dogsledding near Algonquin Park

When you’re looking for a way to make the most of winter that won’t seem to end, there’s no better solution than to hop on the back of a dogsled and enjoy a scenic romp through miles of gorgeous trails.

My mom wanted a good ol’ fashion getaway before my sister and I went on our travels. It was a spa retreat or this. Frankly, I’m glad huskies are too darn cute to resist.

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Contradictory to Canadian stereotypes, this isn’t how we typically get around, but, y’know what? It’s not a bad idea. – with thejulienne

Sled runners scraped across the snow-packed trail and into a cool, fresh wind, scented with fir trees and the occasional dog fart which might’ve caught us by surprise had we not half-expected them. Trees glided past, occasionally taunting us with low branches or a fallen log to be mindful of, and we trepidatiously glided alongside “trenches” in the snow as they threatened to slurp us in. It was a comfortable pace, but still swift enough that there was a thrill – and still swift enough that when the trail led us to those uphill slopes and we had to hop off to lighten the sled, we were running.

From the get-go, we got the “don’t let go” talk and my imagination blossomed into visions of me face-planting with an empty sled careening wildly through the forest until it caught up on a tree somewhere with 6 disappointed/guilty-looking dogs still trying to wrest themselves free. Thus, I enforced an iron-grip on the bar which, in addition to preventing me from being left behind with a long chilly walk ahead of me, seemed to be advantageous as well. The dogs still seemed to be doing most of the work, pulling me along; all I had to do was move my feet fast enough to keep up.

As the ground levelled out, I was back on the runners, braking as necessary on the downhill slopes so as not to outpace the dogs as much as to slow them down so they don’t burn themselves out with their own enthusiasm. It’s an interesting science: converting their high-cardio/fast-twitch burst to low-cardio/slow-twitch for endurance, but it works. Their stamina hauled us through weaving trails, down hills, up hills, over bridges, through gullies, and onward for nearly 50 kilometres that day.

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There are no reins, no rudder, no steering wheel. Just your weight. And even as a passenger, it’s hardly a leisurely sleigh-ride. Like the musher, you’re leaning into the turns, weighting the sled in the direction you want to go, occasionally fearing for your well-being and shielding your face from low branches, and on those uphill slopes, you’re out and running (or trudging, panting) up hills, hopping back in the sled as gracefully or as ungracefully as the speed and your coordination allows.

Curious? Check out the 40 second video compilation…

It was such an amazing way to end the winter, scratching another ambition off my bucket list (well, sort of – as a child I had a lofty goal of dog-sledding to the north pole…). But truly, this is something I would love to do more regularly – it was so much fun. Our guide at Chocpaw Expeditions was incredibly knowledgable, friendly, and obviously as passionate about the experience as she was for the dogs, and I’ll be looking forward to an excuse to go back for round 2.

(Photo by thejulienne) Hanging out with Nike and Mango during our mid-afternoon break.

Ready for bed after a long day.

I’m going to take this chance to add that if you are looking to adopt a dog, Chocpaw has many of them up for adoption. I got to meet dozens of their racers and retirees, and every single one of them was sweet-tempered and friendly. Find them on facebook for more.

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