“I would get shot if I ran my dogs over a ski path.”
I can feel both the smile and severity in Dag’s voice as he answers my question. Norwegians are serious Nordic skiers, I know. But today we are dog mushing, not skiing. And occasionally we cross over what look to be narrow parallel tracks in the fluffy white snow. But apparently they are not ski tracks. At least not the groomed ones that are so well manicured by the skiers.
Although we are in Norway now, we have been based in the northern tip of Finland, in the region known as Lapland. We’ve just come up to meet Dag and take a ride with his huskies. There are about 40 dog houses in his expansive backyard. When we arrive, all the dogs are barking and jumping enthusiastically, rattling their chains. They sense that it’s almost go time.
To say they are energetic would be an understatement.
“These dogs were born to run.” Dag tells me. “Keeping them inside is animal cruelty.” His dogs are mix of Alaskan husky and other breeds. Why don’t any of them look like the pretty huskies with think, shiny coats? Those are “Hollywood huskies” as Dag call them. They’re for the movies.
It’s a big job to take care of these animals, and it’s not even his full time work. For his “day job” he’s a music teacher. He has a couple volunteers from Europe that live with him and his family for the season. They feed the dogs and run them on a daily basis in exchange for food and accommodation. Right now there’s a German and Swiss. Both women.
It’s not an easy climate to live in, but it sure is beautiful here. In the late fall, the terrain is still not covered with enough snow, so we must resort to using the wheeled “sleds”. It may not be as romantic a notion as sledding across packed snow, but it certainly is as much fun.
I really didn’t expect to love it this much. My smiling face across the whole 22 kilometer trip was probably the giveaway. Dag even let me take the reins for a while. It’s funny. You’d think you’d have to yell at the dogs to get moving, but it’s actually the opposite. You need to hold the breaks hard and slowly let off when you want to move.
For the whole two hours we went across fields, over the river, and through patches of birch forest. It was pretty cold considering the fact that you’re just riding, wind in your face, sitting there not moving. But we dressed extra warm and then put snow suits on top.
After the trip we stood by the outdoor fire pit drinking tea, trying to warm up as we chatted. At this time year there isn’t much daylight up at these northerly latitudes. Tana, Norway is at about 70 degrees north; way above the Arctic Circle. But it all ads to the adventure. How many times can you say you were in the Arctic in winter?
Visit Dag’s Tana Husky on Facebook or book with Aurora Holidays for the week. Besides the husky trip, Tiina from Aurora will take you out the see the northern lights a few nights, and maybe even let you taste some reindeer meat! Dag is a pretty interesting guy with lots of stories, so make sure you have a chat with him. He also does multi day trips which sound like an incredible adventure.
Read more about my Week in Northern Lapland in winter.
I have never been dog mushing. Is there any ryme to the order of the dogs on mush? Like are there lead dogs?
Yes, Edwin! There are Wheel dogs, Swing dogs, Team dogs, and Lead dogs. See this handy chart: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushing#/media/File:Mushing_graphicx.JPG Which dog are you? 🙂