The past year was very much an eye opener for me. I realized that life is short and it's really best not to put off till tomorrow, or next year, to do what you want. Because you never know what's around the corner.
Death has a way of doing that to a person. Well, not their death obviously, but the death of someone near and dear who was far too young. No wonder people go through mid life crises! As you get older you start losing people who shouldn't be dying and you think, holy shite, if it can happen to them, it can happen to me!! WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH MY LIFE SO FAR???
I had some business to finish last year, in other words two Ironman races that I committed myself to, before I could really start to embark on a new path. A new journey, if you will. I just hoped nothing happened to me in the meantime so I could start to make some changes!
One of the changes I was determined to make was to not put things off that I wanted to do. To stop making excuses about why I couldn't do something - money, time, having to do it on my own...
A few weeks ago I decided I wanted to do something for my 40th birthday that wasn't the ordinary. I just wasn't sure what it was. Then Trudy and I drove past some dog sledders when we were coming back from skiing at Mount Shark.
I looked over and said, THAT is going on the bucket list! I would love to do that!!! She looked at me and said, 'So why don't you do that for your birthday? You were looking for something different.'
Of course! What better way to keep the new path of adventure going?! Dog sledding. That's what I'm going to do.... so yesterday for my 40th birthday, I did it.
The first fun part of the adventure was calling the parental unit and letting them know what they would be doing for my birthday. They were going to fly out to help me celebrate, so I wanted them to go dog sledding with me. I just want to say right now how awesome it is that I have parents with a sense of adventure! Hmmm, maybe that's where I got this from?!
They were a little nervous when they heard that I was going to be the driver, but as I mentioned, they were up for it.
Yesterday morning we headed off to the Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours in Canmore. (If ever you want to try this adventure, I highly recommend them! Here's the link for their site: http://www.snowyowltours.com/)
A bunch of us clamoured into the waiting van where our driver was waiting. The first thing I noticed was how enthusiastic he was about the whole dog sled thing - and he was our driver! The rest of the crew at Snowy Owl are just as happy to be doing what they are doing. A good sign.
We got to Spary Lakes and saw the sleds and dogs. Then we were treated to a 1/2 hour talk about what we need to know and the commands. There weren't many commands....but I was still wondering how the heck I was going to remember it all. I'm sure the parental unit were wondering too as they were going to be bundled in the sled.
We got to pet the dogs and say hello - oh they were adorable. Then we were assigned to sled number 2, which was going to head out behind our guide, Bill. (I like to think of him as Grizzly Bill because of his wonderful beard!) This was a good thing because I knew I could just follow what he was doing!
Getting the parental unit into the sled was enough to have me doubled over in laughter. They were squished into the wee sled, then bundled up with blankets and sealed in. We were all laughing hard.
I'm sure my hands were a bit shaking as I stood on the back of the sled, with my feet on the brake waiting for the lead sled to go. We were unhooked from the post and HIKE! off we went.
Some sledding trivia here:
- Much to my disappointment, one does not say "MUSH!" to get the dogs to go. You say 'HIKE or HIKE UP!' in a happy and positive tone, I should add, or else the dogs will ignore you. Really though....they don't need any encouragement to get going, they just want to run.
- EASY PUPPIES, means what it sounds like, go slow. This is good for the downhills; however as noted above, they want to run so they don't really ease up. Therefore you have one foot, or both, on the brake and you continue to hang on for dear life.
- WHOA, means stop....kind off. Again, referring back to point number one, the dogs like to run. So you say that then you practically jump on the brake and let them drag you for a bit while saying in a happy and positive tone 'WHOA PUPPIES, WHOA!' several times.
- They don't use the big siberian huskies for the sleds. Well, they may use a few in the really cold, but here it's not cold enough and the dogs would melt. Also, they are muscle, so you only have a couple of them to help pull. The bigger stronger dogs are put right in front of the sled, not in the lead.
- The other dogs are fairly slight in build, but strong!
- The lead dogs, 9 times out of 10, are female. Why? Becasue they are smarter, of course. Not to mention they have a better sense of direction and when lost will not be afraid to ask for directions....
