Don't Eat Yellow Snow!

Haliburton Travel Blog

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Our Motel
So, my body hurts everywhere, I have a HUGE bruise on my left arm and I'm knackered............but it was FANTASTIC!!!!

Yesterday we went up to the bus station and caught a Can-Ar bus (coach to us brits) up to Haliburton, which took 4 1/2 long hours with several stops to pick people up on the way. The journey wasn't too bad, I had my MP3 with me so I was listening to music most of the way and once we got close we starting to see proper snow so we got all excited and peered out the windows grinning like loons for the end part. The bus got in at 9.30pm and terminated right next to our motel (The Silver Maple) which was handy. We stood outside the office unsure whether to enter as it was festooned with mobile ads and pictures offering the latest deals.
The sign says it all!
We walked round the site and figured it had to be so trooped in to find out. As we opened the door a bell pinged announcing us and a guy came shuffling out to greet us. We had to say our names three times and said we had a room booked but I don't think he understood us, unless its the custom to have a customer's name in the book next to one room then when they arrive put them into different room?!

After we had checked out our room we pulled on our winter gear again and went out to explore the town. Turns out it didn't take much exploring! It was very small, everything centred around one main road with just a few shops set back along the ajoining road. Everything was layered in snow, making it very pretty (ok prettier) and it was so quiet. There was no traffic, no planes flew overhead the entire time and there were very few people out and about.
Husky!


The next day we set our alarm for 9am so we could get breakfast and shop for a few things before we had to get ready for sledding. We went to the 'Kosy Korner' for breakfast where it seems the population of the whole town had congregated for breakfast. Everyone seemed to know each other and there was plenty of loud and genial greetings going on. We sidled into a booth and took a look at the menu, I silently said a prayer hoping to find a veggie option and what do you know there was. Just the one mind but it was there and for that I was thankful. I have never before been so glad to eat egg & toast! Though we did have a bit of a funny/akward moment when the waitress asked how we liked our eggs. The first thought that sprang into my mind was of course 'unfertilized' but I decided to bite my tongue instead of airing my humour (she looked like she would not just spit on my food but actually deficate too) and let Rachel ask what she meant.
Me resting, shortly before getting dumped on my butt
Apparently 'over easy' means runny so we both said yes and stored this tidbit of information away so we wouldn't look like idiots next time. After breakfast we wandered down to the supermarket and picked up some lunch, the only thing lunch like I could find that I wouldn't have to prepare myself was an uninspiring salad with two unidentified dips.

At 1pm our cab arrived to take us up to the Winterdance Dog Sledding site, a bumpy 35 minute journey through which I was alternately facinated by the surroundings and terrified by the speed we were going on rather icy and perilous roads. Somehow we managed to arrive in one piece and half hour before our appointed time so we got to see one of the guys take a sled of 12 dogs out, closely followed by a cameraman sitting rather uncomfortably on the back of a ski-doo.
My new friend
Hank, one of the guys that runs Winterdance is going to be competing in a local Dog Sled competion in a couple of weeks time and the news station wanted to do an item on him. Apparently he has just completed a 300 mile race and will shortly be entering a 400 mile race (that lasts 3 1/2 days!) As we were so early we got to check out the dogs, some laying quietly, others very vocal in their boxes which was sited on the back of a 4x4 pick up truck. Winterdance own 120 purebred Siberian Huskies which they breed themselves and never sell any.

We had booked for a two hour trip so the guys that had booked for a half day were getting their instructions before us but we got to help hold the dogs while the teams were being set up. I got asked to hold the lead dog while the others were being put into their harnesses and hooked up to the sled.
The frozen lake
What the guys failed to mention is that the dogs pee quite a lot, and I was used as a lamp post. Yes I got peed on! All over my left foot and leg. Unfortunatly it wasn't the last time either. Beware the yellow snow!

