Monday, February 28, 2011

BUCKET LIST: WINTERGREEN DOGSLEDDING

When you make travel a family event you need to find the perfect place. One that not only provides entertainment but SAFETY. I've always been amused by dogsledding, just didn't have the nerve to try it. All I could think about is how cold those mushers must be. I like winter, but not to the point that I want to sacrifice warmth for entertainment. Plus, my only reference for dogsledding are the movies I've seen and actors are ALWAYS racing their dogs and usually getting hurt. So, in my mind, sled dogs ran really really fast and the mushers were freezing their butts off. Well, Wintergreen taught us differently.

I chose Wintergreen for several reasons:

1. They allowed our 3 year old (now 4) to participate (rare in the world of extreme sports)

2. The owner was experienced, therefore, I felt we were all safe (he's Paul Schurke from that world famous trip to the North Pole)

3. They promised me we'd stay warm (our guide made sure of this upon arrival by checking all of our clothing and making adjustments where necessary)

Of course, Wintergreen offers much much more, like amazing lodges to stay in, gourmet food from a fantastic chef and top notch dogsledding guides...


To start off, the trip goes pretty much according to the itinerary posted on the Wintergreen website so I won't go into too much detail about that here but I do want to share a bit about the dogs and our guide.

Paul Schurke owns Canadian Inuit Eskimo dogs. Although I read a little about them online, seeing them in person is quite the experience. They are very vocal, very affectionate, and very strong. I'm use to my 3 chihuahuas. You couldn't pay them a heap of dog bisquits to go outside or to get off the couch. The Eskimo dogs live for the cold and live for the run. The part that surprised me the most is how loving they are. Not one sign of aggression towards people at any moment, not while eating or sleeping did they ever seem bothered by us hanging around them. I was also impressed at how well kept their kennel is. Paul takes immaculate care of his dogs. There is a lot of love between him and them. It was entertaining when Paul would pop into the kennel because the excitement from his dogs is indescribable.

Our guide Jason was fantastic! I have to commend him on his stamina. He guided us on cross country ski's across lakes and through the woods for several hours each day, covering a total of 20 miles. He cooked us breakfast every morning, educated us on the local environment, and made us look forward to each and every day. We couldn't have asked for a better guide.

Now, for a few pictures. If you are at all interested in Dogsledding, I highly recommend Wintergreen. When National Geographic said "you are mushing with the best at Wintergreen"... they meant it!

The Home of Wintergreen Doggers:



Jason, our guide, getting Aiyana set up in the sled (see her big smile... she was so excited):



Maya getting to know the team:

BTW/Maya and Middy managed to memorize the names of each and every dog in the kennel. I can barely remember my kids names much less a few dozen dogs so I'll just call most of them "dogs" for this post :)


Of course, who doesn't love doggies wet kisses:


Dad found his twin (they are sharing the same expression):


Stopped for a moment as we were crossing the lake:


Our team (whose names I actually remember) Clara is in the back on the left, to her right is bullet. In the front on right is Snarf and on the left is Patches:



Wolf Poop Discovery (our guide Jason explained how to identify wolf poop. This one contains hair and bone):


Having lunch outside by a camp fire. We settled in the center of the woods off the trail. Our guide Jason set this up for us. The kids had pizza and lots of other goodies. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine.


Dogs running on trail:


Middy removing the dogs harness. Middy is making the "awwwww" face because her dog is lifting it's paw to help her remove the harness.


The end of the evening, after the dogs were snug in their kennel and well fed, we headed back to the lodge:


Our goodbye photo. While we were at Wintergreen we watched a documentary of Paul Schurke and Wil Steger's trip to the North Pole. Although I told Middy that Paul had made the trek north the video turned him into a superstar :) Middy was itching to have her picture taken with him so she could take it to school and tell everyone about Paul and his dogs.

Left to right: Aiyana, Jason (our Guide), Maya, Paul (Wintergreen Owner) and Middy.




and... to close. No, the dogs weren't running at top speed trying to flip me off at every turn, instead they maintained a good medium pace and we loved every minute of it. No, we weren't cold. The only part of my body that felt a little chilly was my nose and that was only when we crossed the lake which had no tree protection. That chill was temporary thanks to my face mask :) No, my kids weren't in any danger. The dogs respond to command very well and the sled has a breaking system that always works. No bumps, no bruises, no OMG moments. It was just perfect!