If you’re a dog lover, then this adventure is for you. Imagine zipping past a winter wonderland with only the sounds of nature whispering in your ear and adorably enthusiastic huskies in your view. If this sounds like paradise, then you need to try 'mushing' — or dog sledding to the city dweller.
I’m in Whitehorse, Yukon — a small city located on the Yukon River with a population of 25,085. It’s the furthest North I’ve ever been in Canada. Being from Vancouver, BC we’re expecting it to be freezing the entire weekend, so we bundle up in our warmest clothes and brave the cold. To our amazement, it doesn’t feel nearly as cold as we thought — we even see locals in shorts at the nearest Tim Hortons. "Can you tell we're not from around here?"
The next day, Cabin Fever Adventures picks us up from our hotel and drives us to the dog sledding base in Carcross. It’s about 72 km from Whitehorse into a snowy paradise — the perfect backdrop for two days in the wilderness. Upon arrival, we’re given real heavy-duty winter clothes — snow pants, a parka, and waterproof mittens. Itching to meet the dogs, they introduce us to 50 huskies. Each one is energetically wagging its tail and barking in excitement, hoping that they’re about to go on an adventure. It takes little time to learn that each dog is treated like a pet. Especially, Hatchett, who is the owner’s house dog and mushing pup.
After the wiggly introductions are over, our two guides explain everything we hope we need to know about mushing: how to steer, basic commands and our plan for the next two days. We’re now ready to pack each sled with our gear – cooking and camping supplies and our backpacks and start sledding. To actually mush, we stand on the back of the sled’s two runners and hang onto the handle while using a foot brake to stop or slow down. Keeping your balance on the sled takes some adjusting, but I find it helps to transfer my weight from one runner to the other to stay in balance and to make turning easier. None of which will stop me from flying off though. At the beginning of the day, the dogs bolt forward with extreme excitement. Let’s just say the command “Whoa” (stop) and soft snow are your two best friends at that point.
There are six dogs pulling my sled. The first two are the leaders who listen to commands and lead the sled in the right direction. As the dogs prance through the snow at top speed with big smiles on their face we know they absolutely love their job. Whenever we have to stop, all 26 dogs give us about three seconds before they turn around and bark at us to start moving. I think they would run all day if they could!
During our mushing voyage, we travel across the countryside, over a lake and into the open wilderness where our camp is set up. Once we get used to driving a sled, it becomes very relaxing and exhilarating. There’s not a care in the world except enjoying the beautiful scenery, bonding with the dogs, and keeping your balance. I’m so enthralled by the experience that I don’t even notice I’m wearing two winter coats.
Around eight hours later, we arrive at camp, where our tent is pitched between the trees. Inside is a wood burning fireplace, which is also our heater and stove, warm fur blankets and sleeping bags. It’s surprisingly toasty throughout the night, but the three lucky dogs that sleep on our toes definitely helps. While one guide is cooking, we help our other guide feed the hungry puppies frozen chicken. Once they’ve eaten they’re ready to cuddle and play. We quickly learn just how different every dog is, even their barks. To top off the day we trek around in snowshoes keeping an eye out for the moose we spotted earlier.
The next morning begins bright and early and we’re almost as excited as our dogs to begin mushing again. As we pack up our camp, the huskies are barking louder and louder as they get more impatient. Eventually, their wish becomes our command and we start our long venture back to headquarters. We travel through winding bush trails above the river; not a sound to be heard except the slushing of the sled through the snow and the wind in the trees. I realize how content I am in that moment. Sooner than we’d like, our final destination comes into view. Our snowy adventure is coming to an end and I’m so grateful to have shared my dogs’ true passion for the last two days.
Interested in mushing yourself? Cabin Fever Adventures is closed but there are many similar companies that offer tours starting at $185 CAD (half day). They’ll help you build an adventure that works for you. My recommendation? See Canada’s Spectacular North and do an overnight sled trip. It’s truly an amazing experience. Just don’t forget your camera — and dress warm!