We managed to get some spots on a dog sled ride with Wapusk Adventures on our second day in Churchill. The rides are offered by David Daley, a charismatic and confident Metis man that initiated the Hudson Bay Quest race in 2004. Rather than give you a biography, I refer to you this Frontiers North blog that does a great job explaining what Dave and his team (humans and dogs) are about and how much love and respect there is for these incredible canine athletes.
These dogs are born wanting to run, and are happiest when out pulling sleds. Their excitement was palpable and contagious.
While waiting for our turn to ride a sled, I noticed several Gray Jays flying nearby from tree to tree. Some of Dave’s dog handlers were feeding them out of their hands. It was reminiscent of some Florida Scrub Jays.
I also caught a very brief glimpse of a Boreal Chickadee – a species that I missed while in Minnesota this past February – but then it was our turn to ride the sled! I took a video of the 1+ mile lap we did, but it is a little shaky (especially toward the end)
Wapusk Adventures jokingly calls this the “Ididamile” and even had some novelty certificates printed up. But behind this showman exterior, Dave is a competitor and driven individual. He’s run his dog teams on some long treks (and does all he can to keep them healthy and happy).
We learned quite a bit about dog sleds and how they work together in teams. Lead dogs are in front, followed by point dogs. Next are the team dogs, and then those closest to the sled are the wheel dogs. Wheel dogs are usually the thoughest dogs, as they feel every movement and resistance of the sled more than the other dogs. But they are all necessary for a good team. Every dog has a personality and strength that is accommodated, and even which dogs run together is a function of how they get along. It’s pretty remarkable. Our teams were small, so the point and team dog positions were combined. Here’s a good page on dog sled positions: https://iditarodoutsider.wordpress.com/tag/sled-dog-positions/.
Another special day and good fun in the frozen north!