Two Cents Worth

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Linda Hoffman - Two Cents Worth

Imagination is a wondrous thing.

Our expectations are based on what we imagine. When we went whitewater rafting in August, I imagined I would be holding on to a rope, getting bumped around some and being totally drenched by splashing water. I never expected I would have to work so hard paddling like a crazed person, gripping with my feet, knees and hands, folding in half and being hurled forward, backward and sideways for six hours.

It took me a week to recover from this thrilling adventure, so I should have known my imagining wasn’t accurate.

My expectation of dogsledding was gliding across snow covered trails enjoying the natural beauty of a sunny winter day, becoming one with nature. Well, it was sort of like that. It was a beautiful sunny winter day and the scenery was breathtaking, but again, much more work than I ever imagined.

Each dogsled team has five dogs, a driver and a passenger. As the driver, I was responsible for the sled and controlling the dogs. The dogs are controlled only by the use of the foot brake which is between the runners on which the driver stands. The runners are about two inches wide so you better have good eye/foot co-ordination. The driver must also help the dogs by pushing up some very high and steep hills. It seemed to me there were many more up hills than down hills. Keeping the sled on the trail requires shifting weight and leaning much like riding a snowmobile, jumping from runner to runner for which I have no experience, pulling, pushing, running, twisting, etc. all the while working the brake. In our four-hour trek through woods and across two lakes there was no time when I was not working the brake.

The passenger has a very important job. Marlene was in charge of the dogs. She controlled the lead dog as the rest were harnessed and hooked up. She also had to make sure the lead line was always tight and that no dogs got caught up in the line that attached them to the lead line. If there was any issue with the dogs she had to get off the sled and make corrections. And getting off the sled was no easy matter. She had no control over anything to do with the sled, and that had to be the most scary thing since she always had full view of what was coming up - hills, deep drop offs, trees, rocks, ravines, sharp bends and tight turns.

I asked her to give a passenger’s perspective.

“The sleds are touted as being comfortable, but it doesn't take the passenger long to realize that's a bit of poetic license. Dogsleds are basically toboggans on runners. They have no suspension to counter a rough ride and a single cushion for your back is all there is in the way of padding. So as you careen down steep hills and slew around bends lined with trees and rocks at what seems to be breakneck speed, you feel every pebble in your path. Fortunately any minor discomforts you may experience dissolve like magic in the rush of the ride!"

The dogs are nothing short of gorgeous, but size-wise were somewhat of a surprise. I'd always pictured Siberian huskies as well… somewhat huskier. The fact a team of five of these slight but wiry canines can haul two very non-anorexic adults and a sled over about 20 kilometres of rugged terrain seems nothing less than amazing. The fact they actually love to do it even more so. During our trek I was never too worried about us dumping the sled. My main concern was for the dogs. I worried our inexperience would injure them as it is possible for the sled to overtake the team on the downhill and slam into them if the brake is not applied judiciously. Hence my chorus of “Brake, brake” every time we stampeded over the top of a rise and started down. You'll be happy to know no dogs or humans were harmed in this seniors' experience.”

Even though it wasn’t anything like I imagined, it was a wild, fun and challenging adventure. I will not likely ever do it again but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. I am so proud of us.

A friend suggested we take up reading. That doesn’t sound like much fun, but I think we will take the rest of the year off.



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