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One of the things I love about White Wilderness is the expansive and varied trail system.
While studying the bag pipes in Glasgow, Scotland, Shawn McCarty suffered the misfortune of losing a peculiar bet at the greyhound track, the result of which will make him the first person to circumnavigate the globe totally under the power of dogs. He crossed from Galway Ireland to Maine in 2000 in a catamaran pulled by a team of 16 yellow labs (the team originally included 4 chocolate labs but they were eaten by sharks before the first day was over). When he arrived in Maine he traded his labs for huskies and headed for the Bearing strait. However it turned out to be rough going. Running dogs is much different than swimming them so progress was slow. Worse yet Shawn had not bought a new compass when he arrived in America, so he was navigating with his old metric compass from Europe, and being unaware of this fairly serious problem he found himself in MN instead of Alaska. He has been working at White Wilderness since 2006 to save money to resupply (the first thing he will buy is a new compass) and continue on. He hopes to complete his circumnavigation by 2013.
Old man, lost in the woods, and loving every minute of it.
Theo has been running dogs for over fifteen years – jumping in head first on an arctic training expedition in Canada for her first dogsledding experience. The hook was set, and dog sledding became a focal point. Theo has led outdoor trips throughout the US and Canada for the past 20-some years. She spent 16 years directing programs for Cornell University’s Outdoor Education program – one of the largest collegiate outdoor programs in the country.
Minnesota’s north woods has always held a particular fondness, and is now considered home year round. What started as a one winter sabbatical turned in to a winter lifestyle. She has been guiding trips for White Wilderness since 2003. She is often the voice on the phone when you call, as she juggles the office details as well as guiding trips. Known for her adventurous spirit and quest for the trail less taken, Theo is equally at home in the backcountry kitchen as on the sled runners. In the other season, she’s a course director, staff trainer and senior instructor for the Voyageur Outward Bound School, overseeing sea kayak and canoe expeditions. Spare time??…planting ambitious gardens, biking, skiing and exploring the next unexplored trail that beckons with her exuberant black lab, Lily.
Some kids beg to go to Disney World, some beg for a pony; as a kid, Heather Jeske Pharr begged to go winter camping (actually, she begged for a pony, too, but that’s a whole other story). For years she pestered her dad to let her go on the yearly trip to the woods outside of Ely. When he finally took her, she was hooked. Together, she and her friend Princess (the family dog), explored frozen swamps, built fires in waist deep snow, bombed down hills that weren’t really meant to be tackled on cross country skies, shared frozen snicker bars, and at night, enjoyed howling wolves and homemade chili back at camp with dad. Back home in Hudson, Wisconsin, Heather constructed elaborate harnesses out of dog leashes and rope, and a very tolerant Princess let herself be led around the yard towing an orange toboggan loaded with snow.
Not much has changed since Heather was a kid. She still prefers frozen swamps to soggy ones, and it’s no surprise when she comes home with stories of questionable skiing activities. She still enjoys a bowl of homemade chili and a good howl at night, and there’s usually a snicker bar or two in her pocket. As for those homemade harnesses, to save time, Heather now uses the prefabricated ones. But if the need arose, she is confident that she could still whip up a harness using whatever materials she found on hand. Since 2005, Heather’s delightful smile, resourcefulness, and pocket full of chocolates have insured that her trips are personalized and memorable journeys with fun-loving huskies.
In 2017 Heather was made the Countess of Dogs and Trails with Logs by the King of the Winter Carnival.
As the youngest member of the White Wilderness staff, Paige is the resident adrenaline junky (pony tail included). When the waves of Lake Superior turn to ice and are no longer surfable in a kayak, he jumps onto the back of a dogsled to feed his need for an adventure. Paige is just the kind of guy you want leading you across the trails and frozen lakes of the northwoods.
When he isn’t planted on the runners of a sled, Paige can be found flying across lakes on his snowboard behind a kite, or on less windy days, hard at work crafting custom canoe paddles, beaver mitts, and knives.
Kahsha literally grew up in the woods, just a few miles away from White Wilderness. Once she mastered the basics of standing and holding on, the next logical step was to do both… on the back of a dogsled. As a kid the majority of her summers were spent deep in the Quetico Provincial Park, both on personal canoe trips and guided trips with her parents. By her teens she became co-guide with them. Living in the bush, so far off the beaten path, her only way to get home was to dogsled or ski four miles. She became an avid dogsledder, as many children of mushers do. She got involved with the White Wilderness kennel at the age of 15 and continued though high school. Kahsha has stories from the past 20 years of calling the woods around White Wilderness home.
At present she is a nomad, claiming ten moves in the last three years. She has spent the last two years working with reptiles and is now the senior keeper at a small zoo in Maryland that boasts the most diverse venomous collection of snakes on the east coast. The winters are slow at the zoo and she’s been missing real winters. Having not seen sub-zero temperatures in almost three years, she is eager to return home and spend some quality time in the snow!
Next on her adventure list is a masters degree in conservation biology, becoming a ranger in Africa protecting megafauna from poaching, starting a reptilian-handling spreading her message of conservation though education, and of course, hammocking with her best friend Lexie Bo, a little whippit-pitbull dog.
While not a guide, yet, Morgan McClelland helps out in many ways. Including giving the dogs “tune ups” when needed and training the puppies during the summer.