Making It: Outdoor Experience
- Production funding for Making it Up North is provided by the citizens of Minnesota through the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage fund. (dogs howling) - You know, basically, you're a farmer and you have live animals and they depend on you for their care. There are no sick days. There are no off days. There are no optional vacations.
You have to live the lifestyle. (dogs barking) - I Want people to come down the river have an interactive, fun adventure. Overall, I hope that it makes them care a little bit more about like conservation of like not just the St Louis river, but just the entire world over you know, and just making emotional connection. - There's a lot of life lessons to be gained on the river in Whitewater but at the end of the day, it's fun. (exciting music) (dogs barking) - They take off out of here really fast. So hang on tight.
Are we ready? - Yeah we're ready. - All right, all right. Our pace is significantly higher than what most of the touring kennels do, because these are all sprint racing, sled dogs.
So I wanted to be able to still run the dogs at their their high pace while, you know, giving rides. - Doing all right back there? - I'm doing good. - Good (voices muffled by wind) - We provide a sled dog rides for the public.
We have a variety of rides. We have a longer ride, which is close to an hour. It's about 10 miles.
And then we have a tandem ride where people can actually stand on the back of the sled with me and then get the experience of driving a dog team without actually driving a dog team. My ability that comes from that. Okay, sharp left here. - My name is Tone Coughlin. I'm the owner of Endurance Panels, LLC. We provide sled dog rides with our sprint racing sled dogs.
- Yeah, it was like jet taken off. They are fast and powerful. I was a little apprehensive at first. I didn't know how much balance you were going to need and how intense it was going to be but you get the hang of it really fast - I started out with seven dogs in town And then I moved to a kennel in iron river, Wisconsin and they became my mentors and taught me a lot.
They, they showed me a lot if you work with mentors. So you're going to save yourself a ton of time. And Devin Steve took me underneath their wing and helped me out a lot. And a lot of my bloodline comes from their kennel. So kind of carrying on what they were looking for.
- Yeah. So I moved here, didn't know I was going to give rides and it just evolved into that to where I was able to quit my full-time job and say you know, take that big risk, that big jump and say I'm going to do this with everything that I got with all the skillsets that I learned from all the other you know, all the other stuff that I was doing web design, marketing, photography, promotions all that stuff, and just combine it and focus that, you know, we could, we could, you know. do what we're doing now. Welcome back to sled dog TikTok, I'm just finishing up here doing morning water. - I went to school for marketing.
So it's so fun to see like how dogs bring people together on, on the internet. - You got it in the bucket there Cece. - Ah, a lot of beef, beef organ a little bit of kibble and some water. - One of our first videos like, and Tony doesn't plan them at all. He was like, okay.
Cece just like, just tell us about how you're feeding. And I started talking and then I like sent the video to my parents. Like, you guys, are we're at like two and a half million views on this like video of me feeding the dogs dinner.
- Oh, yummy. - My daily routine, I get up at 4, 4:30 in the morning. And I usually groom the trail in the morning and plow if I need to so that customers can get here. And then I do water in the morning and then my staff arrives.
They do their chores. And then we, if I'm busy fixing slides or getting things arranged I'll have the staff give the tour - This is Domino She's super sweet. And she's got the bright blue eyes too. And so most all of the dogs were bred here.
We have a few dogs that are from other mushers. Otherwise try to have a litter every year, this spring we're hoping to have two to three litter because we need more dogs. - Yeah. So right now we have 42 dogs. We'll be expanding hopefully this summer with litters of puppies, you know cause we always have seniors that are moving on that are not running anymore just cause they can't physically, mentally they want to do it. But physically they can't. So you want to be, you know, when we're having puppies you want to think five years in advance.
So the puppy really don't do much running until they're almost two years old. Right now we have 11 month old puppies that run once a day, three times a week. So, and then the older adults, the seniors run three four times a day and the young racing class of adults could run five, six times a day. - So yeah, so this is the board and we have all of the names of the dogs and then their harness size and Tony will just make up a team. - We tried to get with everybody fresh so that, you know we're not running dogs twice in a row. Yeah We try to pair up the siblings cause they're similar size similar disposition, personality.
- And then we'll look at the board and go get the dogs and stage them on the line here. So this is your team right here. - With the COVID-19.
We were shut down last March because all the hotels and Airbnbs were kicking everybody out. And then coming into this season I really didn't know what was going to happen because it's, it's optional. We're, we're tourism basically. And it, it was pretty scary. But then come November, people started the book and they started getting ready for December and they were calling and asking good questions. And December, Christmas, New Year's, is our busiest time of the year.
