“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.

New snow!

This mom and daughter enjoyed being out in the snowstorm Tuesday.
This mom and daughter enjoyed being out in the snowstorm Tuesday.

It snowed yesterday.  Really, really snowed.  It started to snow lightly around noon.  By 2 PM we were encouraging our employees who had to drive a distance to head home.  Those of us who remained had a very quiet afternoon in the lodge, watching the big snowflakes tumbling and blowing all afternoon.  By dinner time it was snowing hard enough that it was difficult to see the lake.  Late in the night the moonglow started to light up East Bearskin Lake and we knew the snow must have stopped.

Today it’s a winter wonderland again.  Blowing and drifting makes it hard to judge exactly how much snow actually fell, but everyone who is out there clearing the new snow off our paths and roadways says it’s around 12 inches. 

Trails had become a bit icy this past week, so this will be an opportunity to start over with newly groomed trails. It should be a beautiful weekend at Bearskin, at least for folks who love snow.

Critter Watch

Beaver tracks on Beaver Dam trail. Photo sent by Nancy Saxhaug.
Beaver tracks on Beaver Dam trail. Photo sent by Nancy Saxhaug.





Wildlife viewing at Bearskin Lodge is always excellent, but this winter the animal population around the lodge and our cabins has been extraordinary. 

During our first winter as Bearskin owners, many of our winter guests commented that the birds had disappeared.  Whatever caused that slump in the bird population last year is over now – we have an incredible number and variety of birds in the trees around the resort this winter. We’re going through an astonishing amount of black oil sunflower seeds every week, but it’s a worthwhile investment in bird watching. The bird identification books in every cabin are getting a serious workout these days.

Over President’s Day weekend, many guests participated in our “Critter Watch,” by keeping a list of animals and animal signs they saw or heard over the long weekend.  Birds included black capped chickadees, red breasted nuthatches, common redpolls, pine siskins, pine grosbeaks, blue jays, Canadian jays, downy woodpeckers, hairy woodpeckers, and pileated woodpeckers. 

Otters were observed on East Bearskin and Little Alder Lakes; otter slides were noted along the Poplar Creek ski trail. Skiers photographed beaver tracks along — of course — Beaver Dam trail.  Several moose sightings were reported; people are frequently finding moose in groups of 2 or 3 now.  Moose tracks were spotted everywhere, wolf tracks were seen along Bear Cub Trail and fox tracks were found on the lake by several guests. Pine martens were identified by the Main Lodge.  Playful red squirrels were abundant, but lucky observers also glimpsed flying squirrels at night.  Wolf howls and raven cries were reported by several guests.

Originally we thought we’d do the Critter Watch for one weekend. A drawing to win a Bearskin T-shirt was the incentive to keep the Critter Watch list.  Douglas Owens-Pike won the first drawing.  (He actually turned in extra credit by e-mailing in additional wildlife sightings from the trip home, but all that extra work was for naught, as he’d already won the T-shirt.)

We had enough fun with the project that we’ve decided to keep it going.  We’ll draw names for more T-shirts again and if you’ve entered a list or a photo, your name will stay in the hopper — you could win the next one.  So if you still have a photo or animal list, send it to us and we’ll add your name into the drawing.  It’s just one more reason to appreciate the abundant wildlife around Bearskin.

Hand feeding a whiskey jack.
Hand feeding a whiskey jack. Photo sent by Patty Holycross.

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.

A quiet week — with great snow conditions!

Cabin 8 today, surrounded by snow. Picnic, anyone?

Following an extremely busy holiday season, Bearskin life has slowed down a bit for a week or so.  After everyone almost universally has some days off  during the holidays, it seems that most folks have to go back and accomplish a few things at work before they opt for another vacation.  If you like your cross country ski vacations to be quiet and the trails to be uncrowded, the first two weeks of January are a great choice.

 What people are missing this week  is, as guest John Stonhouse said today, “The best snow I’ve ever seen.”  See the Bearskin Trail Report for more of John’s comments on current trail conditions. http://bearskintrailreports.wordpress.com/ 

Quinn and Kaitlin work together reloading the cabin wood racks.  We go through an amazing amount of wood each winter.
Quinn and Kaitlin work together reloading the cabin wood racks. We go through an amazing amount of wood each winter.

We  are appreciating the slower pace and the time to catch up. The days surrounding the holidays up through last weekend were as busy as the wildest days of prime summer.  We fell behind on everything.  Now, wood racks need to be filled, paths need to be blown out a bit wider, and we need to get caught up on general housekeeping chores. Miscellaneous problems, like the mysterious icy blight of the door to dear little cabin 2, need to be solved.  So a bit of downtime now is a good thing. All too soon it will be busy again.

Cabin 2 had an icy door disaster last week. Bob, Kaitlin & Quinn work on the door, with a bit of guidance from musher (and birchbark canoe builder) Erik.

Restaurant opens, mushing starts–what a week!

What a week it has been!  Somewhere in the past few days there was a holiday. Grandpa McCloughan came to visit, our own little tree was hurriedly put up, gifts were exchanged and when we weren’t all working, our family attempted to do the Christmas spirit thing.  A pre-Christmas sleigh ride and service at Okontoe helped provide some connection to the reason for the season.

But mostly our time for the past week was spent preparing for two huge new changes at Bearskin: The restaurant opened and dog sledding rides started.


Chez Jude, the harborside Grand Marais restaurant that is serving weekend meals at Bearskin this winter, opened for the first time on Friday, Saturday and Sunday this week.  As expected, the food was excellent. Barb and Dave Tuttle were among the first restaurant guests Friday night.  Dave declared the wild rice soup with shitake mushrooms served that night to be the best soup he’d ever tasted; we’d agree — it was all outstanding. Menus and future dates can be found at http://www.bearskin.com/ChezJude/dining.html   Reservations can be made by calling Bearskin at (800 338-4170) or e-mailing stay@bearskin.com  

A word of advice:  We do encourage you to think ahead and make reservations early.  Our restaurant space, as you can see from the photo, is lovely but small; we can’t accommodate very many people. Saturday and Sunday nights this week did fill up and many weekend nights in the future are already almost full.  Give us a call or e-mail us ahead of time if you want to be part of the Bearskin/Chez Jude experience.  The Gunflint Trail community has a shortage of available dining options in the winter so folks who have nearby cabins and homes are welcome to join us for dinner, with reservations.


We also began the mushing program at Bearskin this weekend.  Erik Simula and his team of dogs were very busy taking Bearskin guests and other Gunflint Trail visitors on dog sledding adventures.  Webcam viewers have been asking about the new “thing” they can see on the lake at the far edge of the webcam picture at http://www.bearskin.com/cam/camindex.html  That is Erik’s tipi, his home base for the dogsled rides.  Our guests who took trips with Erik this weekend all reported that they enjoyed the musher as much as the mushing.  It is both an exciting and an informative experience.  Erik is here on Saturdays and Sundays all winter.  There are limited numbers of trips available each weekend, so if  these are memories you’d like to make, we suggest you call for a reservation early.

Lots of snow



Yes, it snowed. A lot.

Quinn and Bob have been out grooming. This is our first major snow this winter, so many steps need to happen to get the ski trails completely in shape. But daily progress is being made.  The temps  that moved in after this front were low, but the predicted  high winds did not especially appear.  Everyone outside working today thought the weather was actually much more tolerable than they expected.

But it’s slow going digging out from the snow: