Sled Dog Sundays have been an annual tradition the last four years at Birch’s on the Lake Brewhouse and Supper Club in Long Lake.
That’s right, you can be mushed around a frozen lake behind a team of Siberian Huskies.
The event is so popular that as soon as tickets become available, they usually sell out, said General Manager Lisa Houdek.
“People know we have the dogs out here every year and they’re ready to order tickets. We have a lot of people trying it for the first time each year,” Houdek said.
Sled Dog Sundays have usually been a two-month run with dates in January and February, but with the restaurant and brew house re-opening to indoor dining last month due to the pandemic shutdown, the event is set for three February dates: the 14th, the 21st and the 28th.
The cost for a ride ticket is $25. Houdek said each sled can hold up to three people, ideal for an adult and two children, or two adults and a child.
The ride lasts for about 15 minutes with two teams of dogs shooting across Long Lake at the same time.
“We tell people to dress for the weather. We are requiring a face mask for everyone this year. If you’re not riding, it’s still very fun to come out and watch. People have a great time with it, but so do the dogs. They get very excited,” Houdek said.
Dogs “on break” are available to be greeted by those near shore. Apparently they love belly rubs.
“They’re absolutely beautiful, gentle dogs,” Houdek said.
To find availability for sled-dog tickets, visit EventBrite.com and search for Birch’s on the Lake.
THE MUSHING EXPERIENCE
Silent Run Adventures, which provides the sled dog teams, is based out of Monticello. This is the 12th winter in business, owner Jack Christopher said.
They run their own ride service daily with all weekend time slots booked through February. Weekday rides are available.
“It’s just been building and building, to the point where some years I have my schedule booked up in April for the next year,” said Christopher, who said many of his clients pre-COVID came from out of the country and out of state.
Christopher took up mushing in Colorado nearly 30 years ago, bringing it back with him to Minnesota. His teams are made up of purebred Siberian Huskies. Christopher described them as “freight dogs” rather than “race dogs.”
The Mushing Experience in Monticello usually takes about an hour depending on conditions. It starts with an introduction to the dogs and dog-sledding in general. Equipment and dog driving will be discussed. A run via dogsled follows, Christopher said.
The trail is about a mile long and allows opportunities for picture taking.
“It’s a much longer ride. We’ve found that people enjoy spending time with the dogs even more than the ride, so our experience includes time with us and time with the dogs. People can ask questions. We like to educate about the breed. There’s a lot of training involved with our dogs. They are very well behaved; they are used to being around the public,” Christopher said.
While most Minnesotans may not have taken a liking to the recent plunge in temperatures, Christopher says it’s “right up their alley,” speaking of the dogs.
MORE FUN AT THE LAKE
Sled-dogging isn’t the only outdoor event at Birch’s, Houdek said.
There is open skating to the public with lights at nighttime from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, and noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Ice bocce ball and a new 9-hole par-3 disc golf course was recently set up. Take-out food can be ordered and consumed on the outdoor deck.
“At this time all restaurants are trying to be as creative as they can, really to stay open. We really want to embrace outdoor stuff with our setting on Long Lake. We’ve added additional fire pits. Our deck is open with a heated table,” said Houdek during the coldest stretch of the winter season yet.