Wilderness Husky Adventure in Swedish Lapland
I woke up to the sound of huskies howling and barking with excitement – it was about 8am and the sky was grey with snowflakes beginning to fall. A hearty breakfast was waiting for me, with porridge, toast, yogurts and also eggs and bacon. After fuelling myself with all everything on offer, I made my way outside all kitted with my snowsuit, boots, and plenty of layers. Our guide Daniela met me and my fellow novice mushers out there for a talk on how to control the sledges and harness the dogs.
This is the fun yet challenging task – all the dogs have personality!
The sledges themselves operate almost like a scooter – you have the brake pad to step on to either slow the huskies down or to get them to stop (when you do manage this you have an anchor to throw into the snow to keep them from running off!) It is a lot easier than it sounds, however the most important thing you are told to do more than anything is keep hold the sledge and not let go, otherwise your keen team of dogs might take themselves off on their own private road trip!
After this lesson in the mechanics of your sledge, you’re taught how to harness the dogs. This is the fun yet challenging task – all the dogs have personality! Some of them are well behaved whilst others are so hyper and excited to be going for a run that they bounce and bound all over the place. Learning their names and getting them all attached to the reins takes a bit of strength and focus, but is incredibly rewarding.
As the dogs go hurtling off, at first I felt a bit out of control but after a few seconds I began to get my balance on the sled and a feel for how the brakes work, and all at once I started to relax and soak in the surrounding snowy Arctic landscape.
My three fellow mushers – who all took on this challenge without any prior experience – were in front of me happily jetting along. They took to husky sledding like ducks to water! We stopped for lunch at a tiny wilderness cabin warming reindeer soup with bread, and tea or coffee. We rested for about an hour and set off again for the Wilderness Lodge.
By the afternoon, the sky was turning a stormy grey to one side of me – threatening snowstorms – but to the other I saw the fading blue sky. The air was crisp and the cold kept the whiskers of my beard frosted. It’s such a great feeling being stood on the back of a sledge guiding your team of huskies into the arctic wilderness – we were off to spend the night in the forest in a cabin with no electricity or running water. It’s a primal and intimate joy; just me, the dogs, our guide and a couple of other fellow mushers in this huge, beautiful winter wilderness.
Overnight in the Wilderness Lodge
The day had already taught me how to harness the dogs, get to know their names and control my sled. Already I felt like an expert, proudly balancing on the back of my sled as we headed towards our night’s accommodation – and ready to finish the off my day as a dog sledder properly.
After arriving at the secluded lodge, we fed the dogs – another challenge that involved first chopping frozen blocks of dog food and boiling it before then delivering it to the each of the worn out teams. There was firewood ready chopped, but we all mucked in, stuffing it into the wood burners to keep us warm for the night, bring in water and so on.
Never has supper felt more rewarding! We followed this with a well-deserved relaxing hour in the sauna, which I proudly helped to get fired up. I crunched back through the snow to the lodge, fully relaxed and ready for a well deserved sleep in a comfy bed.
Above me the sky had cleared – stars twinkled and teased the possibility of Northern Lights. But my day had already been magical. The dogs gently howled us to sleep as we looked forwards to magic of a different kind the next day – a visit to the Icehotel. But there and then I was in a winter paradise of my very own – an authentic Lapland experience and truly a wilderness adventure.