2011 February - Great Northern Adventure
This is a 4-day winter adventure that our Scouts have always enjoyed. It's part road trip and part outdoor challenge combining several activities into an exciting, fun, adventure experience. The Great North Adventure trip takes us through Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

The first day involves a long drive from DeKalb, Illinois to Minocqua, Wisconsin. We spend our first night in a large hotel complete with large game room and indoor water park. The water park has two giant water slides, a water play area, large pool with water basketball, and a giant indoor-outdoor hot tub. After our first water park session, we dry off for a pizza party at a restaurant, then returned for some time at the game room and more time at the water park. The first day is part of the road trip with all the luxury.

The second day we drove to Eagle River to see the giant ice palace. Unfortunately the ice palace had been demolished a few days earlier after warm weather created dangerous structural damage. We drove into Michigan and followed U.S. highway 2 through beautiful rolling woodland, having a close encounter with a deer.

Camp Barksdale is located near Ashland, Wisconsin on the shoreline of Lake Superior. Scouts had the option of staying in a cabin with wood stove or sleeping outdoors in snow shelters. About half elected to stay indoors, and half outdoors. The remainder of the day was spent preparing shelters. An accident required a hospital ER visit regarding a face and a snow shovel. A tooth was partially broken. Otherwise it was an exciting overnight with temperatures in the single digits. A couple Scouts elected to change their minds about sleeping outdoors in their snow trench partway through the night. The cabin was warm and welcoming.

After a hot breakfast the next day we left camp for some ice hiking on Lake Superior. The intent was to hike to the Mainland Ice Caves at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Unfortunately the ice was considered unsafe by the National Park Service. Instead we hiked on the safe ice in the vicinity near Meyer Beach. It was still exciting for the boys.

After our ice hike we intended to drive across the ice bridge from Bayfield to Madeline Island, but due to conditions the ice bridge was closed. We enjoyed time exploring the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center. A major winter storm was sending gail force winds from across Lake Superior as we drove to Duluth, Minnesota, where we intended to stop at the Great Lakes Aquarium. Due to the fast approaching storm we continued on.

The drive south to Hinckley, MN on the interstate was challenging due to high winds creating blowing and drifting snow. We arrived at our hotel and enjoyed dinner and their indoor pool.

We awoke to a very white day. Ten inches of snow had fallen overnight. Our drive to Danbury, Wisconsin for dog sledding was a longer drive than normal due to the blizzard. We were happy to finally arrive at the Pawtuckaway Dog Kennel.

The dogs were very happy to see us. We used two dog sleds with boys rotating between riding in the sled and driving a sled. A mile long circular trail took them through a great northern woodland. A professional musher, Cliff Maxfield, drove the lead sled with a Scout following him driving a second sled. A Scout rode as passenger in each sled. It was a great introduction to dog sledding. For those boys waiting, dozens of friendly energetic dogs and a warm campfire kept them occupied. All the fresh snow made the trail more exciting and the scenery all that much more beautiful.

The long drive back to DeKalb was uneventful. The four-day trip seemed much more like a week long adventure. It included indoor water park, pizza party, snow camping, ice hiking, and dog sledding. It was a great way to share a celebration of winter.
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