I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Shonah turns 25 today. Wow. I can't believe that my baby is 25. Christopher, my eldest, is turning 30 in September. Life is going by way. too. fast.

Shonah arrived from Kelowna last night and we talked and talked for a couple of hours before heading off to bed as we had an early alarm.

As we are getting ready, Shonah tells me that she wants to know what we are doing because she can't get excited about the day, really. So I tell her that we are going DOG SLEDDING!! She is SO excited to hear it. She says "I knew it!" and I ask how she could possibly have known. She says that she tried to think about what there was to do on a mountain that we all would enjoy and that was what she came up with. Her only doubt was that she wasn't sure you could dogsled around here. She says that she has been telling her friends at work for the past three months that she wants to go dog sledding but the only way she figured she could was to go up north in winter and she didn't want to do that. She really is excited and now grinning from ear to ear and can't wait to get going.

We are out of the door by 7:45 and stop at Tim Hortons for breakfast to go. We get downtown to pick up Christopher and Isolde by 8:20 but are kept waiting till 8:45 for them to come down. We meet Rob and Ashleigh at the gas station in North Vancouver, just up the road from where they live, and fill up both cars. They are taking their own car up to Whistler as they have to leave as soon as we are done because they have a ferry to catch to Vancouver Island to go surfing for a few days.

It is really raining hard for most of the drive up to Whistler and I am so disappointed but hoping that it turns to snow by the time we get there, and it does. We check into the Outdoor Adventures office and, once we've all signed waivers and paid, we are loaded into a shuttle bus and off we go. There's two other groups with us so it looks like there will be about 6 sleds or so going together.

We drive along the highway for a short bit and then turn off onto a narrow logging road. It's full of ruts and potholes and it becomes the most bone-jarring ride I think I have ever experienced. My teeth feel like they will rattle right out of my head. About 20 minutes of that, and some of it with a steep drop off to a river on one side, we arrive at the departure point. I can see the trucks with kennels on them that the dogs are brought up in.

We all pile out of the bus and gather around one of the guides as she talks about the dogs and the trip we will take. Apparently, the husky dogs you normally see in photos of dog sledding aren't what we will be using today. Those dogs get overheated in this warmer climate and also aren't very fast. She says they are more for movies and photo ops than for really pulling sleds. Our dogs are bred for sledding and are a mix of about 7 breeds and are wiry. She tells us that they may look thin to us but, in fact, some of them are carrying a bit too much weight. They eat 5000 calories a day and there's lot of zinc and fish oil in their diet. The zinc helps protect their feet. She say's that they live to pull the sled and, as soon as they are hooked up, they will bark like crazy and just want to go.

When a litter of dogs are born, they are each given names in a theme. Thus two of our dogs are from the 'Breakfast' litter - Muffin and Sausage; two are from the 'Mexican' litter - Guacamole and Chiquorita; one is called 'Push' because when she was born her hind legs were paralyzed so she was slated to be put down but the owners kids wanted her. One day they picked her up by her hind legs and pushed her along the kitchen floor to move her about. The next day, she could walk! The last dog is called Maryanne - not sure what her litter's theme was. Maybe Gilligan's Island?

Muffin and Sausage have a brother called Muesli and when Paris Hilton came to Whistler and dog sledded with this group, Muesli became famous for peeing up Paris' leg. Apparently, we are warned, the dogs will do this sometimes if you get close to them because they want to mark you as theirs. Note to self - stay away from the dogs.

We get a few instructions on how the sled braking system works and what to do when going up a steep hill - the musher gets off and runs behind while keeping hold of the bar - and if you don't do that, the dogs will look around to you as they run to 'ask' you to get off.

I don't want to 'mush' the dogs but Shonah sure does so we have a guide that will ride on the front of ours to relieve Shonah when she wants to ride. His name is Jordan and he will take care of our three sleds; Christopher and Isolde are together on one and Rob and Ashleigh on the other. Once we all start to get into the sleds, the dogs go crazy. They aren't even hooked onto the sled yet. They really can't wait.

