More Doggone Fun than a Blog

We bloggers went to the dogs today for the signature event of the Blogs n Dogs conference in Banff. It was a windless, sunny, 20-below perfect day for a sled ride. We bundled into sleds pulled by seven dogs each, expertly handled by the hands at Howling Dog Tours . I rode with Sachiko and Lee LeFever, who in several days will begin a year-long trip around the world, blogging all the way. Our driver was Jared Zayak, and our team of Alaskan Racing Huskies comprised Scoobie, Avalanche, Page, Blizzard, Pine, Tex, and Lily. They were smaller than I expected and looked more like pets than wolves. But they went nuts barking as they were snapped into their harnesses. As my formerly Alaskan friend Kes Woodward predicted, an eerie quiet descended as soon as Jared gave them the command to run. It wasn't "Mush," which disappointed me, more something like "Let's go!" But go they went.

I stood at the back of the sled with Jared (photo left taken by Lee) as our team pulled out of the starting area. I could see there was a sharp right turn at the start of the ride, and for some reason I thought the idea would be to swing out to the left, like you were leaning out on a sailboat when tacking to starboard. This turned out to be exactly the WRONG way to lean, with the result that our sled fell over onto the left side, giving me a sharp bump on the left hip. Jared calmly coached me on the leaning thing as he quickly righted the sled, with Lee and Sachi still aboard, nestled together (see photo at below right) for warmth and perhaps protection against future spills.

We mushed along a hard-beaten snowy road for maybe a half hour before parking the sleds near a lake. Our guides set out what had been advertised as gourmet snacks--
hot chocolate and Tupperware containers of cheese cubes, salmon pieces, beef jerky and some dried fruit. At room temperature we might have felt cranky about this interpretation of the word gourmet, but at 20 below zero it was truly a high feast in the woods.
As we prepared for the return sled ride, Lee asked if I wanted to ride under the blanket this time, and after my bumpy debut I was grateful for the offer, and I could tell he wanted to take a turn standing at the back and helping to push the sled up the hills. The fact that Lee made the offer indicated he had no problem with my riding in cuddly proximity to his wife, but in the event Sachi found it was, actually, more comfortable to sit upright as opposed to leaning back into the arms of a near stranger. As we settled into the situation, I offered the latest in dog-sled lumbar support by pressing my padded fists into her lower back for support.

My only real disappointment was technological. At the gourmet-snack break, I was delighted to find a few bars of cellphone signal, so I began uploading a podcast of barking Huskies to The Chronicles. Before I hit the final pound key, I saw the low-battery warning. When I returned to Lloyd Hall and checked the blog, there was actually an audio file. But it had one lousy bark at the beginning of it, followed by static and one incomprehensible word of my breathless reporting from beside the frozen lake.

Our gang was toting more than the average amount of media gear on the outing, and tonight Eric Rice is going to walk us through a video podcasting routine with whatever he captured on his extreme gear, which included a camera strapped to his head. There is also a pack of photos on Flickr. Try clicking on "View as Slideshow" to enjoy the ride. All around us were sky, trees and snowy peaks across the lake. Back at the campus, I soaked my hip in the Banff Centre's jacuzzi, and it's doing fine.

Tags: blogsndogs

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

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