“Mush!” That’s the call of nature lovers, adventure seekers and bucket-listers from around the world who travel to Curtis in the Upper Peninsula each winter to go dog sledding — or mushing as it’s known by enthusiasts. For many, the weekend stay with a dog-sledding package offered at Chamberlin’s Ole Forest Inn is the ideal winter getaway.
“We get people from all over the world,” inn manager Kelly Chamberlin said. “We get people from Germany, India, Australia. It amazes me we have people come from that far, they specifically make the trip for (dog sledding). It’s on a lot of people’s bucket list.”
Chamberlin partners with nearby Nature’s Kennel to create the dog-sledding packages she offers mid-December through the end of March, weather permitting. Packages begin at around $400 and include an overnight stay with a $50 certificate for dinner at the inn and a half-day of dog sledding. The inn also offers another package that includes a two-night stay with breakfast, a $50 dinner certificate and a full day of dog sledding.
“It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s silent. All you hear is the little breath of the dogs. It’s amazing how quiet it is. It is amazing.”
— Kelly Chamberlin
The inn on Big Manistique Lake is a historic hotel built in the 1890s, where guests often gather around the 10-foot fireplace for hot chocolate or cocktails after a day of dog sledding. It’s the perfect top-off to an experience like no other, according to Chamberlin. “It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s silent. All you hear is the little breath of the dogs. It’s amazing how quiet it is. It is amazing,” she said.
The half-day dog sledding trip is a 10-mile journey mostly through maple and pine forest. Each sled carries one to three riders, with one driver and up to two passengers. First-time mushers run a team of four to five dogs, while those who choose to be passengers on a sled ride with an experienced driver who drives eight to 10 dogs.
“It’s something people of all abilities can do,” said Tasha Stielstra, owner of Nature’s Kennel. “You have to be (at least) 10 to drive a team; I find it’s a great trip for middle school-age kids and high school-age kids, but women between 45 and 70 are my primary (clientele); baby boomers, early retirees. People looking for something different in the winter. You don’t have to be physically active, you just have to be able to stand on the sled and hang on, or sit if you’re riding.”
A guide is always along for safety, and Stielstra said the only other necessary gear is warm clothing and boots.
“I think people sometimes don’t realize there’s dog sledding in Michigan,” Stielstra said. “Yes! The Upper Peninsula is open in winter!” she added with a laugh. “It’s great for people who want to take a little bit of a risk and drive their own team; they’ve already crossed the Mackinac Bridge in wintertime!”
Chamberlin and Stielstra agree many first-time customers return, having fallen in love with the quiet, winter experience.
“It’s life-changing,” Stielstra said. “We get a lot of that, ‘Wow! That was incredible!’ People say it’s the most beautiful, quiet thing they’ve ever done.”