Saturday, June 05, 2010

Dog Sledding in Quebec

In 1990, I went on a dog sledding trip in Quebec. I previously posted my pictures here. This was a magnificently beautiful rural region in Quebec near the village of Rapides-des-Joachims ("Swisha"). It really was in the middle of nowhere. The village itself was so remote that they lived in a kind of libertarian anarchy of coexisting French and English speakers. The nearest police were 200 km away. There was no crime to speak of, because the village basically policed itself. I have never heard pure, unadulterated quiet until I took a little walk out of our cabin into the wilderness. The blood in my own veins and my heart beating was all I could hear. It was indescribable. Also, I was the only person who spoke English primarily. The only time anyone spoke English was to converse with me.

The guy on the video "training" me (and what you see really was the extend of my training) was learning English. We had a blast together, as I tried to speak French to his English. When we were stymied, I had a pocket-sized electronic translator that came in handy.

We stayed in cabins, and really did eat boeuf bourguignon and drank wine. I guess North American French people are basically the same, be they Canadians or Cajuns. They love food, music, fun, the outdoors, and joking around. The trails were pretty difficult for beginners. I took several spills, but never let go. My legs were pretty bruised. At one point, we hit a frozen lake, and the dogs "opened up" the throttles to unbelievable speeds. I think aside from eating, that was the dogs' favorite part.

The weather was perfect - sunny and clear, and just below freezing. At night, however, the cabins were pretty brutal by the morning (after the stove went out). We cooked breakfast on the griddle, and sweetened our coffee with maple syrup.

I had no idea until I got there, but a Canadian TV crew from On The Road Again was along for our expedition. There were really only a couple guys, and they were for the most part invisible. They shot their footage and stayed out of the way. The above video is from a VHS of the program - which was copied for me by my friend Jacques - one of the guys on the video who had (has?) a corn farm in Quebec. All things considered, the quality of the video isn't too bad.

Last I checked, Daniel is still a guide in the Dumoine Valley. Les Guides still offer dog sledding and other activities. At the time, Daniel told me about their summer moose expeditions. That sounds pretty cool, you have to admit.

Leo says he would like to go dog sledding. Man, that was twenty years ago, and was a good bit of exertion back then. I guess I had better stay in shape!

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