The Dog Sled Ride to Swan Lakes

Trip Start Aug 01, 2010
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Trip End Feb 16, 2012


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Flag of Canada  , Nunavut,
Friday, January 7, 2011

The long awaited day for the The Dog Sled Ride has come.  We had no idea how cold it was going to be so we bundled up in all the layers we had - long johns, turtle necks, undershirts, double thick socks.  My sister and her husband sent us some of those heat packs that you can put in your mittens or use as insoles in your boots so we loaded those in too. (Thankful that we thought of them because they kept the camera defrosted and our toes were toasty warm!!)  We didn't know how fast we'd be going, would we need to hold on for dear life?  Just in case we got a good night's sleep and had a hearty breakfast.
Andrew, the Dog Master, and Patrick, the local priest, picked us up at 10am and we set out to Andrew's back yard that looks out over the ocean and is where all the dogs are kepts.  The dogs knew they were going for a run and were anxiously pacing, howling, yipping, and keening, and jumping onto their kennels.  Once everyone was all strapped in (dogs in their harnesses, three people on the dog sled, and two by two on the snowmobiles) we took off! The start was precarious- very fast on a downhill slope and when we started to tilt I thought we were going to spill. But we kept upright and after a few seconds of feeling like we were 'stumbling' we were off and running!
It was really fun! You could just tell the dogs were enjoying the run too!  We headed out towards Swan Lakes, a place we had tried to drive to on New Year's Day but the road was closed due to drifting snow.  Now, in our new mode of transportation we could get there!  Going out, we were heading into freezing mist but except for our faces we kept very warm.  When we arrived at Andrew's cabin, we were covered in a fine layer of ice. Even the dogs fun looked frosted and crispy. They didn't seem to mind at all though. In fact, liquid precipitation at this time of year is unheard of and according to Andrew the dogs were too hot. 
We took some time in Andrew's cabin warming up by drinking coffee and hot chocolate.  We talked about Andrew's family history, how to test for the right kind of snow for an igloo with your harpoon, the tools and techniques of a seal hunting which we had passed earlier, and scuba diving believe it or not, the arctic is rich with colourful acquatic life. At one point we heard a ruckus outside, growling and barking and crying.  Andrew rushed out to seperate the fighting dogs. Three of the beasts were bleeding but no one was seriously hurt. These Huskies are tough and even though some are puppies and still playful, they are more wild animal than tame.  Eventually it was time to head back.  This time we were riding with the wind and the freezing fog had dissapaited so it was quite mild.  In combination with the warm temperatures and a thick and powdery snowfall that came down last night, the sled was moving slow and as heavy as it were carrying and extra 200lbs.  Those dogs seemed more tired now but it was a very strong team and before long we could see the Hamlet of Gjoa Haven in the distance.  A little speck of a town standing out in a vast emptiness of white land and white sky.
It was kind of hard to say goodbye to the dogs when the ride was over.  I felt a little sad about their life out in the cold, even though they seemed to love it.  In some way I wanted to make them into cuddley pets.  However, these dogs are bred for the northern ways and have a different fate as a necessary tool in arctic life.
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