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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Ready, Let's Go!

Take a roller coaster and cross it with a pinball machine. Then bring the temperature down below zero. Throw in a bunch of snow and ice. Next, toss a handful of uber-excited, incredibly strong dogs that live for nothing in life but to pull (something, anything, and everything), and you have the perfect recipe for dog sledding.

I think my friend and coworker Heather summed up our dog sledding trip quite well with two very different statements:
  • "what the hell [have I gotten myself] into"
  • "I was amazed at how relaxed I was upon completion of the experience...we spent 4 full days not thinking about work, regular-life obligations or anything else. It was all about the experience and getting from point A to point B. Such a clear mind is so hard to come-by and it was weird to experience it so fully for such an extreme amount of time."

Outward Bound led our 4 day dog sledding expedition through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This was my second Outward Bound trip, and I can't speak highly enough about the organization and all of the instructors I've interacted with. They're incredibly knowledgeable, concerned about your safety and well being, and give their all to make sure you have an amazing experience. If you're ever considering an outdoor adventure, I highly recommend checking them out and the wide variety of trips they offer.

From sun-up to sun-down, we were active. Whether it was stomping through thigh-deep snow to find a good tree to saw down for firewood, or pushing and pulling with all our might to stop our sled from falling into a ravine, or chipping away at 24 inches of ice to get a water hole, we were working.

In the morning we boiled water, fed the dogs, took down camp, ate a little breakfast, and got the cross-country skiers off to break trail and set the pace for the day. The ones mushing were left to finish packing the sleds and harness the dogs.

The dogs were fantastic. Each had his or her own unique personality. Some were crazy, others shy. Some drank their soup as fast as their tongues could lap, while others didn't budge when you set a bowl in front of them. At night they would randomly start howling in unison, and then stop on a dime as if a conductor had flicked his wrist.

The one thing the dogs all had in common (for the most part) was their love for pulling. They would bark and whine if we stopped on the trail for more than 2 minutes. And getting them hitched in the morning was like trying to get a child to walk and not run on their first visit to Disneyland.

The Boundary Waters proved to be a perfect place for a dog sledding trip -- beautiful wide open lakes, tight portages for exciting ups, downs, and turns, and nobody for miles and miles. I'm happy to report that although we woke up to -10, we were never really cold. I did smash my pinky between the sled and a tree, but that was the worst of it for our group. Oh yes, and I (and the rest of my team) did hop in the frozen lake at the end our trip after getting in the sauna. There's nothing quite like it -- much like dog sledding -- and I encourage you to try both.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Great entry -- you can recap in a way I can't (hence the numerous entries on my blog). I love reading through the eyes of someone else who's experienced the same thing -- but differently.

Oh, and you should link to my blog. ;)