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.
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.
Scaling an icy waterfall, kayaking on Lake Superior waves, and driving a horse-drawn sleigh. These are just some of the experiences Positive Energy Outdoors offers their guests. By providing access to these and other outdoor adventures, people are encouraged to explore the natural world in new ways. Co-founders Stephanie Love and Blake Cazier use their backgrounds in outdoor education to provide unique animal-powered excursions such as dog sledding and wagon rides, along with people-powered rock climbing and kayaking tours and instruction.
A tile on the floor inside Dubh Linh points the way to Dublin, warning that the journey is a long 4,657 miles. Despite that distance, locals needn’t travel at all to experience the energy of a real Irish pub. With house-brewed beers and tons of live entertainment, it’s not so hard imagine that just outside Dubh Linh’s doors lies its namesake city.
When creating the house’s beers, the brewmaster works in small batches, each of which makes about four to eight kegs’ worth of brew. To get your hands on a pint, you need only look to the wooden bar where each one resides. Spanning a variety of styles, the beers at any given time may include a citrusy double hop IPA, maple ale, a light peach radler, and a potato stout made from Idaho potatoes.
Alongside that labor of love, the kitchen plates a full menu of pub fare spiked with both Irish and local flavors. Fresh-smoked Lake Superior trout opens meals before diners move on to plates of tender corned beef and cabbage. Six unique wings platters require a choice between sauces such as Wexford buffalo and spicy garlic. Once stomachs are full, regular events keep the festivities going. Whether coming for trivia, free pool on game nights, or comedy shows, there’s something here for every taste.
Tucked away in a grove of towering red and white pine trees, the Character Challenge Course pits teams of patrons against a series of obstacles, fostering confidence, teamwork, and communication skills. A collection of low-ropes activities challenges teams with trust falls, games, and role-playing exercises while remaining a short distance from the ground. High-ropes challenges, meanwhile, soar to heights of up to 35 feet, and include cloud-scraping ladders, wobbly bridges, and the Leap of Faith, in which patrons must scale a 25-foot pole and then leap to a trapeze bar five feet away before lowering themselves earthward. To further facilitate team unity, groups gather after completing each obstacle to discuss how the course's mental and physical trials can be applied to daily struggles in cooperating with others at work or while opening a pickle jar.