An Interview with Bayfield Mushers John and Mary Thiel – A Two-Part Series
PART II of II
In part one of this interview, the Old Rittenhouse Inn talked with Wolfsong Adventures in Mushing’s John and Mary Thiel about how they got started in mushing and their family of sled dogs. In part II, below, we learn more about how and when to book a mushing adventure and what to expect from the experience.
ORI: What are the options for taking part in a mushing adventure?
Thiels: All of our trips allow for plenty of hands-on time with the dogs, and are structured so that guests get to know the dogs’ wonderful personalities a bit, learn about what it takes to run sled dogs, from harnessing and hooking up teams to driving a sled to caring for and feeding them after a run, and beyond. Most guests want the full experience of driving a team on their own, but they can also ride in one of our guide sleds if they’re feeling uncertain.
ORI: What kind of preparation to you advise for anyone coming to you for a trip?
Thiels: No experience is necessary. Dressing appropriately in layers is a good start, but we can also help outfit those who need it. Important pieces include base layer (long underwear), one pair of good quality wool socks (layering multiple socks usually results in cold feet), a mid layer of wool or fleece is good, snow pants and a parka/jacket, hat, pack boots. We have special mitts for everyone to use, and well as extra layers and boots for those who need them.
ORI: Is there one mushing adventure memory that stands out the most for you?
Thiels: We’ve been running dogs for over 20 years, and there have been so many great trips over the years. It’s always fun to share in the excitement and see how much other people enjoy the dogs. It’s great to take out families ranging from grandkids to grandparents and have them all take part in the adventure. We celebrated our daughter Emma’s 2nd birthday with cupcakes on the trail, and it was fun to watch her win the Sportsman’s Class in our local Apostle Islands Dogsled Race at age 17 this year.
ORI: What is the best time (or times) of year to book a mushing adventure?
Thiels: We take reservations at any time of year, so if you have specific dates in mind, book early. Early Fall is when bookings start to ramp up. The holiday week between Christmas and New Year’s fills up fast, as do the holiday weekends in January and February.
ORI: Why should mushing be on someone’s Live It list?
Thiels: There’s really nothing else like it! It’s exhilarating, the dogs are amazing, the trails and scenery are beautiful. A mushing adventure is a great way to get outside and do something fun and active in winter.
ORI: What are the options for trips with Wolfsong?
Thiels: Wolfsong offers two trips daily: a longer trip in the morning that includes a stop midway on the trail for a hot picnic lunch, and a shorter trip in the afternoon without the meal. All of our trips are very hands-on, so guests get to spend a lot of time with the dogs, getting sled instruction, harnessing, hooking up teams, and driving your own sled (or guests can ride in a guide sled if preferred). We also offer overnight winter camping trips at select times during the season. Visit https://www.wolfsongadventures.com for information as well as photos and video.
ORI: Is mushing a suitable activity for people of all ages?
Thiels: The short answer: yes! We’ve had families with small children and grandparents come on our trips, and everyone can participate and have a great time. We generally say age 5 is a minimum for kids (and parents) to be able to participate and really enjoy the trip. This of course depends on individual personalities.
ORI: Can Wolfsong accommodate individuals with physical challenges on a mushing adventure?
Thiels: We do our best to accommodate everyone. If we can get guests to the sleds, they can usually sit comfortably, though ultimately, it’s an outdoor adventure in snow, sometimes deep, and it’s approximately 50 yards from the parking area to the kennel/sleds.
ORI: What do you love most about Bayfield?
Thiels: We get great lake effect snow here in Bayfield! And there’s lots of public land for trails. There is also an extraordinary mix of people for a small town – many people who live here have made a conscious choice to do so because they love Lake Superior and the environment, the recreational opportunities, and the culture and the community. Most of all, they’re more concerned about quality of life than they are about making lots of money in a bigger city career.
Ready to give this special adventure a try? Join us this winter and book our Wolfsong Mushing Package which includes the dog sledding adventure of your choice, a trail lunch, $50 towards dinner at the inn and more.