Each year, a group of Ridleians venture north for a weekend of adventure on the annual dogsledding trip. This trip is offered to participants of the Duke of Ediburgh’s Award, and helps the students not only receive their medals but also experience an opportunity of a lifetime with their friends, connect with nature and witness the beauty of Canada.
On February 11th, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award group, comprised of 17 students and their chaperones, Mr. Clyde Dawson and Ms. Caleigh Flagg, left for South River, just south of North Bay – four and a half hours by school bus. Upon arriving at Chocpaw (the dogsledding company), we received an hour instruction and then off we went to the kennel, where 380 dogs greeted us with an accolade of barking. We packed and hooked up 12 sleds, each with five or six teams of dogs, and proceeded on the first 20 km part of our trip. We arrived at camp and immediately unpacked, setup camp and prepared dinner.
The next morning was a comfortable minus 30 degrees and we once again packed, hooked and left for the second camp – CHAR, 15 km deep in Algonguin Park. It was a beautiful day with snowfalls and scenery that could only be experienced, never adequately described. Once again we unhooked, fed, watered and bed the 78 dogs before unpacking and preparing dinner.
Saturday morning was a shock to the system with temperatures hovering around minus 40 to 45 degrees. The guide and I (Mr. Dawson) decided to allow the students to sleep-in, with the hope that the rising sun would make the day a little more bearable. After breakfast, the temperature did rise to minus 35 degrees and the students proceeded to gather wood in the forest, retrieve water from the lake, care for the dogs and build a campfire. The temperature had no affect on the students’ spirits; we enjoyed pushing each other in the snow while carrying wood cut by Andrew (our guide) a quarter of a mile, to the sleds. Others scooped water into 12 liter canteens from a hole cut in the lake by another guide, Adelia. The students then carried the water in pairs 100 meters up a hill to the camp. It was too cold with the wind-chill factor to go sledding, so the students took the dogs for a walk, gave them some very appreciated affection, cleaned the beds, refreshed the straw and continued with snow festivities throughout the day.
Sunday was a busy day with packing, hooking and traveling 35 km back to the kennel, where they would conclude their trip.
Throughout the adventure, the students were positive, enthusiastic and helpful, and the laughter and smiles never faded; of course that might have been because their faces were frozen. Whatever the case, it was a great trip!
Mr. Clyde Dawson, Department of Visual and Performing Arts