Scarf wound around my neck, sweater tucked into my winter jacket, fingers snug inside my gloves, booting doing their best to warm my toes, camera bag slung over my shoulder and camera hanging loosely around my neck I was ready to challenge the cold.
Not snow, no I could handle snow but instead a light sprinkling of rain, just enough to let the cold seep into your skin. Still how often would I get the chance to ride in a dog sled. This was one opportunity I would never pass by.
This year’s 23rd annual Gold Rush Trail Sled Dog Mail Run saw 10 teams and one mail carrier on snowshoes taking on the trails.
Though the weather prevented the third leg of the journey to continue as scheduled the 2,164 envelopes carried by dog sled were entrusted to one team on the final day to be transported to Barkerville and handed to postmistress Kerry Onanski where they were then placed in the regular mail and delivered to 29 countries.
Umiti Pit served as the first loop. This was followed by a trek up pine grove mountain towards Hyde Lake on the second, all starting and finishing at Troll Ski Resort.
It was for a portion of the Troll loop that I was able to ride as a passenger, with musher Jeff Dinsdale directing a team of huskies.
As the mushers and their team were preparing for the run, I could hear the excited yips of the dogs, ready and eager to take to the trails.
Having snagged a few pictures of the teams taking off, I quickly took to the trail myself on the back of a snowmobile to get ahead of the mail carriers.
After reaching my designated spot, I waited anxiously, camera in hand, snapping pictures of the oncoming dog sled teams as they passed by.
Finally, Dinsdale arrived and I fumbled my way into the sled bag, mail settled atop my lap, ready for the journey on the final stretch of the trail down Pinegrove Mountain.
The sled took off with a jolt as Dinsdale released the break, small flecks on snow being kicked on my face as the dogs raced along the path.
I held my camera tight as the sled bounded down the trail, faster than I thought possible.
Watching from the sidelines it’s impossible to tell how fast the teams are truly travelling.
The technique and skill required from both musher and dog team was astonishing.
As with any team, training is necessary. To keep his dogs in shape, Dinsdale remarked that he trains at least three times a week.
A slight nervous jolt ran through me the first time the sled drifted towards the tree line, acutely aware that I was zipped up in the sled bag and unable to escape quickly enough if we were to tip. Luckily in the hands of a seasoned musher the ride went off without a hitch.
There was a faint grating sound as we rushed along the trail from the drag and brake it was explained to me.
The musher must watch to see that there is never slack in the line between the wheel dog and the sled. This helps ensure that the sled never came too close to the dog.
With every large clump of snow the sled glided over I could feel a slight shudder, an effort of nature to try and take the team off course but with each bend in the trail and bump in the road the experienced team glided along the path seemingly effortlessly.
The team raced to the finish line and I, not so gracefully, clambered out of the sled, marking the end of the Troll loop and the end of my sled dog experience, at least for now.