A few years ago, my life fell apart in most ways. I experienced huge, unexpected life changes and felt adrift. I decided the time was right to do things that I had been putting off for years. One of those was to take an Outward Bound course. I chose dogsledding in Algonquin Park in northern Ontario, Canada, in the middle of February. It was one of the best things I’ve done in my life. If you ever have the opportunity to try it, do so!
Ten of us slept in this prospector’s tent every night. Another couple of people slept outside in the sleds. It was an amazing adventure. I found healing in the magnificent landscape and peace in the companionship of the dogs. Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not an athlete, and the physical aspect was a welcome challenge, but the real wonder of the experience was the dogs. They worked their hearts out for us, gladly, completely.
We would sled for hours at a time and, when we had to stop on the trail, i.e. when we ate our lunchtime sandwiches standing on the sled runners, the dogs yipped and pulled to get going, even after they’d already been running for a couple of hours. They just loved to run, to go. Here’s a photo of Azul and Keebler waiting for us to start moving again after a stop. Note Keebler jumping into the air to try to move the sled while Azul looks like a long-suffering older sibling 🙂
When we returned to camp, it didn’t matter how tired or hungry we were, our first priority was to get the dogs settled into their straw beds and watered and fed. We drilled through the frozen surface of a lake to get water for the dogs and gathered and chopped dead wood from the forest to heat that water. To encourage the dogs to drink enough to replace the fluids they’d lost while running, our guides threw frozen chicken into the water to flavor it. Then the chicken broth would be given to the dogs.
Some of them were clever. They would tip the bowls over so the broth would run into the snow. Then they would eat the chicken bits left sitting on top. We had to stand watch and scold if they tried to do that. Finally, when they realized we were serious, they would lap up the broth before eating the chicken bits in the bottom of the bowl 🙂 Only after we were sure they’d ingested enough fluids did they receive their solid food.
This is gorgeous Algonquin Park in the wintertime.
I used my experience sledding in Algonquin Park in my Superromance, IN FROM THE COLD. The hero in that novel runs a dogsledding business. His dogs mean the world to him. The heroine arrives in town to close down his business. Of course. Sparks ensue 🙂
“In the midst of winter, I discovered there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger—something better, pushing right back.” Albert Camus