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Tag Archives: Sled Dog

Saturday morning we drove up to Eagle Harbor to watch the second stage of the race. More photos from the race can be found on my website.

We arrived in time to watch the mushers get their dogs ready for the days race.

Some of the dogs seemed to be a little excited. This one was under the truck trembling. On the other hand the second dog was relaxed.

A race of this size cannot happen without lots of volunteers. Here they are heading out to meet the mushers and teams they will help get to the starting line.

Just before the start the trail crew heads out onto the course to make sure it is clear and safe for the racers.

I walked around and watch the mushers and volunteers hitch up the dogs to the sleds. With some of the teams it is quite a challenge to get them to the starting lines. Other teams just wander up.

I spend some time at the starting line photographing the teams as they were taking off.

I happened to be out on the course photographing when I captured this scary sequence. The race officials had only put snow on one side of the road. Unfortunately several of the dog teams decided to head down the asphalt side rather than the snow covered side. The racer then fell down in her attempt to stop the team since they did seem to be obeying her commands to stop. At the start of a race the mushers usually have to step on the breaks to keep the dogs in check because they have so much pent up energy. The dogs dragged her at least 60 yards. She was still being dragged when she turned a corner. She must have been Ok because she finished the race in 6th place. Several other teams had problems before the race officials lined up a bunch of people to prevent the dogs from straying onto the asphalt.

This is where her team should have been.

 

On the last day of the race we spent the morning skiing. We arrived at the race well ahead of the time the first finishers were scheduled to arrive but the course conditions were very good and two teams had already arrived when we reached the course. It started to snow just as we arrived.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-15-3-_0608

Some of the mushers arrived in a group. Here three teams were neck and neck. the second team passed the first team just before the finish line.

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We walked around and watched to dogs get fed. This dog was really hungry and finished his foot and tried to get the food of another dog but he was constrained by the harness.

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As this team arrived another team was getting fed and they tried to stop and eat the food from the team that had already been fed.

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

On Day two of the CopperDog 150 Sled Dog Race we drove up to Eagle Harbor to watch the start of the race. The mushers start in reverse order, that is the leading musher is the last to start.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-15-3-_0878

We walked around quite a bit watching the racers leave the starting area.

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We also spent time watching the teams being hooked up as well as being brought to the starting line. It was a little different this year because someone had packed the snow down in the park so it was much easier for the mushers and volunteers to hook up the dogs and get them to the starting line.CopperDog-150-Sled-Dog-Race-15-3-_0862

Every year the kids get bored with the race and usually start playing in the snow. this little girl was building a snowman.

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More photos from 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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Frost

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.

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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

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This year for the first time in a long time you might be able to experience a number of outstanding events on the same day or at least the same weekend in the Bayfield area.

The weekend of February 1 and 2, 2014 the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race will take place. In my opinion this is one of the best sled dog races for spectators because there are a large number of sled dog teams that participate.

Off and Racing

Off and Racing

In addition, it is possible to get up close to the dogs and it is easy to watch them come out of the starting gate. There are no bad seats at the event.

Resting

Resting

Since the race is an out and back race you have time to watch them take off in the morning, enjoy lunch in Bayfield, and return to the race site and watch them come back early in the afternoon.Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-11-2-_2518

While in Bayfield you can drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road. The ice road to Madeline Island opened this past week so the ice should be good and solid by the time of the sled dog race. When we were at the race last year the wind sled was operating still operating.Madeline-Island-Windsled-13-2_0043

In addition, the Apostle Islands Ice Caves are open so you have a chance to watch some of the sled dog race, drive out to Madeline Island on the ice road and walk out to the Apostle Island Ice Caves all on the same day.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1471

A better option would be to stay in the area and enjoy the events over the course of the weekend.

I keep a spreadsheet listing the events I might want to go attend. This past weekend was a big weekend on my list. the options were the Hudson Hot Air Affair, Michigan IceFest and the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. This year my wife and I chose the Apostle Islands Sled Dog Race. Our last visit to this event was in 2011.

