Dog Sledding

My blog has been dead for a while. I have many inspirations, but at this point they are merely ramblings. With time, they will find themselves. Until then, I would like to share a trip my dad and I took a few years ago. I still think about it often (especially when it's hot). I highly recommend it to anyone who values the beauty of nature, peace & quite and working hard for their dinner. Here's our story:

We drove up to Ely, MN (near the US-CA boarder) in the winter. On the way to the outfitter's lodge, we passed the dog barracks. It was sort of like a farm: interesting smells, worn, odd noises and refreshingly basic. At first it was sort of sad, but I quickly realized that these dogs are built for the snow, love their homes, and are total dumbasses.

We were feeding and scooping poop within the first hour. It was good to get used to the dogs as well as spreading the manual labor around. There's a lot of fighting due to hierarchy on a sled team; it's a constant class struggle. Some dogs are fine with their roles; the dissatisfied are why everyone's teeth are filed down. Unlike the hybrid Iditarod dogs built for speed, these are Inuit freighter dogs that can pull serious loads and are tough as nails. They love to pull and know what their harness means. The harnesses are soaked in mace to deter them from anxiously biting through them. Although they wouldn't respond to their names, it was nice to know with whom you were working. The guides knew every one of the 30 dogs by sight, despite many being siblings and having very similar colors/markings.

Here's our first morning. 6-7 dogs per sled meant that we could bring anything we wanted - cast iron pots, augers, etc. It seemed like a covered wagon and a team of oxen. Travel wasn't very fast, but I felt we were as strong as a freight train. 1-2 people controlled and rode the sled while the rest cross country skied. It was nice to switch off mindless endurance for focus (map reading/land marking) and muscling the 1,000+ lb sled around.

We stopped at some beautiful sites - these cliffs were in Canada and had ancient pictographs. We had to tip the sleds over when we stopped, otherwise the dogs would run away with them. Ever so, they would pull them on their sides before they would realize that it was rest time. Eventually they would lie down. They love to pull.

Here's our last evening. Sometimes we would sleep on the ice and sometimes on land - didn't make any difference. Most of the time we didn't use the tents (bivy instead). The nice thing about winter camping is that there are no insects, you don't have to change your clothes, and eating lots of fat is encouraged. It's always interesting to see how quickly 8 strangers can form a bond in as little as a week. The dogs were always so excited that the mood of the trip wouldn't have been the same without them.

Props to Wintergreen. More photos, if you fancy.

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