travel

Dogs, Beers, and Bumpy Roads

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

Saturday was what I would call a real adventure. Jam packed to say the least, and filled with all my favourite things: exploring, new experiences, beautiful mountains, pretty lakes, road trips, and of course, beer. Today is my boyfriend’s birthday (yes, he is feelin’ 22), and our adventure on Saturday was my early birthday present to him. I purchased two spots for us to go dog sledding for the morning (yes, that’s most definitely a thing in Canada!), and it lasted about 2 hours. We chose “Howling Dog Tours” in Canmore, and hit the road at 10 a.m. to make it to the office by 11 a.m.

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

You see, I have finally started to realize the value in spending money on experiences, rather than “things” for presents for loved ones, and I’m fortunate enough that my boyfriend agrees with me on this one. How often do you get a birthday present, only to end up donating it, or forgetting about it one year later? Spending money on an experience on the other hand will allow you both to participate in a shared activity and memory. When you’re 85 and looking back at your life, chances are you’ll remember the time you went bungee jumping, scuba diving, or dog sledding for your birthday before you remember that expensive watch or sweater you were given. We’ve become a culture that is so fixated on proving our love through the purchase of material items that we’ve become blind to the fact that this is exactly what society wants us to be doing with our money.

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

Dog sledding was incredible. It was definitely different than I expected, but it was an terrific experience nonetheless. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I love animals (all animals; hence why I don’t eat them), so this was a pretty great opportunity for me to spend some time around some energetic dogs who love to be outside, and of course, run.

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

Now before you ask me, I did think about the idea of cruelty with regards to animals being used for entertainment purposes. Are the dogs mistreated? Are they worked to death? Are they hurt in the process? I looked closely for answers to these questions while on my tour and afterward, I came to a few different conclusions. Yes, some of the practices that they use to keep the dogs calm and in control (i.e. leashing them or keeping them in kennels while they are not running a sled) seemed a bit extreme to me, but on the flip side, I could honestly see that the company loves these dogs like family and that the dogs themselves live to run. It’s in their nature, and it runs in their blood. They howled and barked so loud while we stopped only because they wanted to keep going.

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

So while I went back and fourth in my mind and wondered whether a dog should really be pulling a sled 4 times a day for ten years for groups of tourists, I did witness many more pros than I did cons. Plus, I was pretty happy to know that many of the dogs the company receives are retired from professional dog sledding teams and they get to live out the remaining years of their lives doing what they love in a less exhausting way.

The loop we went on was 10km in length and we stopped halfway for a break. Our team had five dogs: Oats, Flurry, Wilma, Thor, and Oakley. The dogs ran at a speed of about 8-15 km an hour during the trip, which was a nice leisurely pace for both us and them considering the path wasn’t exactly bump-free. The best part about the trip, surprisingly, was not the views, or even being pulled, it was getting to know the dogs on our team and their different personalities—and let me tell you, our team was full of personality.

If you’ve never heard 30+ sled dogs get excited all at once to go for a run, you’re missing out.

After dog sledding, we headed to the local brewery in Canmore, the Grizzly Paw for a pint of beer. This place has a wicked selection of craft beers, but regardless, I always go with my favourtie, the raspberry ale. The sun was shining, it was 6 degrees Celsius (impressively warm for Alberta at this time of year) and we were actually able to stand outside and chat over our drinks. Talk about pure bliss.

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

After our beers, my boyfriend came up with idea of going on a little adventure along the road that we took to the start of our dog sledding tour. It was a fairly remote dirt road and we travelled along it for roughly 25 minutes past Canmore in the Howling Dog Tours van . While driving along this elevated winding road, we zipped past multiple stunning lakes and valleys. Unfortunately, you couldn’t see much through the van because the company’s logo was plastered along each side, covering the windows too, and of course, we didn’t stop to take pictures along the way. By venturing there ourselves, we’d have plenty of opportunity to stop and take pictures. I’m always up for an adventure, so I agreed to his idea without hesitation.

As it turned out, that road took us on a journey to much more than what we had seen through the logo covered windows of the Howling Dog Tours van. We ended up driving along the dirt road for about an hour until we met up with the main highway once again, which took us back to Calgary. There were mountain views the entire way, blue lakes, frozen lakes, and a lot of off roading fun. If you’re looking to travel this road yourself, I highly suggest you have a durable car that has four by four capabilities in case there’s a lot of snow (side note: there is also the possibility that the road could be closed, so always check before you go!). Part way along you may grow tired of the relentless bumps and gravel, but the remoteness of the drive is certainly worth the rough journey.

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

Roslyn's dog sledding photo

We took the 742 out of Canmore until we hit the 40 at Peter Lougheed Provincial Park and turned left to get back to the main highway. The road spits you back next to a Casino, where you will merge back on to the number 1 back to Calgary. Along the way you will pass Spray Lakes, Whitemans Pond, Goat Pond, Three Sisters peaks, and so many opportunities to stop and hike if you want to make a day trip out of it.

Would I recommend dog sledding? Yeah, I think I definitely would. It isn’t cheap, but it is worth the money if you’re into that kind of unconventional activity. The drive afterward completed the trip, and I highly suggest you try it out for yourself the next tim you happen to be in the Canmore area.

Until next time,

Roslyn