Dog Sledding in Algonquin Park

Last weekend I checked another bucket item off my list; dog sledding. My friend Karin and I spent the weekend up in Huntsville, Ontario, and most of Saturday in Algonquin Park.

We met at the head of Big Pines Trail and received a quick lesson on dog sledding; essentially our driver’s Ed in the world of Huskies and snow, with Snow Forest Adventures.

It was an amazing day of highs and lows (literally–I went face-first into the snow), and non-stop laughing. After it was all said and done, I can list a few things that I would have done differently, but I’d definitely like to try it again.

We started out in the bright and sunny parking lot of Big Pines Trailhead, all geared up and ready to go. The sun may have been glaring down at us, but looks can be deceiving. It was a bone-chilling -27C, and I had already lost feeling in my toes.

Our underlying urge to hit the trails over-powered our fear of frostbite, and we braved our way through the chill. Our guides gave us a quick, but very detailed run-through of all things dog sled. They explained everything from breaking to dog-commands, and answered every question that we had (and there were many).

Once we thought that we had completed our “Driver’s Ed“, it was onto the real thing. Only, this wasn’t a test, we were ready to hit the trails!

With Karin standing on the back of the sled, I started out in the basket to get out of the parking lot.

“Okay, let’s go!”

The dogs sprang forward. It was as if they has been sleeping for the past week, and this was their first time out of the kennel. They had so much pent up energy that they howled and yipped, hopping up in the air as they pulled the sled forward.

Karin touched on the break, and they only pulled harder. They were so excited that you could just see the joy in their faces, as they shook their heads from side to side and pranced along in a dancing-trot.

“WOAH!”

We pulled to a stop so that I could hop out of the basket and onto the back of the sled with Karin. It was a bit awkward.

We tried it out for awhile, but we couldn’t seem to get the hang of it. We were a little off balance, and neither of us could seem to get a proper hold on the handlebar. Our guides in front of us seemed to manage themselves perfectly, as they slid along, both perched on the back. We were not so graceful.

I assume that it would be easy for people with more coordination than us, but at that point I decided to hop back in the basket.

Okay, let’s go!

We started again. We pulled out into our first big clearing, a small frozen lake, surrounded by pine trees. Pine trees seemed to be the theme of the day, as we were on Big Pines Trail… they were everywhere.

We started to go a little faster and the wind started to pick up with the speed. Standing on the back, with her hands on the bar, Karin’s fingers got cold first.

Sitting in the basket, unable to do much moving, my legs started to shiver. I turned around to see Karin, and we both just made funny faces, in the cold. The laughing started.

We were sliding along for a good twenty minutes, when Karin couldn’t feel her foot any more. She tried running along with the sled and pushing off the ground with one foot, but it started to hurt. We decided to switch places.

I stepped on the back, in front of Karin, and then she stepped off behind me. Suddenly, the entire sled lurched forward. I could barely hold on, and I was starting to lose my grip. The dog had felt the shift in weight, and knew that there was nothing holding them still anymore.

I knew that if nothing else, the only rule that I had to follow was not to let go of the sled.

As my fingers started slip, I took one last jump forward, and lost the last of my balance at the same time. My feet hit the moving ground, and kicked out from under me.

I was still holding on. Dragging along, hands first, I yelled out to anyone that could stop the sled. Just as I opened my mouth, the sled tipped over and I went face first into a large snow bank. I ate snow.

Even though it was only a few seconds, it felt like I was being pulled through a pool of cold, white fluff. I never let go. Luckily the guides had stopped their sled, and one had ran back just in time to stop our dogs. Everything was white. I rolled over, out of the snow bank and looked at the scene in front of me.

I burst out laughing. I couldn’t believe what had just happened, and each time I relived the moment in my head, I started laughing even harder.

Karin finally caught up to us, after she had been left behind when she stepped off earlier. She was laughing just as hard, as she saw the whole scene from behind. We regrouped ourselves, and decided it would be best if I stayed in the basket for now. I hopped back in.

We rode along for a long time, enjoying the dense Ontario forest and looking at tree after tree whir by that was blanketed in thick snow. It was peaceful to be in the middle of nature, knowing that there was nothing around for miles.

We were quite surprised with how smart the dogs really were. Their commands were “gee” and “haw” for right and left turns, and they actually listened to them. At one point, we came to a fork in the path, and weren’t sure which way our guides had gone.

The dogs started down one path, until we noticed the footprints and trail going in the opposite direction.

