Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dogsledding in the Ottawa Valley

For Christmas and for our son Bryn's 10th birthday, my sister Stephanie purchased us a morning of dogsledding lessons in the countryside near her home in Ottawa.
The weather was well below freezing ( -27 degrees Celcius to be exact!) but we bundled up like Eskimos and headed out to the forest. 
Our teachers were a husband and wife team - Eric and France who have bred, raised and raced dogsleds all their lives. 
We had a short hike from the house to the dog kennel so we chit-chatted and admired the scenery. 
The world was freshly coated with 2 new inches of snow and the forest was pristine and white. 

(That's Eric in the back, pulling up a new sled. That's my sister in front, doing her version of a snowy selfie!)
After we crested the top of a hill, THIS came into view:

It was the outdoor dog kennel where 40 excited and happy purebred huskies greeted us with excited barks and howls.
Each of the dogs had its own wooden house and was attached a long lead that allowed it to move and to play with its friends, yet keep it safe during "unsupervised" times.

The dogs came in a variety of colours and markings.  Everything from creamy white to black and grey stripes. 

I fell in love with the dogs with the big blue eyes immediately. 

 I've always been a "dog person" so I enjoyed every minute of getting to know the dogs while Eric and France hooked our the chosen 30 dogs onto the sleds. 
My sister and I also took the opportunity to capture some images of these gorgeous animals. 
Bryn preferred visiting the dogs after they were attached to the sleds.  Once they were harnessed, they were unable to jump up and knock him flat on his bottom!

Once the harnesses were on, Eric gave Stephanie and I a quick 15-minute lesson on how to ride and maneuver the long fibreglass sleds.  
It basically came down to learning how to "feel it" and when and where to use the brakes. 
He also told us we would fall off.   A lot.   And the sled and dogs would run away a few times.  And we'd probably run into a tree or two.  That was part of learning. 
"So we'll be sore tomorrow then, Eric?"
"Yes you will.  Very, very sore."
Bryn wasn't old enough drive his own sled, so he rode in Eric's covered in warm blankets, sitting on a cushy seat. 
Here he is, all ready to go!!

And here's my "team." They were raring to go, too!

And we were off!   Nearly 2 hours of hills and valleys, ridges and frozen lakes. 
My sister took several pictures along the way, but I kept my hands on the sled! 
This is the kind of view had along the way.  Gorgeous isn't it??

I did fall off a few times - 2 times I completely face planted into the snow up to my eyeballs, twice I lost the sled and my team, and once I took out a huge cedar tree. 
But every time I picked myself back up and tried again ( always thinking, "Man- I'm going to be SORE tomorrow!)

Midway through the trail ride, we stopped for hot chocolate.  Eric checked Bryn's feet to make sure he was still  at a safe, warm temperature.  He was not!
So off came Bryn's boots and socks and Eric inserted Bryn's cold feet up under his warm, heavy coat. 
Eric's "radiator heat" (as his wife called it!) could warm anyone's frozen toes in an instant.    And even though it made Bryn slightly uncomfortable (his feet were in a strangers shirt!) he admitted it worked and he would be less cold on the way back because of it!
And here I am, arriving safely back into the kennel area.  My toes were frozen and my lips were cracked and wind-burnt, but I have to say that dog-sledding was one of the most awesome things I have EVER done. 
I would recommend it to anyone.
Such memories for all three of us!  Bryn has already stated he wants to do it again as soon as he is big enough to drive his own sled and dog team!!
Keep warm all,


  1. Such an interesting adventure. Thanks for writing it up. I always wondered what it would be like. It's actually more of a wild time than I had thought it would be. Great photos.

    1. Wonderful to hear from you Grace! It was amazing - col, but amazing! The first hour was tough, getting to know the sled and the dogs as we swiftly plummeted down hillsides, but I soon found the rhythm and would recommend the experience to anyone!!

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  3. WOW. This looks incredible. I did laugh about the cold feet and a strangers shirt situation haha I can imagine that being one way of getting to know someone.
    So glad you all had a great day though. i think this shall be another thing to add to my bucket list :p
    x x x x

    1. Yes. Bryn and Eric became rather "close" rather quickly. I'm glad they did though. Who knows what kind of cold damage might have befallen Bryn had we not thawed his feet out! I am still dealing with numbness in my toes nearly a week later too. I have "frost nip" - not as damaging as frostbite but still rather annoying. But totally worth it! Those dogsledding memories are awesome!!

  4. Wow, what a wonderful adventure! We've been lucky enough to go dogsledding in Lapland although we didn't get as long a trip as you and the greylight in winter there makes taking photos difficult. I loved coming with you on your trip! I'm very envious of all your snow too - we've hardly had any in our part of the UK again this year. Having said that, we have family in Ottawa and my cousin said recently that your snow was less than last year which has to be a good thing - you had a VERY long winter and even those most excited by snow must have had enough by the spring! xx

    1. It was a morning that my son and I will never forget!! Cold, cold cold, but so worth it! Definitely less snow this year, but just as cold as last year. I love the snow for Christmas but after that it can leave anytime!! Frankly, spring can move on in anytime!!
      you have some "Canadian family" eh? Ottawa is a gorgeous city. My sister has been there nearly 10 years and she adores it.

  5. Wow!! That looks so much fun. Amazing animals too, beautiful x

    1. It was one of the most exciting things I have every done in my life! I joked with my sister that it was the biggest adrenaline rush I had had since giving birth!


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