That's another bit of trivia actually, you do have to do some work. Not only steering, but also pushing. You see, when you get to a bit of an incline, you have to hop off the sled, run beside it and push a bit. If you don't, the dogs will look back around at you so you feel shame of having to make them work hard, and if they see you are not doing your fair share, they will stop.
Good thing I'm fit because on the first hill, which was a bit long, I hopped off and started running, hanging on for dear life, and trying to push. This, apparantly, was not enough effort for a couple of the dogs as they turned around to look at me. 'WHAT??? I'm pushing for the love of Pete!' They must have been ok with that, and heard my huffing and puffing breath, because they kept going. Phew. I was sucking wind at the top of the incline and happy to jump back on.
That's when I asked my folks if they wanted to try driving - they both said no, they were happy where they were. Go figure!
There was one really sharp corner that I was pretty nervous about. Bill, our guide, stopped every now and then to check on us as well as to give extra instruction. There was his sled, ours, and a couple of gals from Boston behind us. The rest of the group was slower.
As we got into the corner I leaned to the far right standing on one side of the sled yelling, in a happy and positive voice, 'GEE PUPPIES! GEE!!' (That means go to the right.) Honestly, there was one point where I wasn't sure we wouldn't go on our side...the folks were thinking that too. But we didn't, thanks to my brilliant driving! (Yes, I told the parental unit that too...I'm such a modest child with no need for acknowledgement..)
The gals behind us weren't so lucky and went over on their side. Well, the sled did, with one of the girls. She said she now knows how a bobsledder feels when they go sliding down the track on their side! Bill had us stop and ran to the rescue. Everyone was okay and there were still lots of smiles.
Soon enough we were all set and ready to go again. It was at this point that I realized I wasn't actually in command of the dogs. We had been 'standing' for a while as the other sled was being righted and my dogs got bored. So they started to go. I was on the brake and yelling 'WHOA' in a happy and positive voice, but they could care less. So Bill got his sled going and I yelled, HIKE, in a quiet, yet still positive and happy voice as if it was really me in control.
I said to my parents, 'Uh, I'm in command. Really.' They both laughed at that one and made comments about sure you are, and no, no, the dogs aren't doing whatever they please... Hmpfff.
After an hour of sledding we were back to the start point. I didn't want to stop. It was invigorating being out in the mountains on a dogsled! I was finally getting a grip on the steering - mainly because I was mimicking what Bill was doing on the lead sled. It worked though! I joked about the next step being the Iditarod. Because after one hour of sledding I'm sure I could totally handle it!
The fun didn't stop with the sledding. The dogs were tied up again and it was now time to unleash the parental unit from their sled coccoon. Easier said than done... I was extending an arm to help pull Mum up and she put her other hand down to get leverage. The sleds are fairly deep. Unfortunately for my Pops she almost put all her weight on his nads. I'm happy to report he's no longer singing sorprano.
All of us were laughing so hard at that that I couldn't pull Mum out and she couldn't push herself out, once she found a more appropriate place to put her hand. Thankfully Dad was laughing too....
Once that little drama was done, we went to join the group to share hot apple cider, cookies and stories of our adventures.
What an amazing way to start off the next decade of my life. MUSH PUPPIES MUSH!!! (I just had to say that once!) Oh, and yes, I'm totally ready to quit my day job and become a sled dog guide!!
Here are some photos from our adventure...
Figure 1: Yours truly at Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours with one of the big dogs...
Figure 2: Me giving scritches to one of the puppies - next thing I new he had his paws on my lap and his face in mine!
Figure 6: The view for the parental unit - puppy arse! Not to mention they flick snow...
Figure 7: My view...
Figure 8: Out on the lake...can you tell the puppies are just waiting to get back to running??
Figure 9: What a view!
Figure 10: Back to the start with our lead dogs, Apache (L), and Excaliber (R).
Figure 11: Our fearless guide Bill, who did an amazing job and made this trip a blast.
Peace out my beautiful friends and go have yourself some adventure!!