of the Exhibition
Day 1, Monday, March 8, 1999
It is the morning of our departure from Croinor Adventure where
we meet Flag and Ivan, our outfitters. They are a bit nervous
about traveling with us since we speak little French and they
speak little English. Today, we must learn how to harness the
dogs, how to maneuver the sled through the woods, how to command
the dogs, and how not to lose the sled when (not if) we are tipped
over. Louise, who speaks strong English, teaches the next lesson,
which is the importance of the brakes. With thanks, there are
brakes on the dog sled and it is a necessity to stop the dogs
from pulling us. Now that we have learned how to tie the sled
to the nearest tree if the sled must be abandoned momentarily
it is time to learn why. One by one, on this sunny March morning,
we unchain, harness and rechain each anxious sled dog, preparing
them for todays trek to camp one. Now that they have been
moved into running order, lead dog to main dog, the dogs are visibly
excited about the prospective run through the woods. Theyre
barking and struggling and wagging with anticipation, 35 at a
time. Each of the four sleds and the snowmobile must be ready
to run quickly since the dogs arent willing to wait any
Louise demands I get into the sled quickly and we take off through
the path of birch trees. I hadnt anticipated this but there
was good reason for it. Animals in that state of excitement are
best to be allowed to release their tensions with exercise. This
avoids a dog fight. It seems that people and animals behave similarly.
Once a quarter mile into the trail, Louise stops for a moment
so that I can share the steering with her. Im standing on
the right runner, Louise on the left, our inside hands are overlapped
in the center for stability. Learning the process of turning the
corners is not a natural one. Its taking some training to
get the feel for it and the dogs impatience to run is evident.
Louise and I are enjoying the beautiful winter wonderland as we
ride, talking about Canada, our jobs, our histories and our families.
Racing through the great pine trees, the dogs take a sudden turn
to the right, Louise loses balance and bumps me, whereby I sail
from the sled and learn just how deep the snow is. Thankfully,
there is no lesson for me regarding the hardness of trees. My
estimate on the snow depth is two feet since it was difficult
to see out of when lying face down in it, even after turning my
head to one side.
Pete is not as lucky as I. After all of the sleds catch up, Pete
shares his ripped pant story. It seems a tree pulled him off the
trail while travelling around a corner, and the dogs would not
stop. He was trapped in the same two feet of snow as I with a
branch to his leg and the unstoppable dog team pulling him forward.
This was bonding. Dad had fallen off his sled as well. It seems
the corners are difficult to master. Sam was bringing up the rear
with his sled, although he was so far behind the lead sled that
I barely saw him all day.
We made it to camp for lunch. Here is where the skill of tying
the rope to the tree comes in handy. Once that is done, we tie
the lead dogs to a distant tree, keeping the dogs from packing
together and fighting.
Camp is a thick canvas, two-room tent of semi-permanent appearance.
Flag and Ivan have built the tent by felling pines in the forest,
stripping them of their greens and creating a foundation for the
canvas to be supported by. The stripped greens create an evergreen
scented floor that acts as an insulation for the room and smells
like Christmas. In each half of the tent there is a potbelly wood
stove with a stack of birch next to it. One half of the tent is
the cooking/dining area and the other is where we will sleep.
Our water will come from the pond once the men chop a hole through
the foot-and-a-half-thick surface.
After lunch we decide to travel by dog again for a few more miles
when one of dads dogs gives out from exhaustion. He (the
dog) sheepishly rode on the lead sled back to camp and then by
snowmobile back to the house. Camp is located just off a small
pond called The Pump House. I walked out onto the lake for a few
moments of silence and to see the last moments of the day fade
into peach sky. Soon, Carl, Pete and Sam followed to enjoy the
evening silence as well.
Once dinner is cleared, it is easy to become lost under the sea
of stars in the forest night. The country is beautiful here. There
is well over two feet of powdery white snow and one can see the
wispy effects of northern lights in the distant, starry sky. So
far, we are laughing, relaxing, talking a great deal, getting
used to one another individually, appreciating one another culturally
and making our way through an unfamiliar way of life.
(group image: left to right top row:
Pete, Flag, Carl. left
to right bottom row: