Skip navigation

Category Archives: Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

This past weekend we drove up to Bayfield, Wisconsin to take in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races and to visit friends in the area. It was a beautiful day but way too warm for the dogs at 35 degrees. It was good for the spectators and there was one the largest crowds I’ve seen at the race.

More photos from the race can be found on my website.

We walked around before the race and people watched and watched as the sled dog teams prepared for the race. Lots of young kids around given the warm weather.

We found a location near the starting line wan watched as the teams came in to the starting gate and then headed out onto the course. Sometimes the dogs can be very calm before the race.

Other times they can be very very excited. The noise at the starting line can be deafening.

Volunteers are a big part of any race and as you can see it requires a good deal of effort to control a team of excited dogs. This volunteer is heading to the ground as he tries to control the dogs.

In their excitement the dogs sometimes become tangled and someone has to step in and untangle them.

At the start of the race the sled is anchored to a cable behind the starting line. This team went a little too farm and they were trying to drag the team back so they could place the anchor.

Once the race starts the dogs leave the starting gate at 1 minute intervals and there are always two teams at the starting gate.


After watching the first two races leave the starting gate I decided to walk out the staging area and watch the racers get ready for the race. At this point some of the younger and less experienced racers were preparing for the race.

There is usually a lot of commotion around the starting gate with one team leaving and two more in the starting gate with others ready to enter the starting gate. The volunteers behind the racers are responsible for anchoring the sled. When the racer is ready to go they hand the anchor to the musher.

Lots of kids around having fun. Some of them made slide from the top of the hill others were just playing in the snow.

Not many people around the fire this year since it was so warm out.

The two folks announcing the race. Unfortunately they only seemed to have one speaker and that was pointed right toward the start. Anyone beyond the start gate couldn’t hear them. Next year they should consider putting some speakers beyond the start gate where most of the spectators are so they know what is going on.


A high five from some of the race officials after the last sled dog team was on the course. Congratulations on a very well run race.


This past weekend was the 24th running of the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. It is a two day even with the first half of the race run on Saturday and the second half on Sunday. Attendance has become an almost annual event on our winter schedule. We meet friends at the race and then head out for a long lunch in Bayfield. This years race occurred after some bitterly cold weather and it appeared that everyone had gotten cabin fever. Saturday was the first warm day and the crowd at the race was much larger than recent years. The parking lot was almost full when we arrived a half hour before the start of the race.

We like to arrive early so we can wander around and look at the dog teams and equipment before the start of the race.

A Duluth TV crew was on hand to interview the racers. We were able to watch the interview on the evening news.

Shortly after we arrived the mushers started hooking up the dogs preparing for the start of the race.

No race can take place without a large number of volunteers. They are what makes the race go. Some of the larger dog teams take five or six volunteers to them to the starting line.

Some folks take the occasion to add a little color to the event.

While most folks were taking photos and videos with their phone there were a few serious photographers in the crowd.

At the start of the race I walked down the trail a ways to get away from the large crowd near the start line.

After photographing for a while disaster struck and the mirror locked up on my camera. I had to walk back to the car and get another camera so I took a few more photos from the parking lot.

There was a food truck near the start of the race.

There was a booth staffed by an Apostle Islands Ranger so I stopped by to ask about access to the ice caves. He indicated that the ice was good out on the lake but not so good around the ice caves. Maybe they will open and maybe they won’t.


I then walked over to the starting line and photographed from there for the remainder of the race. When a team comes up to the start line the musher hands off an anchor to one of the volunteers. The anchor is driven into the ground so the team can’t leave the start gate. As the start time nears the anchor is handed back to the musher so the team can leave.

While I was watching at the starting line my wife and our friends were about 50 yards down the course. Apparently there was a dog fight. The two lead dogs got into fight and headed into the crowd. One spectator was backed up against a tree. People immediately stepped in to separate the dogs but not before some blood was drawn. The musher ended up removing one of the dogs from the team. This is the first time we’ve seen anything like that at a race.

There was a bonfire going but since it wasn’t all that cold out it wasn’t as crowded as it has been during some races.

After all of the teams started the race we headed off to Bayfield for lunch. Generally after lunch we drive back and watch some of the teams finish the race but highway 13 wasn’t all that good so we drove over to Ashland and drove back on highway 2.


This past weekend we drove over to Bayfield, Wisconsin to watch the second day of the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. It had snowed the day before and the roads were in bad condition but we made it to the race with time to spare. It was cold out -13 when we left Duluth and at the end of the race it was still -4 not counting the wind chill. As you can see from the photos everyone was bundled up. More photos from the race can be found on my website.

Before the start of the race I like to wander around and watch the teams getting ready. I was really impressed this year. The race went off like clockwork with very little wait time between teems and between races. The cold weather and the looming Superbowl probably helped things along.

The have two starting chutes so two teams can be ready to go. Notice that they have anchors on the sleds so the dogs don’t take off before their start time.

The dogs are anxious to go with some dogs more excited that others.

The fire pit was a popular spot.

The announcers braved a very cold day.

Some folks watched from the top of a sand pit.


We drove up north to take in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race and to visit friends in the area.  photos from the race can be found on my website.

We arrived early so we could get some photos of the race participants before the race started. This dog looked a little embarrassed to be wearing a helmet.




Volunteers lead the dog teams to the starting line. The mushers typically walk up and down the line of dogs and give them a little encouragement at the starting line.








At the end of the race they have the youth racers.




This is a big winter weekend with two of my favorite events taking place. Just down the road in Hudson, Wisconsin is the Hudson Hot Air Affair. They typically have a large number of hot air balloons at the event. More photos of the Hudson events can be found on my website.



While in Hudson you can also visit the Trumpeter Swans on the Saint Croix River.



Another option is to drive over to Willow River State Park and cross country ski or walk down to Willow Falls.



Up north is the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. This is always a fun family event. In my opinion it is one of the better sled dog races for spectators because all of the races are out and back so you can watch the entire event from one location. We usually watch the start of the race then head off for some lunch and then return to watch the racers return. More photos from the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race can be found on my website.



Off and Racing


In the afternoon we drive down the Meyers Beach and walk out to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. It doesn’t look like you will be able to walk out to the caves on the ice this year but there is a hiking trail above the ice caves that provides some nice views. More photos from the Ice Caves can be found on my website.



Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Last weekend my wife and I drove over to the Bayfield, Wisconsin to attend the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. It was a tense drive over with snow packed and slush covered roads. It was very warm and snowing/raining on the way over and during the race.

The Dogs






The Mushers







The people






More photos from the race can be found on my website.

Last weekend we took a roundabout road trip to the 2015 Apostle Islands Sled Dog Races. Our first stop was at ABR in Ironwood, Michigan for a half day of skiing. The next morning we were up early so we could make it to the races before the 10am start. As usual we were early and had plenty of time to wander around and look at the prerace activities. We were fortunate that we were early because we had to make a couple of trips back to the car for extra cloths. While the air temperature was around twenty degrees there was a strong wind that made it a bit cool.


We had a chance to check the dogs out before they became excited about getting hooked up to the sleds. Many of them had eaten and seemed to be relaxing before the race.


Many of the mushers already had their sleds out and were getting ready to hook the dogs up to the sleds.



As with just about every place in Wisconsin there was a lack of snow. This was the first time that I’ve been at the race where they had to haul snow to the parking lot so the sleds could make it to the starting line without running on gravel.


As with any sled dog race it requires many volunteers to get the teams to the starting line. This group reminded me of the typical group of tourists following the leader holding a flag. They were heading out to the teams to assist the mushers to the starting line. It takes five or six people to get the eight dog teams to the starting line.


This was one of the first teams to head out onto the course. The dogs were overly excited and became all tangled up just before they were given the signal to go. One of the handlers was trying to get the dogs straightened out when the team took off and the handler ended up on the ground. The dogs were still tangled up but the musher was able to get the lead dog headed in the right direction using voice commands.




Unfortunately this team did not make it through the race. They had a problem on the first turn and the musher was injured. They had to send a snowmobile out to pick him up and someone had to bring the team back to the starting point.



After photographing from near the starting gate I walked down the course a ways to photograph from a different position. I have to say this is the first time I’ve seen a musher smoking a cigarette either before or during a race. My wife was at the starting gate when he started. She said he was trying to light the cigarette in the wind when the team started.



After photographing out on the course for a while I wandered back toward the starting gate to photograph some more mushers starting the race.


I then moved up to the starting line to watch the teams being brought into the starting gate. I believe this girl was 8 years old and had a team of two dogs. The announcer said that she got an early start to racing because her mother was racing when she was six months pregnant with the little girl. The musher listed her day job as a student.



The final musher of the day has raced in this race a number of times and his entire team consists of dogs rescued from shelters.


After the race we met up with some friends that had moved from Menomonie to Cornucopia, Wisconsin. We talked for a while and planned on having lunch but it started to rain just after the race finished. We decided to head to Duluth before the roads turned bad. As it turned out the rain stopped after about a half an hour and the sun came out.

Many more photos from the first day of the race can be found on my website.

As winter arrived I started thinking of places and events that I wanted to photograph this winter. The events and bird photography require a little more planning than the Landscape Photography locations.

Apostle Islands Ice Caves

Without a doubt the top of my list is the Apostle Islands Ice caves. I discovered them in 2007 and have photographed them every year they have been open. When I first started photographing them I was frequently the only person on the ice that day. What a difference social media makes. This past winter well over a hundred thousand people visited the caves in-spite of the bitterly cold winter. Given the temperatures we have been seeing so far this winter I would expect the ice caves will open again in February. If you haven’t been you should make the trip.



The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race

The Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race will be taking place on February 7th and 8th. This is really a fun family event and one of the better sled dog races from a viewers point of view. It is possible to get up close to the dogs at the start of the races. Since it is an out and back race you can also stick around and watch the mushers return. They also have different levels of races from professionals to kids.

Off and Racing

Off and Racing


If you are really lucky, like we were last year, the Apostle Island Ice Caves will be open that weekend. You also may also be able to drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road while you are in the area.

Bond Falls

Although Bond falls is best known as a fall destination for photographers it provides some exceptional photography in the winter. There are not many waterfalls that are all that interesting to photograph in the winter. Bond Falls in the U.P. of Michigan is an exception. Most waterfalls in the Upper-Midwest are frozen in the winter. If there has been fresh snow they look like all of the other scenery. Bond falls is just below a dam it has water flowing all winter regardless of how cold it is. The flowing water combined with some interesting ice formations makes this one of my favorite winter photography locations.

Bond Falls

Bond Falls

Ice Bond Falls

Ice Bond Falls

Mississippi River

During the winter we make a number of trips over to the Mississippi River looking for eagles. Our first stop is usually Alma, Wisconsin where eagles hang out around the lock and dam. The National Eagle Center provides a weekly report of eagles seen along this section of the Mississippi River. They also provide eagle watching tours.

We then drive north to Reads Landing, Minnesota. We commonly see 30+ eagles in front of the Reads Landing Brewing Company. You can stop in the Brewery and watch the eagles in comfort while having lunch.

Our last stop is usually  in Colvill Park  Redwing, Minnesota where the eagles hang out near the open water below the power plant. The catch to watching eagles in the winter is the best time to find them gathered in large numbers is when there is a bitterly cold stretch of weather. This causes the Mississippi to freeze up and reduces access to open water.


Canadian Hill Farm

I can usually find something to photograph on the farm during the winter but most of my time is spent photographing birds during snow storms. There is nothing like hunkering down in the house with a roaring fire in the fireplace while sitting in my rocking chair and photographing birds.

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal male

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Hudson, Wisconsin

Hudson is a great place to watch Trumpeter Swans during the winter. With the successful reintroduction of Trumpeter Swans into the Midwest watching and photographing them has become a year around event. Trumpeter Swans don’t migrate in the winter they just move to the nearest open water. There is a small patch of open water in Hudson where they congregate in large numbers during the winter months. It is easy to get up close and photograph them.



Hudson is also where the Hudson Hot Air Affair is held every February. This is one of the few hot air balloon rallies in the area. It is well worth the trip to watch the inflation and flight of the balloons.

Hudson Hot Air Affair 14-2-_0710



Amnicon Falls

Amnicon Falls State Park is a favorite stopping point during the winter. Although in very cold weather the Amnicon River usually freezes there are times when I can find open water. The tannin tainted water car result in some colorful photos.

Amnicon Falls

Amnicon Falls

Horton Covered Bridge

Horton Covered Bridge

Red Cedar State Trail

In the winter most of the Red Cedar State Trail is a cross country ski trail so in order to photograph it you have to be willing to cross country ski. There are some beautiful ice walls along the trail at the 1.5 mile mark. These are the result of water seepage through limestone rock.


On cold days the trees along the trail can be covered in heavy frost.



The southern portion of the trail is a walking trail in the winter and on a sunny day I like to photograph the Dunnville Stone in the late afternoon light.

Dunnville Sandstone

Dunnville Sandstone

Grand Marais, Minnesota

I like to make the trip to Grand Marais at least once every winter. I’m never quite sure what I’ll find. On one trip there were high waves washing over the breakwater and lighthouses.

West Breakwater Light

West Breakwater Light

At other times I love to take intimate shots of the ice formations that are formed when the water washes over the breakwater and then freezes into beautiful patterns.


Devil’s Punchbowl

I like to photograph at Devil’s Punchbowl near Menomonie, Wisconsin in the winter. Water seeping through limestone rocks creates a massive ice wall in the bowl. There are also opportunities to photograph objects frozen in the ice.

Devil's Punchbowl

Devil’s Punchbowl


When we reached the races the first thing we noticed was the small number of racers. Normally there are about 60 sleds in the race but this year the number was down to about half that. I’m not sure of the reason although it has been a bitterly cold winter.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0336

Every race requires a large number of volunteers to get the sled dog teams to the start line. In the first shot the race officials were giving the volunteers instructions on how to work with the mushers to get the team to the start line.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0017

In this shot officials were showing how to attach the anchor for the sled. As each team arrives at the start line an anchor is attached so the team cannot talk off before the start time. When the team is ready to go the anchor is handed to the musher.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0018

We wandered around the area taking photos of the teams as they were getting ready for the race. I photographed from a pile of sand while some of the 8 team sled dogs took off. At this point there seems to be complete chaos but in reality a sled dog race is a highly choreographed event.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0031

My next photography location was at the start area where I photographed some of the teams being brought to the start line. Note the number of volunteers required to bring a team to the starting line.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0063

There were a large number of spectators near the start area but during the short break in the race while the next category of racers were preparing and most of the spectators left the area and didn’t return. I suspect they all went down to the ice caves which were accessible for the first time in 5 years.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0069

I moved down the race course to get some photos of the spectators and teams as then came flying by. One of the things I notices was that the snow was really coming down in large flakes and it made it very difficult to focus the camera.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0114

After another short break before the next category of racers I moved closer to the start line to help prevent my camera from searching for focus in the heavy snowfall. It also gave me a little different perspective on the race.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0328

At the end of the race there were some younger racers. The youngest was 7 years old and he had two dogs hooked up to his sled. His mother followed on the next sled. That seemed to be the pattern for the younger racers. They were all followed out into the course by the mother.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0358

With fewer racers participating we were able to head to Bayfield for lunch by late morning. After a lunch in Bayfield we returned to the race to watch some of the racers return to the starting line. Usually all of the dog teams that come in are dragging but some seem to still have a lot on energy. On racer said it was tough going because the trail was a little soft with the fresh snow. It snowed for most of the race.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0447

More photos from the race can be found on my website.

/* Style Definitions */
{mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt;
mso-fareast-font-family:”Times New Roman”;
mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”;

This past weekend my wife took a road trip to the Bayfield area. Our goal was to take in the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race, drive the ice road to Madeline Island and walk out to the Apostle Islands Ice Caves.

When we headed out from Duluth it was snowing hard and it snowed all the way to the sled dog races. We stopped at a gas station in Cornucopia. Another customer came in to ask where the sled dog races were and the clerk had never heard of the sled dog races and had no idea where they were. My wife gave directions and we headed off to the race. More on the race in another blog.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0248

After the race we drove over to Bayfield for lunch. The goal was to drive the ice road to Madeline Island. It was still snowing as we drove out to Madeline Island.Madeline-Island-Ice-Road-14-2-_0430

We then headed back to the sled dog races to watch the racers come in. Surprisingly the dogs seemed to have a lot of energy when they returned.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-14-2-_0447

Our next stop was going to be the Apostle Islands Ice Caves. This was the first time the ice caves have been accessible from Lake Superior since 2009.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1215

As we rounded a corner on highway 13 we notice the flashing lights of an emergency vehicle and thought there might have been an accident because of the snowy roads. When we turned the corner there was a long line of cars parked along the road and cars backed up on the road. We were at Mawikwe Road which is 1.7 miles from  Meyers Road. It finally dawned on us that these were people going to the Ice caves. We slowly drove down highway 13. People were walking in the road and cars stopped waiting for someone to leave their parking spot. We finally reached the Meyers Road which goes to the Apostle Islands parking lot. We continued driving toward Cornucopia. The line of cars along the road went another 3 miles.Apostle-Islands-14-2-_0498

Several weeks earlier the National Park Service estimated that 2,000 people visited the caves on a Sunday. Using the park service calculations I figured there must have been 6-8 thousand people visiting the caves on Saturday. An article in the Ashland Daily Press described the long line of people walking to the caves with their head down as reminiscent of the Bataan Death March. Some of the folks had longer to walk on highway 13 than they did from the Meyers Beach parking lot to the ice caves.

This was a sight that I never imagined I would see but it was great that so many people were taking advantage of the ice caves. With global warming it is something that we can no longer take for granted. If you want to avoid the crowds you should visit the caves during the week. If you can’t visit during the week you should arrive at the Meyers Beach parking lot before 9am.

An update in the Duluth News Tribune on 2/8/2014 reported that the Bay Area Rural Transit will be running a 27-passenger shuttle bus continuously to Meyers Beach one Saturday and Sunday because of the large crowds.

%d bloggers like this: