Mushing has been a part of my life ever since I first moved to Sweden. I went dogsledding on all my winter trips to the north and looked forward to it every time again. When PJ and I worked our first guiding season in Lapland two people had left just as we came and the kennel was understaffed. We spent a lot of time helping out, taking care of the 130 huskies that lived with us. We were actually working with snow mobile, cross country ski, snowshoe and ice fishing activities. But it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I liked being with the dogs much more.
I’ve long had a fascination with northern Europe. Northern Norway is a piece of paradise on earth: a place where sharp white capped mountains border the sea, where desolate valleys see few people if any at all. Northern Sweden is another thing: the frozen forests of Swedish Lapland make for a magical place in winter. The mighty rivers fall silent under the ice, the trees are covered in a blanket of fluff and the lakes appear to be endless white plains. PJ and I worked with sleddogs in this silent world for three years.
Lapland has been a path with many ups and downs. I think it’s fair to say that during our time there, we experienced both some of the best and the darkest days of our lives. We lived in pretty rudimentary circumstances without running water or power and with an outhouse for a toilet. For years to come we’ll be grateful for a warm toilet that we can reach without even putting our socks on. Just like that, life will be good.
We left the north after three seasons. There’s an incompatibility between animals and mass-tourism and in the end we couldn’t justify working there anymore. For nearly three years we did other things. But I always loved seeing everyone’s photos of the dogs. I missed them. Huskies have such a dignity to them, such character. I always figured I’d have at least one at some point, some retired sled dog.
We took Bull with us while stuck in Sweden on our Norway crossing. I guess that was the beginning of it. It was really cool having him, we took him skiing and running and hiking all along. But one is just one and it’s hard to go sledding with one retired dog. So I started dreaming. And then planning. And then buying equipment. Until one day there was a house in the woods, eight dogs in their kennels and a bunch of sleds under what once was a chicken pen.
The team evolved from eight to fourteen. Twelve dogs in training and two retired ones. It’s a strange thought now to think that I wouldn’t have the dogs. What would I be doing then? There doesn’t seem to be an alternative. Or not an equally exciting one, at least.
After all the wanderings of the past few years I didn’t quite expect to end on a gravel road in the hilly outskirts of Hallingdal. But I’m happy about it. The people are good, the mountains are good and the dogs are good. For the next few years I aim to improve our training and build a good team to race and go on expeditions with. One day, maybe we’ll be in Alta on the starting line of Finnmarksløpet. That day I look forward to.
I published a list of gear we use during the cold winter months, you can find the link at the bottom of this page.
Introducing our dogs
The key to keeping warm in the extreme cold is layers, layers and more layers. Starting from the 3 layer principle, we always wear a base, a middle, and a shell layer to protect us. On days where temperatures drop below -30ºC or even -40ºC, this can be extended to 5 or 6 layers, with… Continue reading Mushing Gear List