Lake-Superior-13-2_0387bWe planned on driving over to the race from Duluth. We rose early and found that it had snowed overnight in spite of a temperature of -9 degrees. We headed out around 7:30 because we wanted to arrive before the race started and soak up some of the excitement generated by the dogs. On the drive over to the race there were some spectacular views of Lake Superior with sunshine on the lake and lake effect snow clouds in the background. The roads were covered with a little lake effect snow and it was snowing along the lake.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0405When we arrived at the race the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees with sunshine. The starting point of the race is in a gravel pit about 10 miles east of Cornucopia. The gravel pit offers a good place to park for all of the mushers, volunteers and observers. It also provides ample space for a staging area as the mushers attach the dogs to their sleds.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0101We arrived about a half hour before the start of the race so we had ample time to walk around and watch the mushers getting ready for the race and listen to the growing excitement of the dogs as the start of the race approached. This year there were over 60 dog teams participating in the various classes.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0431This is a great race to watch because there are so many sled dog teams with various categories from the serious racers to family and youth racers. The crowd is usually small enough that there are plenty of opportunities to observe the race from all sorts of advantage points.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0433I photographed for a while at the starting gate and then worked my way down the race course to photograph the teams from various vantage points along the course.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0751Toward the end of the race I returned to the starting gate to photograph some of the younger racers as they started the race.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0800One can’t say enough about the volunteers. Without them the race could not take place. For the larger teams it takes 4 or 5 volunteers to get the dogs to the starting line and try and keep them calm before they are off and running.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0308Volunteers will be seen in most of the photos because they are such an integral part of the race. More than a few of them took spills trying to get the dogs to the starting line.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0234The din at the start of the race is so loud that you literally can hear the person next to you. Most of the dogs are frantic as they reach the starting line. I particularly like the dogs with blue eyes because they show the intensity just before the start the race.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0250There are a few teams that are really calm. This team was so relaxed that they seemed to be caught off guard when the signal to go was given. They almost fell over one another trying to get started.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0624One nice thing about this race is that it is an out and back race. So the racers finish at the same place they started. After all of the racers head out onto the course and watch the teams on the course. We did that on our previous visit but this trip we decided to head into Bayfield for some lunch and a little shopping.

Madeline-Island-Windsled-13-2_0024We stopped at the Pickled Herring for some lunch and to check into our motel. They had my favorite meal, chili. I noticed as we walked up to the restaurant that the ferries to Madeline Island were not running and that the Ice road was closed. That could only mean one thing, the windsleds were running. Sure enough our waitress said the windsleds started today. This was something I always wanted to see and photograph. As we had lunch we saw the sled head out to Madeline Island.

Madeline-Island-13-2_0010After lunch we walked down to see check on the sled schedule. On the weekends the schedule is reduced. The last one of the day was at 4:30 and we didn’t think we would be back in time to watch it so I added it to my list of things to do in the morning.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0790We then headed back out to the sled dog race. We wanted to watch a few of the dog teams finish the race. In contrast to the raucous sounds at the start of the race all is quiet as the dogs return to the finish line. Fortunately it was cold so the dogs seemed to be in good shape at the finish. On an earlier visit it was so warm that the dogs were exhausted at the end of the race.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0775As we watched the returning mushers my wife notice a couple of people that looked familiar, It’s hard to recognize people  when they are bundled up for the cold. It turned out to be some old friends from Menomonie that are now living in Cornucopia. We chatted with them as we watched the mushers finish.

Lake-Superior-13-2_0836Later in the afternoon we drove down to Meyers Beach to check and see if the Apostle Island Ice Caves were open. They were not open but there were tracks out onto the lake where some adventurous individuals took the risk to walk out onto the ice. Our friends said that people had been walking out to the caves for a couple of weeks in spite of the warnings at Meyers Beach that the ice was not safe. The National Park Service requires that the ice be stable for several weeks before they give the ok to go on the ice. On a previous visit I met several people from the park service checking the thickness of the ice. They were using sounding equipment to check it. We decided to hike the bluff trail and wait for the NPS to certify the ice was safe before our next visit.

Madeline-Island-Windsled-13-2_0043The next morning we had a great breakfast at the Egg Toss Bakery Cafe. Great place for breakfast and their bread is outstanding. After breakfast we walked down to the harbor to watch the windsled arrive from Madeline Island. We then checked out of our motel and headed back out to the sled dog races. We spent most of the morning watching the teams head out. It was -9 degrees and seemed much colder on the second day maybe because the wind was blowing and the sun wasn’t out.

Apostle-Islands-Sled-Dog-Race-13-2_0133A popular spot on both days was the fire pit. As I mentioned the temperature was in the single digits and there was a wind on the second day so everyone was bundled up.

After the race we planned on doing some skiing but since it was so cold out and we had a long drive we decided to skip the skiing and head home to watch the Super Bowl.

There are several hundred pictures on my website from the two day race.