Not long after the half day trippers had left the other two people that had booked for the two hour arrived and we got started on our instruction. Our guide, Mike, first taught us about the sled and how our dogs will be connected. We were to have a 5 dog team, two in front, one in the middle and two at the back. Two people per sled, one in the basket and one driving. The driver gives commands to the dogs and the passenger sorts out any problems that may occur with the dogs, i.e. any ropes getting tangled etc. The driver is to stay holding onto the sled at all times, golden rule! The sled had a sharp ,curved, two pronged hook that you could drive into the ground to anchor the sled should you need to but we were told not to use this, to just keep two feet on the brake when stopped.
I'm not going to trespass!
We were also told that even if the sled tipped not let go as the dogs would keep running and running. We then learned the 5 commands to us with the dogs. 1, Hike - This tells the dogs that you want them to start moving and then when you give the sled a push they will start pulling it. 2, Easy - This tells the dogs to slow down and then you place one foot on the brake to slow the sled down (thus not running into the back of the dogs). 3, Whoa - This command gets the dogs to stop and we place two feet on the brake to keep the dogs from shooting off with the sled when we are not ready. 4, On By - This is used if the dogs get distracted by something and tells them to move on. 5, Stop Chewing - Some of the dogs have a tendancy to chew at the ropes attaching them to the sled, this tells them off!

After this the guys got our dogs ready (and I got peed on again). Our team was, Front Right - Casper, a big white & pale grey male that apparently had 'mental issues', he was born under a full moon on Halloween, so I'm told. Front Left - Shyla, a dark grey & white female, very placid. Middle - Nyla, a dark grey & white female and Shyla's sister. Rear Left - Rusty , a light brown & white male. Rear Right - Unfortunately I never learned this guys name but he was a chunky light grey & white male with a poorly eye.

Driving a sled is pretty hard work, we had several steep inclines we had to get up and for most of them I had to run and push the sled up, as  pulling mine and Rachel's combined weight up was seemed to be beyond them. There were a few points where they just stopped dead and looked back at me with an expression of 'you gotta be kidding right?" on their faces. Thus, me running up a hill puffing and panting like a madman, gulping in huge mouthfuls of air only for it to feel like I was swallowing sandpaper. Clearly I'm in peak physical condition! We did get to go over a huge frozen lake that had a thick layer of snow over it and it was magical. The surroundings were breath takingly beautiful, with not a thing to be heard except the dogs feet crunching through the snow and the swish of the sled as it trailed them.

On our way back we had a bit of a mishap. Rachel was driving at the time and I was riding in the basket. As we came back up to the lake the dogs did a rather sharp turn, causing the sled to tip and I found myself uncerimoniously dumped face first into a pile of snow! Instinctively I put my left arm out to cushion the fall but because it was snow my hand went straight through and the sled came down on top of me, crushing my upper arm for a few moments. The dogs were still moving so the sled was pulled off me but as I had been instructed I was hanging on with my right hand so I got dragged along too. The sled was tipped on its side and was traveling at a slower pace than before but it was still quite fast. Rachel had let go of the sled completely when it had tipped and I realised that if I let go too there would be nothing to stop the dogs shooting off so I grit my teeth and somehow hauled myself to the back of the sled, managing in the process to avoid being skewered by the curved hook that had been knocked off and was dragging six inches away from my face. Using the dogs momentum I tipped the sled upright and jammed my feet onto the brake. It was exhilirating but a little more action than I had bargained on! The rest of the journey back was pretty uneventful.

After we got back to town I jumped into the shower to defrost my solid chunks of ice that used to be feet and when I was feeling halfway warm again we headed back into town to a chinese restaurant I'd spotted on the way back. It turned out to be a really nice, small place (it felt like we were in their house) with huge portions for the same amount in dollars that we would pay in pounds, result! I stuffed myself silly, we had two huge spring rolls each then I had tofu and veg, it was very good!

After catching the 8am bus we are now back in Toronto. We plan to do Niagra Falls on Monday then head up to Montreal on Tuesday.
Stay tuned!

Aopaq says:
Sounds like you are a real musher now! :) Of course the true indication is when the dogs "know" not to pee on you and you can break up any "discussions" without getting punctured. I enjoyed reading about your adventure!
Posted on: Jan 24, 2008
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Our Motel
Our Motel
The sign says it all!
The sign says it all!
Husky!
Husky!
Me resting, shortly before getting…
Me resting, shortly before gettin…
My new friend
My new friend
The frozen lake
The frozen lake
Im not going to trespass!
I'm not going to trespass!
Haliburton
photo by: portia