot for her.

The moose and her calf, in the garden behind the lodge
The moose and her calf, in the garden behind the lodge


Everyones a photographer when theres a moose around.
Everyone's a photographer when there's a moose around.

For those of you who are following Erik Simula’s 1000 mile Arrowhead Journey, Erik has safely completed most of his trip and blogged about it on the Arrowhead Journey blog.  Lots of pictures, too.  He is finishing the final section between now and August 7th, when he will arrive at the Grand Portage Rendezvous.  

The last leg of the trip will be filmed by Justine Curgenven, of cackletv.  She uses Twitter to update readers on her current projects, so watch for news about Erik.  Quinn is along for this filming project also.  Hmmm, hard choice….paddle for a filmmaker on the Pigeon River for a couple days or  spend the days working at the resort washing boats, hauling garbage and dumping fish guts?   Such a tough choice. @@

New posts from Erik Simula on Arrowhead Journey

Erik Simula’s 1000 mile birch bark canoe journey across the Arrowhead continues.  The most recent leg of his journey was hard on the birch bark canoe.  He had one very close call when he felt fortunate that the canoe did not split in half. According to Erik’s father, Vern, the bottom of the canoe now has some serious splits. We have two more of Erik’s birch bark canoes here at Bearskin.  We are wondering if perhaps at some point Erik will have to substitue another canoe.

Pages from Eriks journal
Pages from Erik's journal

Erik  has not been able to reach a computer, so he mailed us pages from his journal to post on Arrowhead Journey.  

According to local historian Larry Luukkonen, author of Between the Waters, the last officially recorded excursion to complete the Northwest Trail (Lake Superior to Mississippi River via Savanna Portage) in a birch bark canoe was made in 1878 by Minnesota State Geologist Newton H. Winchell, 131 years ago.  Very few others have traveled this route since that time.  That’s apparent when you read Erik’s journal — this has not been an easily passable route.

Shiver Camp on grass hummocks, after an almost all night paddle to escape a campsite inhabited by a cougar and a bear.
"Shiver Camp" on grass hummocks, after an almost all night paddle to escape a campsite inhabited by a cougar and a bear.

After the trip is over, it will be one of the “good parts” of retelling the story…..

Photo from Duluth News Tribune by Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com
Photo from Duluth News Tribune by Steve Kuchera / skuchera@duluthnews.com

Many Bearskin Lodge guests who read this blog also frequently follow Erik Simula’s Arrowhead Journey online.  Erik created the winter mushing program at Bearskin Lodge, which was a huge success last winter, primarily because Erik is so articulate and interesting.  Summer Bearskin guests may have met Erik in his role as a Grand Portage National Monument park ranger, demonstrating the skill of building  birch bark canoes for hundreds of visitors every year.

Long story short, Erik and his dog Kitigan ran into a little adventure on the journey going through Duluth.  Links to the Duluth News Tribune articles, as well as a variety of blogs commenting on the story, can be found at Arrowhead Journey.  

We have two of Erik’s birch bark canoes at Bearskin now, one hanging in the Lodge so you can see its delicate construction and another that will be available for guests to paddle this summer.  (But you’ll be paddling on the bay of East Bearskin, not on Lake Superior!)

Erik’s canoes are beautiful works of art.  History has established that a birch bark canoe is a sturdy mode of transportation.  But when you’re just standing in the lodge under Erik’s canoe, peering at the sections of bark held together with pine pitch over a wooden frame, not many of us would be inspired to think, “I feel a strong need to paddle this 13 foot chunk of seamed-together bark down the world’s biggest freshwater lake, then against the current on raging, rock-filled rivers for 1000 miles.” 

Erik’s journey is amazing.  For most of us, a little paddle around the East Bearskin Lake bay will be enough of an exciting birch bark canoe adventure.

“Sore back and fingertips raw. Feeling rested and good. So beautiful.”

erik-postcardFor those of you who are following Erik Simula’s 1000 mile Arrowhead Journey online, there are some great new photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/arrowhead journey/ 

Erik has also posted his daily journal entries for the trip between Grand Portage and Grand Marais on the blog http://arrowheadjourney.wordpress.com    

A sample from  4/24: Waves crash.  Winds Roar.  Dreamt of Black Bear.  12 hours sleep.  Filtering water daily.  Good hot drinks and food.  All my gear staying dry and organized.  Kitigan doing great.  It’s cold, but I’m staying warm.  So nice no bugs.  Wearing seven layers of clothes.  Sore back and fingertips raw.  Feeling rested and good.  So beautiful.

On Thursday WTIP aired an excellent interview with Erik while he was stopped in Grand Marais.  I was all ready to record the streaming audio on RealPlayer and then, for the second time, messed up the “save” when it was all over. It was bad enough that I goofed up the  recording the first time he was on WTIP  last week , but repeating the same mistake a second time is especially maddening.  If anyone else recorded it, we would love to have a copy.

Weekend update for January 23-25

The forecast for the upcoming weekend includes some colder temperatures, but with the potential for sunny days. The snow continues to be wonderful. Guests repeatedly tell us that the snow is the best it’s been in a decade and that the quality of the grooming has been excellent.

As I type this, I’m watching a group of women skiers from Cabin 3 glide by on the lake path. Frost is making the trees along the lake’s bank look like white cotton candy today, so right now the skiers appear to be posing for an idyllic Christmas card photo. (Where’s the camera, where’s the camera?  Never nearby when we need it!) To keep up on current trail conditions, check out our trail reports at http://bearskintrailreports.wordpress.com/


Menu for January 23

Chez Jude will be here again this weekend and the menu looks fabulous. See http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/bearskin_lodge_menu1.23.pdf   for details. Reservations are available for both Friday and Saturday nights. There are favorable changes in the menu pricing. Also, the kids’ menu is now available online. (http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/kidsmenu.html )  Chef Judi Barsness is willing to make accommodations for guest’s special dining needs, as well as for children’s dietary idiosyncrasies. Just let us know ahead of time.

Dog sled trip heading towards Aspen Lake
Dog sled trip heading towards Aspen Lake

Erik Simula will be here this weekend for dog sled trips. While many spots are already full, there are still a few times available. Call our front desk for reservations. Watching Erik go down the lake this week has been breathtakingly beautiful. The snow is so sparkly that it almost looks as if he is mushing through glitter. The dogs seem to be moving quite fast and easily through the deep snow, much more so than they were earlier in the winter when the snow was wetter and less fluffy. It looks staged, it is so perfect.  More mushing info at  http://www.bearskin.com/mushing.html

Learning how to put on a ski -- ski lessons
Learning how to put on a ski -- ski lessons

Quinn has some openings next week for ski lessons. Today he had a first time lesson with an 8 year old who was new to skiing. Quinn started on skis when he was 3 years old, so he doesn’t have much recollection of those “first times.”  He made a plan for a step by step lesson that would teach how to use the skis and the poles individually, and then put both new skills together afterwards. A few minutes into the lesson, his young student was already skiing. It’s amazing how quickly children pick up this skill.

Our massage therapist will also be available on Saturday, as well as next Wednesday. To make reservations for any of Bearskin’s activities, give our front desk a call at 1(800)338 4170.