NMU Student Volunteer Experience: Cold is a Mindset

March 21, 2022

As a club leader for Organization for Outdoor Recreation Professionals (OORP) at NMU, I was
so excited to find an opportunity to both winter camp and volunteer our time. OORP is a club
dedicated to providing new outdoor experiences and skills to students while building a network
of outdoor professionals and enthusiasts. Working and camping at the H58 road crossing seemed
like a great way to get involved in the UP200. I had the opportunity to mush with Nature’s
Kennel my sophomore year of college as a class field trip, which made me especially excited. I
caravanned to H58 for the second night of the race with five OORP members, while a number of
other club members worked additional road crossings throughout the weekend.

We planned to work alongside UP200 volunteer veterans, Lynn Moon and Don Snowdon. They
camped the previous night and woke up to constant heavy winds and a collapsing tent, which we
hoped not to experience on this long night. We grabbed shovels and they kindly lent us their
snowshoes to help tamp down a flat area for our campsite. As a winter lover, I was so thrilled to
see how much snow we had to work and play with! Living in the UP for my whole life, I have a
hard time remembering a winter with so much soft powdery snow. We pitched camp as Don
built a fire, which would later be considered our light and life source for the night.

As the cold along with the darkness set in, Lynn made chili, I made some hot cocoa, and we
snacked and chatted around the fire until the first two teams rolled through at 10:30PM. They
moved at a blistering pace. This amazed me, considering they have to travel so far. The energy of
the dogs and mushers carried us into the next few hours of fighting the cold. “Cold is a mindset,”
OORP member Ali Myers states. I deny it but then later agree, thinking about what kinds of
environments the dogs and mushers must endure. Cold is surely just a mindset when it is such a
constant part of your lifestyle.

Several other teams crossed H58 after midnight. The dogs blew past with a silent stride while the
mushers shouted commands to them and thanked us for our support. In the meantime, we shared
stories, ate roasted Peeps, and went hunting for more firewood. Some of us retired to our tents
once it reached 3:00AM or so. The night became colder and quieter as we anticipated the last
team to come through. The wind cut through our layers, but spirits were still high. At 4:30 that
morning, the last team passed by. I boiled some snow to put in my water bottle, and crawled out
of my snow gear and into my sleeping bag, my makeshift water bottle heater at my feet.
We woke a few hours later to a still and gray morning. I fired up my camp stove and made
instant coffee and oatmeal. We decided to break camp and head out soon after. Some had
assignments due, while others had a broomball game later in the day. We drove home with a
sense of fulfillment and the smell of campfire smoke embedded in our clothing. I was feeling
exhausted and looking forward to taking a nap, while also feeling grateful for being a part of the

It is amazing to see how the sport of dogsledding brings the UP community together.
The event is held up by community support and tireless volunteers willing to endure biting cold
temperatures. I am so glad that OORP could be a part of it, after all, being cold is just a mindset.

Kelsie Sibbald is a senior at NMU pursuing her BS in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and