© 2012; 2001 Connecting: Solo Travel Network & RN Merrill. Information
Note: This article is reproduced here for inspirational value alone and will not normally be updated.
Therefore, all facts, figures, and author's opinions are subject to change as time goes on.

Dogsledding Adventure, Ontario – A Solo Travel Report

Text & Photo by RaNae Merrill

I had just finished reading Barry Lopez's Arctic Dreams when I came across a three-day snowshoe and dogsled package at Algonquin Lodge. Weekend ski trips seem pretty much alike to me, but the idea of gliding through snow-covered wilderness with a team of dogs, seemed, well, like a dream. Mush You Huskies! I booked my trip months in advance, and all through a hot, muggy New York summer the thought of yelling "Mush!" to my team helped drop the temperature dramatically. With the first snowfall, I looked forward to January 15 like a kid awaiting Santa Claus. Saturday morning I was up before dawn to catch my Air Canada flight to Toronto.

Denis (pronounced Den-ny, he's Québécois) met me and other guests at the airport. After introductions we piled into the van, and I wondered how all these strangers would get along. Denis passed around sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies and got us talking. By the end of the four-hour drive, I felt comfortable with my new friends.

Smoke curled from the chimney as we arrived at the log cabin lodge nestled among trees on the edge of the lake. Three more guides – Pete, Myles and Kat – greeted us enthusiastically at the front door and, inside, served up hot drinks, snacks and a roaring blaze in the huge stone fireplace. Before long, Pete and Myles rounded us up for a hike to stretch our legs and get oriented with our surroundings and the winter wonderland outdoors. When we returned someone suggested a parlor game while Kat and Denis finished cooking dinner – stewed venison, wild rice and salad, with hot apple crisp for dessert.

Ice-Cream on Cue

"Wouldn't ice-cream be good on this?" I wished out loud. As if waiting for a cue, Pete grabbed a bowl, poured in condensed milk, vanilla, maple syrup, and announced “I'll make you some." He then took me outside where he stirred in clean snow and voila, ice cream on cue. It melted deliciously over my apple crisp. After dinner we went out on snow shoes under the full moon. Crossing the frozen lake, and hearing trees crack in the cold, I could hardly remember I had begun the day in a New York taxicab.

Planning on catching the perfect light of a dawn photo shoot the next morning, I opted for an early night. My roommate Deborah came in later, so quietly that I never heard her. The next day I learned that the card game downstairs had gone on quite late, and there was something about a midnight rendezvous in the sauna. . . .

Sunday we went cross-country skiing. The group ranged from total novices to experienced downhill skiers. No problem. After going over the basics we divided into two groups: one going on an all-day trail-ski, and the other crossing the lake for a picnic lunch. I joined the lake group, and was glad I did. Though I'm reasonably coordinated, nothing I did would propel those skis forward. Feeling like a total klutz, I was last to reach the tent.

Kat had already lit a fire, and as if by magic, produced lunch from her backpack – a pan, soup and homemade bread. Later, we discovered a problem with my skis. Back at the lodge, I got another pair and Kat gave me a private lesson. From then until sunset I whizzed around on the lake, refining my new learned skill. When the sun went down I joined everyone in the sauna where we swapped "most embarrassing moment" stories by flashlight. Deborah and I ended up talking long after the others left, discovering we had a lot in common.

Mush You Huskies!

Finally – dog-sledding! On Monday while we waited for the outfitter to meet us, we paired off into teams. I was happy to have Brett (sandy brown hair, sparkling blue eyes, big smile) as my partner – even though he rolled our sled on a turn, and I ended up face down in a snowbank. When the dogs arrived, the first thing that struck me was the noise. They barked, howled, whined, and threw themselves impatiently against their harnesses.

When I called out "Readyyyyy GO!" (not "mush," I learned), they shot off before the words left my lips. Suddenly it was silent except for the sound of the wind, the rhythm of paws and the hiss of gliders on snow. Though it was minus 30, the sky was crystal-blue and the trail sparkled as though paved in diamonds. The afternoon flew by as swiftly and gently as the scenery and too soon it was time to go home. I can't wait to go back again next winter – and maybe I'll invite Deborah and Brett to join me.

If You Go Dogsledding in Ontario

>>RM

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