Today, for my birthday (yesterday) we went for a half day dogsled ride! Actually, the time on the sled was probably somewhere around 2 hours, but we arrived at the lodge 1 PM and we left the place just after 4:30 PM. An upside to the early arrival of winter, we were able to schedule a Saturday trip! In peak season, half day trips are usually reserved for Sundays. So, I was really excited we got to do this on the prime day on my birthday weekend.
Also a bonus for an early season trip, it was in the mid-20’s while we were out! I didn’t need to rent any gear, and got away with dressing “light.” My parka was just fine (i.e. I didn’t need a more windproof layer). I wore my lighter face mask, but this was a mixed blessing because my breath kind of froze on my face. Once I went down that road, there was no taking it off the rest of the trip.
When they untied the eager dogs, they took off at a pace Paul and I were not prepared for! The website had listed a fairly slow pace (which did end up being typical for the remainder of the trip) but for those first harrowing minutes, we wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. My breath, concentrated from my face mask, fogged up my sunglasses. This made my life flash before my (impeded) eyes as the dogs took off into the woods. Therein lies the only downside of going early in the season: our guides told us we were about 6″ short of ideal snow conditions, so the trails were pretty rough. When the dogs were fresh, they sprinted through the 1st part of the woods, taking us over rocks, grazing trees, etc. Paul and I each had to bail at various points and run to catch back up. We didn’t take the key gear suggestion of having a neck strap for our sunglasses, so in a survival move, I chucked my sunglasses into the sled as we entered the woods. They stayed there for the rest of the trip, but the fur lining of my parka hood did OK to block the sun.
I wore an old Smartwool base layer under a fleece-lined top. It was just about right for the trip. I wore cheap fleece-lined synthetic leggings under my snow pants. Again, we made it through just fine but any colder would have necessitated upping our game. The main change I would have made was liner socks under my wool socks. My feet sweat at some point in my tall Arctic muck boots, and they got cold after awhile.
We trotted over the frozen White Iron Lake and eventually made it through some Labrador tea to a bog! It was surreal gliding over those habitats in this icy season. Paul and I gawked at the scenery and mused about the utility of this transport method for surveying birds. (At one point, Paul quipped “this is the only way to travel.”) When the terrain got rough in the woods, we helped kick the sled for the dogs. We got off at hills and pushed the sled. All in all, it was a pleasant little workout when we were initially concerned about standing still so long!
The dogs honestly didn’t pay much heed to us, and their pep was surprising! 🙂 They were more excited to chase our lead guide, who was on cross country skis. The dogs were mostly motivated by him looking over his shoulder saying “GOOD DOGS!” More often than not, they took off before we wanted! We’d have to hold them back to give our guide enough of a lead, and sometimes slow them down to trail him by a respectful pace. We only had a brake, and a few commands (that we used infrequently, and were often ignored).
On the way back, we were awed by a sunset over the frozen lake. It was so peaceful, and we got back just as night was starting to fall. The dogs lost some steam over the trip, but they never lost their kick to take off when they felt like it! As we were getting back toward the kennel, they showed just how much they had left in the tank as they took off before we asked them (which we would have otherwise done by saying “HIKE!”). They ran straight up a hill with us in tow, probably motivated by a big meal. We helped tie up the sled and petted them goodbye. All in all, it was a really incredible experience I’m so glad to have had! I think 32 is off to a great start!