Three Bear Sled Dog Race
Emily Hayne, Wilderness Fellow

Throughout the first weekend in February in Land O' Lakes, WI, the sound of excited barks were only slightly muffled by the layers of hats and scarfs to keep staff, volunteers, spectators and mushers warm. On this weekend in the northwoods of Wisconsin was the annual Three Bear Sled Dog Race.

This is an event for sled dogs and their mushers to demonstrate their power as a team and love for the winter sport. These teams traveled from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Colorado, New York and Ontario to enjoy and race in the snow of the northwoods. Spectating the races, students saw teams of two to six dogs pull a sled through forested trails. Races also included skijor teams of one or two dogs attached to and pulling a person on skate skis.

Many who spectated the races also gathered at the nearby, local ice rink to skate and sip on hot chocolate when the race was over. Other events included a craft fair, horse drawn wagon ride, and "mutt races" for children to try the sport of dog sledding. This is a special event for the town of Land O' Lakes as many locals and visitors gather together to support the racing teams. It is also an especially memorable weekend for Conserve School students to serve the community as volunteers and learn about dog sledding, a winter sport that is rather exotic seeming to most people, especially those from non-northern climates.

Approximately 45 Conserve School students volunteered their time to help run this event. A few of the duties included passing out flyers about the event, serving food for lunch, assisting families at the ice rink, running the children's games, and helping sled dog teams line up at the start line. There was a lot of assignments students took willingly and their service to the event was appreciated by the racing teams and event coordinators.

Our students were prepared to be outside in the cold temperatures, with winter layers and hand warmers, and even a wood burning fire pit brought to the event by Conserve School Head of School, Stefan Anderson for additional warming support. Despite the frigid temperatures, students enjoyed their time outside serving the community to run this event, and of course getting to interact with some very energetic dogs. The students shared their excitement to be at the races and meet mushers and their dogs throughout the weekend.

A few of our students had the opportunity to photograph the event. Here are some of their beautiful photos and thoughtful statements about their experiences, including a few challenges.

Photos above by CS16 Student, Claudia from Grand Rapids, MI.


"Honestly it was pretty hard to get pictures of the dogs, especially when they were running. At one point, one of the racers even yelled at me because I was too close to their track. I didn't shoot in raw but I did edit a few of my pictures. I mostly played with the exposure on some of them because it was really hard to focus on lighting when the dogs were running by so quickly. It was a little difficult to shoot in the cold but luckily we had a little fire by us so I could warm up my hands when there was a break. My battery surprisingly didn't die very quickly like it normally does in the cold but I was having difficulty trying to keep snow away from my camera. I am in Jeff's (photography) class and can't wait to learn more about manual settings and how to make my photographs more interesting. I have taken a lot of photos in the past, but I'm excited to learn more about developing my own unique style with my photography. I loved taking pictures at the race and taking pictures of animals is probably my favorite. As you can probably tell, I love eyes too." - Claude, CS16, Grand Rapids, MI.


Photos below by CS16 Student, Kenneth from Beloit, WI.

"There were multiple challenges with taking photography of the sled dog races. One of harder ones was capturing the right picture frame as it came. I had to follow the racers with the camera and time it just right so I could get the best photo with the subject in the right spot. And then there was just the extreme cold was harsh on my bare hands because I couldn't press the button with my winter gloves on. And even though the photos are not as good of a quality as a good Nikon or Cannon camera could get, the Ricoh WG-50 I have is waterproof and durable so I could get photos during times that could damage other students cameras. Overall it was a challenge that I enjoyed as it extended my photography experience, I managed to capture some good photos, and it was a great time out at the races with friends." - Kenneth, CS16, Beloit, WI.