Monday, March 6, 2000, 6:10 p.m.

The day began early, with a trip to Wintergreen Dogsledding Lodge. They have 64 dogs, including a good deal of puppies, trained to pull sled.

These are Canadian Inuit/Eskimo sled dogs — beautiful, puffy dogs strong enough to topple anyone who tries leading them on a leash. That was us later in the day, when we took the puppies out for some exercise. They're lovable dogs who paw at you and lick your ears with big sloppy dog kisses. Each has an immediately obvious personality. But most seem happiest when scampering about, pulling sleds, running as a pack. "Wherever you go in this place, a dog comes up to you as like an escort," Tom said.

The dogsled lodge has two four-wheeled carts, each capable of carrying one person towed by two dogs. We took turns piloting one, an experience that leaves you splattered in mud.

The lakes are frozen solid — we spent 20 minutes playing on the ice — so the crews going out on the trails now are sledding on the lakes, under 50-degree sunny skies. Our trek starts Wednesday, and the weather forecast calls for snow starting Tuesday night.

We got to meet Paul Schurke today, who was getting ready to lead a group out. He talks to the dogs like they're people: "Quiet, quiet, that's enough," he said as he loaded dogs into a trailer.

On the way back to our cabin, after another chorus of "North to Alaska," we stopped near a swamp to take in the sunset, a yellow sky clouding over. "Natural beauty on your right," said Liz.


Monday night, after a meal of Spaghetti and chili, we spent hours making jokes and telling stories, to the point where Jeff had to excuse himself because the laughter was hurting his stomach.