MINNESOTAMush the Boundary
Paul Schurke is a mushing maestro. In 1986 he drove a team of yapping canines to the North Pole with Will Steger, an unsupported trek that lasted 55 days. But the Arctic veteran will not abide any expedition-style hardships for the tyro dog drivers who visit his Wintergreen Lodge, a winter-only retreat north of Ely. Plan on saunas, French chefs, and cozy lakeshore lodges in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. And, of course, a team of friendly Canadian Inuit dogs. "They're such a hoot--not as high-strung as Siberian huskies," Schurke says. "They're big, full-furred, and very approachable." The pups are yours to drive and care for over the course of a three-night lodge-to-lodge trip through stands of old-growth white pines and beneath cliffs of pink granite ($600; dogsledding.com
). February makes for great snow and a chance to see the northern lights; otherwise, evenings are given over to slide shows and tales of hard-bitten journeys far more arduous than yours.
MICHIGAN Climb Superior Ice
"It doesn't matter if you've never climbed ice before," says Bill Thompson, who organized the 25th annual Michigan Ice Fest (February 1-3; $20 for admission, $89 for clinics; downwindsports.com
). "Just show up at the event, try out all the equipment and clothing, and see if you like it." Take it from us: You will. When water seeps over the 200-foot sandstone bluffs that rise from the shore of Lake Superior in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, "you get phenomenal ice formations: frozen rivers, pillars of ice," says Thompson. After roping up for top-notch instruction, stop by Sydney's Family Restaurant in nearby Munising to cavort with pro climbers (Mike Libecki, Mark Wilford) and refuel with a slice of homemade cherry pie. Scotty's Motel in Munising sits within snowball range of the climbing area ($31; munising.org
WiSCONSIN Schuss Iron County
Push off on the Uller Trail--a 19-mile route, including two spur loops, from Pence to Webber Lake Park--and you enter a silent, rolling world of hemlock, balsam, and not much else. The countryside is criss-crossed with timber wolf tracks and far more white-tailed deer than people. "Skiing the trail is a pristine experience of wilderness solitude," says Brian Maxinoski, a member of the volunteer Penokee Rangers ski club, which maintains and grooms the trails. The skiing is challenging; for a breather try the nearby pistes on the Montreal trail system, a nine-mile network through mining country. The Inn in Montreal is a favorite skiers' haunt ("for skiers by skiers") that offers saunas and substantial morning repasts ($77; theinnbedandbreakfast.com
MAINESki Hut to North Woods Hut
Hut-to-hut skiing can evoke images of humping heavy loads and sharing communal space crammed with sopping strangers and their stanky garments. But the Appalachian Mountain Club's three-night camp-to-camp trip in Maine's North Woods suggests a better way ($405; outdoors.org/lodging/winterguide.cfm
). Your stuff gets transported. Your meals get cooked. You stay in a different private cabin on an isolated pond each night. All you have to do is ski through the great pine woods of the 100-Mile Wilderness near Moosehead Lake. The first night's stay is in AMC's Medawisla Wilderness Camp on Second Roach Pond, where seven cabins provide solitude enough to enjoy Thoreau's "tonic of wilderness." After a nine-mile ski, spend the second night at West Branch Pond Camps, famed for its slow-roasted beef and West Branch Mud (hot cocoa). Seven and a half miles later you'll come upon AMC's Little Lyford Pond Camps, a sporting retreat (replete with sauna) that dates to 1874. They'll leave the kerosene lamp on for ya.
QUEBECSkate a River of Ice
Leave it to chilly Quebec to turn a river into a skating rink. Gliding through Joliette (an hour north of Montreal) is so popular that it's spawned an annual celebration: Festi-Glace, this year from February 1 to 11 (free; lanaudiere.ca/en
). The river is groomed for 5.5 miles of skating through the heart of town and beyond, with a parallel course for cross-country skiing and restaurants for noshing all along the way. At festival time you'll find a curious assemblage of lumberjack demonstrations, skating competitions, and puppet theater. La Montagne Coupée, a cozy home base 30 minutes outside of town, has its own 40-mile network of ski trails and an in-house spa ($115; montagnecoupee.com
SOUTH CAROLINAStalk the Swamp Fox
Ask any local about hiking or biking the Swamp Fox Trail in Francis Marion National Forestand they'll talk first about the mosquitoes. They are, ahem, abundant. But not in February, when you can proceed unpestered through boggy bottomlands festooned with bald cypress, wax myrtle, and red bay trees. Plod itch free through uplands of loblolly and longleaf pines--all of which once gave cover to the revolutionary Brit-harasser Francis Marion, aka the Swamp Fox. The route, a segment of the cross-state Palmetto Trail, traces old railroad logging trams (read: flat and fast) for its 42-mile length. For a weekend chunk, bite off the six-mile section that heads west from U.S. Highway 17 to Halfway Creek Trail Campground (free; 843-887-3257). Hike it or bike it, but watch out for redcoats.