Christina, James Demer (sound) and I all land together in the town of Duluth where we then have to drive two and 1/2 hours to the town of Ely (Ellie) self proclaimed Dog sledding capital of the United States. We stop for lunch at a local diner with a down home feel. We know we are in the right place when a board has listed over 15 types of pie.
We all love our mini road trip thru this new place and get even more excited when we see a Target because I need energy bars. We walked through the sliding doors and see a Starbucks. Perfect, our very last cappuccino! Our producer Ginny is wondering where we are and so we tell her we are having little field trips of capitalism before we hear the call of the wild.
When we went out for a dog sledding 101 run I just about froze my tuckus off. I think I have the right gear for this cold but clearly its not enough. We have those heating pads that you put in your boots and gloves. I am thinking about sewing them together to create a pair of heated bloomers.
Our camp is in a beautiful area tucked in the side of a lake. Guides went before to set up the fire for lunch and the big tent with the small wood stove that warms it up to a beautiful 70 degrees. (angels chorus).
My excitement for this new adventure has begun to mellow. For lunch its instant tomato soup, string cheese and pepperoni sticks. The latter two being hardened and tough to eat from the zero degree temp. The instant soup is a surprise instant hit. But it’s now hitting me that I am sleeping here tonight.
We now have to start to make camp, that is make “winter camp” which is explained to me as being a lot like summer camping but just colder. I really dislike putting up the tent since the chilled metal poles have begun to freeze dry my hands but I love making an ice hole in the lake with a pick. I ladle in lake water into a bucket that will be boiled for soup.
We just made a bed for our team of dogs. We shovel snow and break off pine tree branches that the dogs will arrange with their own paws to create their comfy place to sleep. I love doing this, taking care of the dogs, tucking them in for the night has calmed my nerves and helped mentally prepare me for my own night on the ice as well. Animals just make everything better.
Tonight it will reach ten below zero and I am sleeping on a bed of ice. I run around to get my heart rate up and body temperature so I will insulate my sleeping bag and remain warm for the rest of the night. But I don’t close my sleeping bag properly and almost all my warmth escapes.
Don the guide zippers me in correctly and things are getting better but now I can’t sleep. I mean I am wide awake. My feet get cold and I was told by the guides that the best thing to do is to switch your sox while in your sleeping bag which is so tough to do you actually get hot. But here’s the thing — if I do that it draws attention to the fact that I’m in this tight sleeping bag and I start to have a claustrophobic panic attack. So I just lie there, but that’s not helping me get warm, so I remember Don told me another trick: do sit-ups until you fall asleep. So that’s what I did and it worked until…
The scariest sound I have ever heard. The lake just bellowed a sound it makes when its freezing, like a death charge emitted far away that gradually gets nearer, the ice begins to rumble and the sound goes right under you.
When you use lake water there are small remnants of the woods that still persist to be there even after the boiling. Bits of twig, pine needles etc. it’s all harmless but I am not used to my coffee being on the chunky side. I drink using my teeth as a barrier so that only the liquid coffee gets filtered through.
Just got back from Dog sledding in the woods. Got a little hairy on the trails there, one time we even catch some air as we go over a big log. I felt less like I was on a dog sled and more like I was riding on the General Lee. It’s the Dukes of Hazard up north. But I realized that falling off the sled was about as much fun as riding it.
Paul just went down, we were shooting a ski scene on the ice and his ankle snapped. He was yelling in pain and just dropped like a sack of potatoes. We think he tore a tendon. We are all really worried about Paul because he is our rock. When he was carried away on the snowmobile we all feel a little empty.
The show must go on and thankfully on this trip instead of having an assistant producer we have another shooter, Josh Otte operating a smaller video camera. Josh is here to help get coverage but he has just been promoted to first camera.
Man I am beat. Two hours of sleep, the biting cold and getting knocked off a dogsled a handful of times have really begun to take its toll. But we have packed up the camp and are heading back to the lodge. We shoot one more dog sledding sequence and it’s the coldest yet. The wind across the lake is so brutally frigid and I have still one more scene to shoot: A sauna, then the jump in the lake through the hole cut into the ice. The thought that I am actually going to be colder than how I feel now is simply terrifying.
We get word back from Paul at the emergency room. His foot is broken in two places and he has a torn tendon. The news is worse than we thought.
I did the cold lake plunge-and it was awesome. If you ever have the chance to do this go for it! We end the night with a fantastic dinner by Chef Bernard of Turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts. It’s a Thanksgiving dinner and it’s perfect for how I feel about this incredible experience, my job and my wonderful crew. Overwhelmingly thankful.
Side note: once the dinner was through the rest of my crew: Ginny, James, Josh and even Christina went to the Sauna and to jump into the lake. Paul, the poor guy, was stuck in the lodge with his newly broken foot.