Real Canadians Dog Sled, Don’t They?
Page #3
Things did get easier.We traveled across lake after lake, gaining confidence, exploring nature’s frozen splendor. Our path was intersected by wild game tracks - moose, wolf, lynx, otter, marten and fox. Pure white natural beauty surrounded us as we escaped the last vestiges of human contact by traversing what must have been an impossible portage for snowmobiles. We passed steep rock embankments and saw the evidence of First Nations travelers from the past in the form of Petroglyphs describing their voyages through this land. Burt pointed out many things that we would have otherwise missed.  
Looking good on the lake
Luxurious sleeping quarters.
  At night, we slept in trappers’ log huts or in tents that Burt had erected in the fall. During the first night, after we had taken care of the dogs and had a fine meal, that little cabin felt real cozy. With the portable stove glowing away, I felt so warm I stripped down and used my sleeping bag as a cover. As Burt extinguished the lights for the night, he suggested I just might reconsider and hop back into the bag wearing another layer of clothes. I rolled over against the log interior wall and said something like, "You think us lowlanders are made of jello." Around about the darkest hour, I woke startled from a dream that some large creature was about to crush my right arm.
I rolled over to drop back to sleep – and howled. Burt clicked on the light to find me nursing my frigid throbbing arm. Apparently, balsam fire doesn’t burn very long in a portable stove and the ambient temperature of the cabins was - 25C. Our breath had condensed, frozen to the log walls, and welded my naked arm solidly to the beam. My howl was the result of leaving every hair on my upper arm on the log. Burt chuckled.  
The sled dogs sleep on the line
I found out that deep sub zero temperatures have an effect on other things like dry cell batteries in tape recorders and contact lenses. Both froze up. However, the climate and hard eight to nine hour pulling seemed to have no effect on the dogs. They are an amazing work of God. Unfortunately the same can’t be said of my clothing or sled. Although both were well made, especially the hand made traditional toboggan type sled Burt had personally crafted, my encounters with immovable objects had splintered and fractured the vehicle. Burt used duct tape to make the necessary major repairs.

On the final day of the trip I experienced another high-speed body check by a tree. As usual, my dogs had hung up on the bush just meters away and seemed to be looking back at me with a cross between canine pity and disgust. As I got up, now relatively numb to the experience and groped in the snow for my dislodged gloves, I noticed that this last impact had torn my watch clean off my body. Burt said he would find it in the spring. By now I believed he actually could but I told him not to worry. It would remain forever stopped at that instant on our trail as a memorial to my thick skin and ineptitude.

The end of a great trip
  Marten ran the same gauntlet I did, with the added burden of the flu. He never complained. He had travelled over 12,000 kms for this experience of the Canadian winter wilderness and he had no regrets. Burt emerged from the bush totally unscathed and nonchalant. In reality, Burt was a perfect guide, a skilled outdoorsman, artist, and a gentleman to boot He does this for a living, guiding inexperienced folk like us. He is an expert at it.

I was bruised and tattered. However, I had tasted a new wilderness and tested myself in ways I never had before.

I’ve only one piece of advice to the vacationer who seeks the same rigorous communion with our wilderness by dogsled.

As you dream of stepping back in time to experience the singing sound of the sled runners on crusty snow that indigenous trappers heard many years ago, when you envision your frozen breath merging in a mystical way with the breath of your remarkable team and streaming past you into the wild solitude, remember not to exaggerate your dogsledding skill levels in any letters to your guide.
Burt and his guiding company can be reached at:

Borealis Dog Sled Adventures
Guide: Burton Penner
P.O. Box 303
Vermilion Bay
Ontario, Canada
P0V 2V0

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