February, the time of year that sometimes tests our love of winter. There’s nothing quite as beautiful as a fresh blanket of snow on the pine trees that line the roads in northern Wisconsin. But that snow comes with responsibilities and hard work. Whether it’s the residual road salt or the inevitable scraping of the windshield, there are a few downsides. But I like to focus on the good during the sometimes long wait for the warming of spring to arrive.
In addition to being beautiful, this year‘s abundant snowfall brings with it tremendous opportunities to get out and enjoy a variety of outdoor activities that our neighbors in the southern parts of the state can only dream about. From the solitude of snowshoeing to the excitement of snowmobiling, there is never a lack of recreation to be found if you’re willing to bundle up and brave the elements.
During the month of February, there will be two opportunities to chase any winter blues away by getting out and seeing mushers from throughout the country compete in Bayfield County. On February 1st and 2nd, you can attend the 25th Annual Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. Multiple races over the two days begin just north of the City of Bayfield at the Echo Valley Gravel Pit on State Highway 13 with the course following The Sand River Trail System of Bayfield County. In years past, I’ve volunteered as a dog handler, guiding excited teams to the starting gate. This year I’ll be presenting the winners with their awards on Sunday afternoon. And later in the month, on February 15th, the Northern Pines Sled Dog Race will begin at the Northern Pines Golf Course in Iron River. This is a newer race, but equally fun and exciting.
In addition to being a great opportunity to get out and experience the outdoors, attending a sled dog race is a great way to connect with the heritage of both indigenous peoples and early settlers. Many historians believe that the Inuit people of what we now know as Northern Canada were some of the first to use sled dogs and that the practice spread throughout the northern parts of the continent. People are sometimes surprised to find out how many families and individuals in Northern Wisconsin are keeping this practice alive. I count myself lucky to have watched young mushers Talia and Morgan Martens from Brule as their skills and confidence have grown from year to year. Talia says she was running dogs before she could walk and recently competed in the 158-mile 2018 Junior Iditarod.
I know the cold can be a deterrent, but if you’re interested I hope that you will stop by and enjoy either of these races or any of the other winter events that will be ongoing throughout the months to come. To see more of the events going on statewide, I encourage you to visit www.travelwisconsin.com. Hope to see you at the races!