Located in the heart of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, Piragis Northwoods Company outfits excursioneers with all the necessities for embarking into the wily wilderness of northern Minnesota. Before outfitting adventurers, experienced outdoorsmen assist in planning routes and campsites to meet outdoorsy goals and wolf-man-sighting desires. Campers then rent accoutrements such as lightweight Kevlar canoes ($30+/day), solo or tandem kayaks ($30+/day), and Kevlar paddles ($6/day). Alternatively, woodspeople can be fully outfitted with canoes, paddles, packed food, tent and tarp, packs, witch repellent, sleeping bags, and a plethora of other gear ($100/person/day).
The pristine quality of the remote trails and clearings winding through the Superior National Forest gives new meaning to the word white. There are no people, no cars, and no buildings towering overhead to mar the scene, framed only by majestic cedar groves. The frosty trail and snow-heavy branches whoosh silently past?the only sounds you hear are the rhythmic mushing of the alaskan huskies in front of you and the almost synchronized beating of your own heart. After a meal cooked over a campfire, your trip might end with some hot-tub time, a fireside chat in a private lake house, or listening to the dogs' nighttime chorus of "Hungry Like the Wolf" as they bed down outside a cozy, heated yurt.
It was the vision of husband-and-wife team Peter McClelland and Chris Hegenbarth to create such experiences for beginning and advanced sledders of all ages. They founded White Wilderness Sled Dog Adventures to share their love of outdoor activities in general?including camping and fishing?and of sled dogs in particular. As a seasoned guide and cofounder of the Ely Area Mushing Association, McClelland is dedicated to the welfare of sled dogs everywhere. Hegenbarth handles the details, including the baking of the cookies that accompany each sled driver on his or her journey. In the National Geographic book The 100 Best Vacations to Enrich Your Life, author Pam Grout says McClelland and Hegenbarth "don't just sell you a dogsled trip?they adopt you for a few days," making sure guests are warm and well fed.
The couple has gathered together some of the most experienced dog drivers in the north woods, including licensed EMT Erik Danielson and nine-year dogsledding veteran Theo Theobald, who prides herself on seeing more moose than traffic lights in any given month. The company is one of the few sled-dog trip providers that trains its dogs year-round; staffers spend off-season months teaching the dogs to run through an obstacle course and playing hours of Twister to improve their agility.
For Paradise Outfitters founder Deron DoRight, fishing trips aren't just a hobby, they are his livelihood. As a career angler, Deron has the technical knowledge and hands-on experience necessary to helm Paradise Outfitters' weeklong vacations, half- and full-day fishing trips on Rainy Lake, and two-day excursions at a local lake of the patron's choosing. Though the potential trophies change with the seasons⎯from walleye to pike to smallmouth bass, or the elusive swimming snowman⎯Deron’s aim is always the same: to help passengers enjoy the beauty of the lake and the sport of fishing, perched atop a comfortable 20-foot Ranger. When the waves ice over, two-person aluminum fishing houses and portable shelters shield anglers from chilly winds.
Over the past five-plus decades, Vista Fleet has entertained some six million passengers from all around the world. Today, the family-owned company sets sail on a pair of luxurious vessels: the Vista Star and the Vista Queen. After their early-morning Pilates classes, the two ships carry passengers across Lake Superior during sightseeing tours, dinner parties, and twilight cruises. All the while, Vista Fleet's staff members liven up the journeys with a mix of entertaining facts and games. They also point out iconic landmarks passing by, such as the Aerial Lift Bridge and the historic Canal Park.
When the 26-mile railway known as the Lakefront Line opened in 1886, the views were wasted on pieces of fresh-cut timber, which don't have eyes, and hunks of iron ore, which tend to prefer boats. But it wasn't long before the engines began carrying more than the fruits of Minnesota's lumber and mining industries. By 1887, the railway began passenger service, which became an essential component of Duluth and Two Harbors transit before the advent of paved roadways and reliable cars. More than a century later, the North Shore Scenic Railroad runs that same path, offering residents and tourists alike a taste of old-fashioned transportation and unspoiled natural splendor. Riders travel along the tracks in vintage train cars during daily tours held throughout the spring, summer and fall, as well as special excursions such as elegant dinner train trips and the annual fall beer tasting train.
Garrett and Heather love standup paddleboarding so much that it’s not unusual to see them paddling past ice floes. Because of this love, the North Shore SUP instructors seek to draw a broad range others to the sport as well with a variety of paddleboarding classes. Beginners can opt for intro-level instruction, and adventurous types can try standup-paddleboard yoga. Paddle with Your Kids sessions give parents and children more pleasant quality time outdoors than rewriting favorite bedtime stories into fallen snow. Those interested in rentals can take regular or inflatable boards by the hour or day and can ask Garrett and Heather about the best local standup-paddleboarding spots.