Trevor Rasmussen's winter wandering
The silent snowy woods of Minnesota are a long way from the Florida beaches where he grew up, but Trevor Rasmussen says that his initial visit to the North Shore was love at first sight. Now living in Eagan, just south of the Twin Cities, he has walked the length of the Superior Hiking Trail twice in the last six months, once in September and again last month -- both with his dog, Tala, a Siberian husky.
A self- described "beach bum" in Florida, Rasmussen said he became a hiker just a few years ago when it became clear that his future would take him to a place with plenty of water, but far fewer opportunities to pursue his previous hobbies.
"I was working on a cruise ship and I met a girl," he said. "After we dated for some time, we decided we wanted to have a life on land together and moved to her home state of Minnesota. I was an avid surfer back in Florida and needed to get a new hobby. I quickly discovered that hiking was for me." After that decision was settled, however, there was another issue to resolve -- the long hours of solitude on the trail. Enter Tala.
"I got her because no one would go on these hikes with me. My girlfriend said 'why don't you just get a dog?' So I adopted a three year old Siberian husky and spent about nine months training her. We trained everyday doing local hikes," said Rasmussen. The training objectives were two-fold.
"I had to teach her vocal commands, like gee and haw, and get her to respond to my voice. The training was also to get her into physical shape. She'd been owned by a family who didn't take her out much," he said. The training and the time spent together seemed to galvanize the bond between the hiker and his pup. Rasmussen said that Tala is not just his dog, but his partner out on the trail. He said he's grown to trust her instincts in the woods.
"It was like she knew the trail. I stopped paying attention to the markers," he said. "We'd walk for an hour and I'd realize I hadn't seen a marker. I just followed her and eventually we'd come out on the trail. She made it so I didn't need a map or a GPS."
Rasmussen said that the pair's most recent adventure took 17 days, hiking an average of 15 miles between dawn and dusk and sleeping in a hammock throughout the long hours of darkness. Although he had Tala for company, he was surprised by how quiet it was as they made their way along the 287 miles of trail.
"I knew I wouldn't see any other people on this hike; however I didn't take into consideration that snow is a great insulator and it is incredibly quiet throughout the day. I would hear wolves at night and welcome the sounds of their howling throughout the woods," he recalled. While some may have found the sound of wolves unnerving, Rasmussen said he knew not to fear the animals. Instead, he said, he was "sung to sleep."
Although he was not afraid of the four-legged critters in the woods and was mindful of the potential dangers of neglecting nutrition and hydration, Rasmussen said that there was one frightening experience, possibly caused by a human, which could have spelled disaster -- Tala fell ill while they were on the SHT in February. He said he left the trail to take her to the vet and was surprised to learn that his dog may have ingested anti-freeze. The vet said that sometimes the poison is poured onto deer carcasses to kill wolves, but dogs also find the substance appealing and eagerly eat the deer. Happily, after a few days Tala recovered and the pair was able to complete the hike. Rasmussen said she has remained healthy.
In spite of the scare, Rasmussen and Tala have shown no signs of slowing down. They returned to the North Shore last week to do some hiking near Silver Bay and there are more long distance treks on the horizon. Next will be the John Muir trail this summer, which Rasmussen said will not include Tala due to the national parks' rule prohibiting dogs, but he said he's also planning a 500 mile ramble through the Alaska Four Range in 2014 and hopes Tala can accompany him.
Rasmussen said that he believes his sense of adventure comes from his mother and he has taken her example to heart along with the encouragement she gave him when he was younger--"get out there and do it."