The midday sky was clear, and the January air was crisp. I stood wearing my down coat, mittens and earmuffs. There were several people in front of us, all wearing similar attire -- small kids, moms and grandparents.
We watched the dogs come to a stop. Two immediately fell to their backs and squirmed and rolled in the fresh snow with apparent glee. Soon the eight dogs started moving again. They went forward effortlessly, and the sled trailed behind them carrying musher Joel Kersting, Suomi Hills Kennel, along with a mother and two children.
We watched the sled and dogs come and go until it was our turn for a ride. Tom sat on a small seat at the back of the sled. He moved the large pillow in front of him and I climbed in and sat. Soon we were moving. "Watch the branches," Kersting advised as we got going.
The dogs pulled us quickly through the trees and over the snow covering the campsites while we talked with Kersting about sled dog races in which he's participated, in Michigan, Canada and Minnesota. Soon we were back at the beginning and it was time for someone else to take a turn.
These dog sled rides were part of an Old Fashioned Holiday, a free event set in colonial America at the White Oak Interpretive Center in Deer River. The event was part of Children First!, an initiative funded through the Blandin Foundation to create safe holiday activities for families.
In addition to the dog sled rides, there was a Boston taxi with fringe on top pulled by a large black Percheron named Andy. A quarter horse named Daisy pulled a small two-seater buckboard. Visitors roasted hot dogs and marshmallows over a fire and tested their aim by throwing tomahawks at a tree-slice target. We enjoyed cookies and hot apple cider in the Great Hall while enjoying the playful music of a wooden dulcimer and guitar. A costumed interpreter demonstrated how to make rope.
Later we sat in a dormitory room while a costumed storyteller involved listeners as she told a tale of how bears came to have short, stubby tails and how a youngest sister, who happened to be a little bear, saved the world from a wicked witch and won the heart of a chief's youngest son.
We'll never forget our first dog sled ride and the intent little faces of the children as they listened to the story of the bear and his tail. And as the afternoon came to a close with a hike to see the canon fired, we left feeling we'd wandered back in time for just a few hours on that chilly January day.
(Diane McCormack is a correspondent for The Brainerd Dispatch and a freelance writer living in north central Minnesota. Send comments or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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