So when that started filling up I knew that we were good to go. - The dog are kind of like talking and trying to like let you know, like, Hey I wanna run. When they started barking, before we take a team out then once the harnesses hit the ground and they know like they see that the team's been picked all the dogs and LOL. And they're like, Oh, okay. But then they're more just kind of complaining a little bit until the team's gone.
Then they move on. - We get people every hour on our schedule and we just go all day until the, until the end of the day Okay, really sharp right hand turn coming up here. It's the hardest one. I wouldn't be able to do this all on my own. I would make two or three rides a day 'cause it just wears on your body.
So we're able to do the volume that we can just because of these kids. - Ah, look at this. - Wow - I think it's a rare breed of people Not everyone wants to do that that hard work and keep pounding your head against the same wall in hopes of things like making it. And I think with our TikTok, we've got going on and just the amount of people that come here from all over the world, like it's a big sense of pride for all of us that work here to know like dog sledding is something people really like value and need.
- They're fast and strong. And it just all friendly. You can tell, they love the attention and love pulling and doing the work and it was a lot of fun.
- You can tell he really loves what he's doing. - Not straight, Yana, straight. - Success? I think I'm probably about 50% of where I want to be with this business. We're getting there a little, little improvements but I just keep investing.
These kids make more money than I do. I just keep putting everything into capital so that we can keep growing. And then eventually, you know, I'll work on that for myself. - The biggest thing they've probably taught me is like to get outside more. It's kind of simple as that when it's like sleeting or raining and you're out here and the dogs are still like, I want to go, I want to go. And they like, they remind me, like, you gotta keep going.
You gotta like do the things that make you feel really happy and good. - And then once we're all done giving rides for the day we feed and then I send the staff home and we do it again the next day. (dogs barking) (exciting music) - I started paddling the Saint Louis in 1999 and I really fell in love with Whitewater. This whole reason I moved to Minnesota in the first place. I'd grown up in Wisconsin and my dad moved to Duluth in like '96 or '97.
And I came to visit him. And in one May after a really good snow pack here and we drove up the North shore and there's all these rivers raging into Lake superior. And I was like, Oh my God, I want to kayak those you know, so I'm like, maybe I'll go to college here.
And so I ended up moving up here and going to school here and learning to kayak. My name is Cliff Langley, owner, operator of Swiftwater Adventures in Carlton, Minnesota. - I had guided with Cliff for a couple of years before this. And the previous company that we worked for was shutting down and cliff was getting this off of the ground. And just as way of life, I needed to keep doing it.
So my name is Brian Pfeifer and we're here at Silverwater adventures, whitewater rafting and kayaking. - We want people to come down the river have an interactive, fun adventure. - Cliff had a vision for this. And I knew cliff well enough that he's so determined so determined to make it work that I saw that too And that really gave me that, that mindset too that nothing is going to stop us ever. I would say this year is, is really the tough one. This has been a really uncertain time.
We didn't know It seems sort of far-fetched that it would even touch us. And then all of a sudden we lost all of our May which is traditionally youth groups, church groups high school, senior class trips, stuff like that. - You guys are Johnson's right there, right? You're going to go into the middle and shut the door and then scout crew seven. You guys are just going to fit in the front compartment so you can let the other two groves boat in first And then you guys can load. - The choke point for us is transportation. We took our bus and divided it into separate chambers.
So people can come with their family units or their quarantine unit and stay together. - One group goes in and shuts the door and then the next group so that you're not breathing each other's air. Logistically, it is a I want to say nightmare, but it's difficult, you know? 'Cause we're not like for us, we're not mixing households.
So in most years you have a group of three and another group of three you pair them together in a raft to make a raft to six. Well, this year we don't mix those households because you can't be socially distanced on a raft with the group of three, there's two in the front and then two in the middle and two in the back. So then you have a stranger next to a stranger, you know you're rubbing rubbing elbows and it's like it doesn't work. So I mean it's definitely a less profitable this year but we're like, okay, we're still going to do it. So then a raft at three is a raft on their own.
We don't, we don't mix households. - Don't worry about what you can't do. Figure out what you can do which is really the only reason we're in business. I mean, we're fortunate that we're working in the outdoors and the science and data is, is coming out. That being in the fresh air is a much safer environment.
(energetic music) - When we decided to start Swiftwater about seven years ago we're like, well, let's have in raft guides because I think it's going to be a more positive experience. It's going to be more fun for the family or groups and stuff like that because in low water not stuck on rocks everywhere in a high water you're hitting the best lines. - All right guys, paddle hard. There we go. - And then you can interact with people more and get, get people a good experience And that's always kind of been our goal since we started Swiftwater is to give people an interactive adventure regardless of the water level.
- Sometimes on Sundays 'cause they're Saturday. I don't want to see anxiety but there always is a little bit of anxiousness and just whatever, getting everything prepped Get ready quick goofing around man. Group of four in the outlaw.
What guides or steering, what raft and get everybody outfitted Is everybody here? Yeah, let me get my boat out. All that prep work and everything and then once you just get on the river, even though, I mean guiding can be hard and reading, but that's like your thing. So that that's, that to me is easy part, you know? So it's just, once you're on the river and the trip's going, it's like, all right, here we are. You know that part, that's my favorite part. All right, I've got one other question for you. Are you ready to have some fun - Yes.
- Okay, those that said yes can go, those that don't want to have any fun you can hike up that way and go back that way. It's kind of a lot of action right away. There's not much of a warmup.
We do a brief safety speech at the beach. And then the first rapid is a technical class three. And then you run another class three like a four-foot waterfall, and then you're in this Canyon. So it's a lot of action right away. - You have to know it really well to take people down. We don't run class five, you know, in rafts but you have to be able to deal with situations and see situations before they happen.
And that is something we take extremely seriously. We are really thorough in training all of the guides and not just how to run rapids safely but how to interact with people how to get them excited about the river the hydrology, the geology, the flora, the fauna all of those things make for a really complete experience. - This one's called the pinball we'll get bounced around quite a bit. Maybe do a 360 and maybe go through the last part backwards. - There we go. Paddle hard, paddle hard - After we get through this one we'll chill out in some calm water and then do some surfing.
(exciting music) - One of my favorite things about, about doing this is getting people who are nervous or scared and just getting to spend the time with that one person to relate to them, to talk them kind of off the ledge. You know, we get people all the time that are ready to quit after the first rapid. Usually somebody who's scared almost to tears when they get done, they had got way more out of this trip than the person who was just excited and happy about everything. They're both going to get a great trip but it's a personal achievement for that one person to overcome that. - At first it was really scary and then it was really, really fun I would really recommend it, but just hang on. - In certain years, upper St. Louis river
gets too low to raft. So we're like, well, we don't want to be done rafting. It's, you know, middle of July, you know and people still want to go and we got employees that want to work.
And so we, we kayaked the lower a lot. And so we looked at it from way to do a rafting trip but also make it an interactive adventure. We'll just see how it goes.
I mean, obviously we like trained for it. We were able to develop a trip out of it. So it actually happened out of necessity, you know in our, in our first year. There's so many cool things to see and do on that section of river. And it's only like two miles of river versus doing five miles altogether in the upper. So we want to find a way to do some side hikes.
- Get the Northern harvest goin'. - Swimming. - Adventure swim.
- Adventure swim, woo! - Surfing waves can actually get a raft on a wave like kind of like how surfboard drops in but a whole raft of people. And you know, very, that raft in wave fills up with water. It's pretty dynamic.
So running rapids, you're still paddling but we just put more in there to give people like a really solid two, two to two and a half hour interactive adventure. Something real important. When we run the last two Rapids are class four.
The second to last wrap is called twisted sister. You have the option to run that one twice let your guides know. And then the last rapid is another class three plus four minus Rapids, central four foot drop. Okay? But there's something that I needed to tell you about real quick, even though the guides are really good these features because there are four overs or like waterfalls, sometimes people fall out and they can get recirculated in that river feature. Okay? So what that means is you get stuck in it and it'll like, be like, you're in a washing machine for one, two, three times sometimes. All right? So what happens is I'm going to be at the bottom setting safety and I have what's called the throw bag.
What it is, it's basically a bag of rope. And if you're caught in that river feature, I'll yell rope you might not hear it. Maybe you do, maybe you don't but I'm going to throw this big rope at you. And I'm going to pull you out of that river feature. I'm thankful that we're open and I'm thankful that we're busy and I'm thankful that people will want to come rafting with us.
(exciting music) - Actually, to paraphrase a friend of mine. It's just fun. You know, there's, there's a lot of life lessons to be gained on the river in Whitewater but at the end of the day, it's fun. - Overall. I hope that it makes them care a little bit more about like conservation of like not just the St. Louis river, but the entire world over
you know, and just making emotional connection. (exciting music)