Sunday, 1 May 2011

Day Three- Husky Sledding and Some More Cross Country Skiing

Wow- this was the best day- ever!

Just driving to the Husky’s was beautiful, ice roads and snow everywhere with blue skies and sunshine again.

As we drove in a forest we suddenly came to a sled across the road and then saw the huskies in the forest, some tied to trees others already hitched to the sleds. The noise from them howling and barking was amazing as we got out of the minibus and filled me with exciting and little bit of fear.

A real ‘Viking’ looking man introduced himself to us as Lauri from Kota-Huskies and gave a brief demonstration- brake, corner and if you fall, let go- and that was it, off to meet our teams.

The dogs looked really quite fierce at first and then noise they were making sounded like they’d have a hand off, but as soon as I held a hand out to the leader of my team, they whined and stretched their head out for a good tickle and ended up being as soft as a Labrador!

Ben and me were at the back of the group, I had a great team of 4 and once the 2 leaders stopped scrapping with each other and slipping their collars we were off. I was thankful I had followed the advice of Lauri and kept my foot hard on the brake as that initial pull could really have you off backwards.

The first 15 minutes for me was a bit of a white knuckle ride, not sure how stable the sled was, how the dogs were going to react and whether I was going to fall.

Ben on the other hand felt it was more of a marathon. While he had a larger team of 6, it later transpired that 5 of them were females, with one of them being 12 years old and about to go into retirement- and after pulling Ben around, retirement possibly came sooner than she thought J Anyway, the upshot was that any sort of uphill had Ben pushing and running behind the sled to help the dogs. At one point he had slowed down so much the dogs laid down and started rolling in the snow, thinking he had put the brake on! The good side to this was he had plenty of time to get photo’s like this…

After a short photo op in the forest we emerged out into the beautiful place in the above photo. Rolling white snow, baby fir trees and the bluest sky I have ever seen. As it was slightly up hill the pace slowed and we got to look back, over the forest and in the distance to the frozen lake Kitka and hills on the horizon. The silence was unbelievable, just the padding of paws on snow and the swoosh of the sled rails following.

I can honestly say I have never felt so happy as I did in that moment and tears streamed down my cheeks, almost in disbelief at the setting I found myself in!

Once back at their makeshift camp we sat around a fire waiting for the second group to arrive and learnt how Kota-Huskies, treat all of their dogs like family. They have 50 of them and know each one by name. The puppies are allowed to play until 1 year old before starting training and they are allowed to run and pull sleds until the dog decides it no-longer wants to, usually about 12- 13 years old. They also only breed as many puppies as they need as they would never sell their dogs in case they went to bad homes. As if to prove how well looked after, one decided it wanted a cuddle and hopped up onto the snow bench between me and Ben.

Back at Basecamp, finally having dragged ourselves away from the dogs, we decided to take the skis out and head off around the lake. Past the village and around the back of the school house, brought us to a road to cross. Picking the trail up again we skied to another small collection of houses and a café before coming out onto a second lake and skiing into the middle. Again, it was the absolute silence that really struck and the expanse of deep, flat perfect snow either side of the perfectly groomed ski tracks.

Again a sauna was had to relieve stiff muscles before a dinner of Elk meatloaf and some more Bear Beer!

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