Haw! Haw! we cried, and they immediately turned.

We zipped over more frozen lakes and wide clearings, and up and down over many small hills. The trail would narrow as the path would wind through dense trees, and snow shook off the pine needles as we passed by. These were my favourite areas because they looked like something out of a fairytale.

Suddenly, I heard a small cry in the distance. What was that? It sounded like a person, but why would anyone be out here? I looked at the dogs in front of me, and they didn’t seem to notice either.

I swivelled to look at Karin. She wasn’t there.

WOAH!!

I yelled at the dogs. they kept running. I spun around in the basket and saw Karin lying on the ground way behind us on the trail. She had fallen off.

WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!

I just kept yelling at the dogs. They didn’t stop.

I couldn’t even see our guides at this point, so I knew that I would have to take control. I pulled myself into a standing position on the moving sled, inside the basket, and turned around. Karin was getting smaller in the distance.

I knew that I had to step on the break. Stretching one leg over the edge, I launched myself onto the back end in one swooping motion.

In my head, it felt like I had pulled some crazy Mission Impossible-style manoeuvre; in all likelihood, I probably just appeared like some kind of desperate spider monkey.

I stomped on the breaks and stopped the sled.

Eyes wide, as Karin caught up to us in the snow, we looked at each other. Once again, we were in disbelief of what had just happened. Laughter. I couldn’t fall down laughing at this point, because I was holding the sled, but I wanted to. We both laughed so hard, and the dogs seemed to yip long in chorus. We they laughing at us?

Somehow we managed to recuperate and get back onto the sled. From that point forward, I kept asking Karin if she was still on the sled about every 5 minutes.

I would sporadically bursting out into laughter as I imagined Karin falling off into the snow and watching the sled disappear down the trail. Then Karin would start laughing again, and we would just lose it.

We tried to have both of us riding on the back again for awhile, so that the same thing wouldn’t happen another time.

As we neared the parking lot, we both agreed that it was a really fun time. We had some great shots, and, as cheesy as it sounds, enough hilarious memories to last a life time.

I would 100% never consider the falling incidents as a negative aspect, because they made the trip that much more exciting. We were both shaking with adrenaline by the time the sled pulled to a stop, and already discussing whether or not we would do it again in the future.

Having truly enjoyed the entire experience, I would highly recommend it to anyone.

Now that I’ve tried it for myself, I would like to share a few tips on things that I might have done differently myself:

I sincerely hope that you will get the chance to try dog-sledding yourself, and suggest that you go with Snow Forest Adventures in Algonquin Park.

The staff are super friendly and will make sure that you are fully comfortable with everything that you will be doing. Happy Sledding!

This trip was made possible by Ontario Outdoor.
All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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9 Responses to “Dog Sledding in Algonquin Park”

  1. Kristy
    January 21, 2012 at 8:47 pm #

    Ha! Hilarious post. I love Algonquin. Never been there in the winter, but it looks absolutely beautiful! Had no idea they did dog sledding, but it looks like a lot of fun. Your pictures are stunning! What camera do you use?
    Kristy recently posted..Snake Blood and Bones in Hanoi, Vietnam

    • Seattle
      January 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

      This was my first time there in Winter, and yesss beautiful! I never really knew about the dog sledding there either until I did a little browsing around; so fun 😀
      I used a Nikon D300!

  2. Sam
    January 22, 2012 at 12:31 am #

    Great post. We’d love to go dog sledding, looks like a lot of fun. I’ve heard the dogs are really fun to interact with.
    Sam recently posted..Islands in the Sky Section of Canyonlands National Park

    • Seattle
      January 22, 2012 at 12:47 am #

      I hope that you get to try it out! The dogs were amazing, and so friendly. I didn’t focus on them much in this post, because I plan on making another post just about them :]

  3. Annette | Bucket List Journey
    January 22, 2012 at 11:27 pm #

    What an entertaining post! Dog sledding is definitely on my list of things to do and thanks for the tip about extra gloves 😉
    Annette | Bucket List Journey recently posted..Annette’s ABCs of Travel

    • Seattle
      January 23, 2012 at 12:07 am #

      *Fingers crossed that you get to try it* 😀

  4. James - Ouroyster.com
    February 12, 2012 at 9:07 am #

    I love the photos they look so dreamlike. I would love to try dog sledding as well. Think I will have to wait until we get to Canada though 🙂
    James – Ouroyster.com recently posted..James’ travel manifesto

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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