Remembering my Dogsledding adventure at the Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada evokes a chequerboard of emotions in me, both black and white and almost in equal measure. It had the perfect whiteness in it being a one of a kind adventure and a bold brushstroke of black by the demanding physical strength it required (and I have never given a penny's thought towards my physical fitness). In retrospect, the white really covers that black for me; sitting at this airport lounge in Toronto all I remember when I turn back the clock and relive this experience, is the thrill I got.
Imagine, you're dashing through the snow behind a pack of wild albeit very well trained dogs with nothing to slow you down besides a wooden sled and a piece of rubber with picks in it and heavy snow obstructing your senses - vision, breathing, touch...
The best part about dogsledding for me was that we (I went with 3 other friends) got to handle the dogs and help the staff put them on the sleds, learn each of their names (my team had Johannes (my friend), Mangles, Laser, Tipsy, Hank and Logan) and see around 250 huskies frolicking about in their outdoor pen — the dogs sleep in little huts outside even in -40 degrees centigrade!
Huskies beside their pens
While you’ll definitely have a sudden yearning to adopt a husky, after you see them in action you’ll realize those dogs are a whole lot of work to keep busy. Our expedition company had many pure huskies (and some mixed with wolf!) but they also take in a lot of mutts who have been abandoned by their owners. The mushing was just one part of the experience. The other part which was equally enjoyable and knowledgeable was that we were made acquainted with the habits of the dogs and we saw where the dogs lived and got to know a lot about how they are kept healthy and happy. The dogs were super friendly and very strong—helping the staff put their leashes and harnesses on gave you a true appreciation for the strength of these animals and how their urge to pull can easily derail your sled if you’re not careful.
Johannes with Laser and Tipsy
Dogsledding is also a good workout. My friend and I took turns as driver. When you are sitting in the sled, you are basically just trying to lean with the sled so you don’t fall out on sharp turns and stay warm when you’re not moving. But halfway on each dogsled journey you’ll usually switch places. Driving can be a ton of work. You will work up a serious sweat because you’re pushing, running and steering all while wearing heavy winter gear. You have to keep the sled under control going down hills using the foot brake so that it doesn’t catch up to the dogs and hurt them. Going uphill you have to get out and help them run. Don’t run with them uphill and the dogs will see you with a look that will put you to shame. The dogs are very expressive and love encouragement from their team. You really need to keep their spirits high and in no time you will find yourself being accepted by them as family. They will look up to you. Dogsledding is the perfect way to enjoy the outdoors in winter and have a local taste of things too; for couples, for family, for friends it is made for everyone. Truly Canada, eh!