After having been in the kennel and on short tours during November, December and January I had really itchy feet. The trails I was running only made me grasp at the vast wilderness out there, and I could only imagine how nice it must be to go out and get lost into those endless hills I could see from my sled.
Lucky for my part, February was a very heavily booked month that pushed us to the limits of available guides. PJ had been on one three day tour during December, but I was still patiently waiting, mentioning every once in a while that I could a take a tour if the need was there. So when one of the guides got stuck in the mountains I was sent out on a two hours notice. And that was the start of a few weeks of exploring those hills I had been staring at all winter long.
From there I had a sequence of two and three day tours for a few weeks to come. Honestly, I have been pretty lucky with most of my guests, and many people were very open to the idea of going exploring. Plus, they were good drivers, which is a comfort if you don’t know where you’re heading. Most of them actually loved it quite a bit. “Ok guys, I’ll go and ask for a few directions, I have no idea where we will be going today but I’m sure we’ll end up somewhere at some point.” I guess that it increases the sense of adventure for them, too, to follow a guide on unknown territory.
In the beginning of the season I had been talking to some guides on how they find new trails. Some said they just go, and if they don’t find a loop around they simply turn the sleds and come back. It seemed rather brave to me at the time, to go out into nowhere with a whole bunch of dogs and people that are completely reliant on you without knowing where you’ll end up. But after a while it felt like it actually might be a lot of fun. That trail mindset popped back up: wherever we’ll end up we’ll find the way back, and whatever the problem is, we’ll fix it.
And so from exploring little side trails and then going back on the beaten track PJ and I both evolved into driving whole days into the unknown, sometimes with a hand-written map and some explanations that make lots of sense afterwards, sometimes on hunches and a general sense of direction. And whenever we didn’t know, we relied on our leader dogs to bring us to somewhere we would know again. Did that always go according to plan? Of course not.
Sometimes I ended up at C trying to go from A to B. Sometimes I wasn’t sure where I ended up at all. But getting lost exploring is just as much fun as realising you found the way again. I have really come to love this area for its amazing variety of trails, and mostly for its vast, endless network of them. There is always something new to discover, I have still only seen a little bit of what is out there. And somewhere in the middle of it there is a mysterious horse farm, that both of us always pass on completely random moments and when we are going the completely wrong way.
We have lost sleds, that luckily showed up again with all dogs unharmed. One of my runaway sleds ran over a kid, which made my heart skip a beat. He was a very brave boy, this Marcus, and though his knee was blue he was making jokes himself about it only a few minutes after. It’s a steep learning curve, and though getting yourself into trouble is very stressful you learn for the next round.
I had a really good time and enjoyed many good laughs with my guests, especially when we got lost. I climbed beautiful hills with them and enjoyed some stunning panorama’s over the area. To me however one of the most beautiful things about it is how you develop a deep band of trust with your leader dog. Though Karo will forever be a stubborn Greenlander, and though she loves chasing reindeer whenever we pass them, I have come to appreciate and rely on her so much.
I love driving down the hills with the mighty Torne river far down, and I love seeing the mountains shining white in the distance. The season is not over yet, and hopefully there will be some more sledding to come.