As soon as we are all loaded up and the dogs connected, we take turns leaving up the short hill to the trail. We will leave about 20 feet between each sled. Shonah and I are third to last. Christopher and Izzy are right in front of us, Rob and Ashleigh right behind. The ride is surprisingly smooth. I expected it to be really bumpy. Shonah is loving 'mushing' the dogs and is doing a great job.

The one thing I never thought about when planning this was that dogs like to poop. If there is one smell on the face of the planet that makes me want to vomit every time, it's dog poop. Our lead dog, Muffin, seems to have the runs. She keeps stopping to poop for the first 5 minutes of the trip. Then for the rest of the run, she farts about every 2 minutes. Jordan is riding up front so he smells it first and warns us, most of the time, so I spend a lot of the trip holding my breath. A couple of times he fails to warn me and one of them I take a deep breath through my mouth and get a mouthful. I nearly lose my breakfast.

At the halfway point of the trip, we make a small loop around and then head back. The trail divides into two lanes right before so that there's room for those heading back while you're still heading to the loop. Apparently, if both sleds stop here, the dogs from the other sled WILL pee on you. Another territorial thing. Please don't stop. Also, when making the loop, sometimes the sled will go up the snow banks to the side and then tip over. If that happens, the person in the sled has to just lie there and the other person will tip you back upright. If I were to get out, the dogs would then take off and leave us standing there. Please don't tip over. We make it through the turn-around and the passing lanes without stopping or tipping. That makes me very happy.

Shonah has decided that she doesn't want to stop mushing so she rides standing on the rails and hanging onto the bar all the way. I am so proud of her. She's doing a fabulous job and she is loving every second of it. Ashleigh has also declined to take over mushing, so Rob does it all the way. I am pretty proud of him too - the London city lad! Up ahead, Christopher and Izzy trade places and she mushes the dogs back. Heck, I'm proud of all of them.

Part of the trail runs along the river and Jordan tells us that most days they see moose at the water's edge. But today there aren't any. The run takes just over an hour. When we get back, there's hot chocolate and cookies waiting for us. Also, a photographer took photos of us mushing along the trail, but I forget all about that until we are back on the bus and halfway down the logging road. I am really disappointed because I'd like to have seen them and, if there was a good one of Shonah, buy it for her birthday. We will have to be content with the one Jordan took while we were underway. I actually really like it.

Once we are back in Whistler Village Ashleigh and Rob have to leave straight away. They have two and a half hours to make it to Horseshoe Bay for their ferry booking. We hug goodbye and they take off running while we walk around the village for a bit. There's a sale on at the DC store and Christopher is looking for a snowboard so we go in and have a look around. I love the colorful display of toques and snap this photo.

We head out of Whistler, having decided to eat at the Milestones in Yale Town instead of up here. We stop in Squamish at another boarding outlet store and Christopher finds a snowboard there. We continue on our way and the weather quickly deteriorates into an all-out storm. We can see whitecaps on the water down below the Sea-to-Sky Highway in the Strait. The rain is coming down in buckets and Shonah has her windshield wipers on high and they are barely keeping it clear enough for her to see the road. I get a call from Ashleigh. They made it to the ferry terminal on time but all the ferries out of Horseshoe Bay are canceled for the day, due to the storm, so they won't be going to the Island. They want to join us for dinner but the Lions Gate Bridge is closed as well, due to trees in Stanley Park coming down in the wind, and they don't want to drive the long way around. So it's decided that we will eat at Milestones in North Vancouver instead. I am sorry they can't make their trip but am also really happy that they can now join us for Shonah's birthday dinner.

We end up having a fabulous time over dinner. We take our time over appetizers and beer, and then order our entrees. I have an amazing chicken breast in mushroom sauce with garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley of squash, baby carrots and new asparagus. It's to die for. Shonah has a hamburger because, even though she'd like a proper dinner, she loves hamburgers and Milestones makes one of the best. I think we end up being there for three hours and every minute was perfect.

Ashleigh and Rob head home because they are just exhausted. The rest of us head to Christopher and Izzy's for some birthday cake. I made it yesterday. German Chocolate with Chocolate Coffee Whipped Cream Frosting. Mmmmmmmm. Only we are all too full from dinner to finish even a small slice each.

I drive home and we arrive to no power and the road closed due to a tree down on the lines. We find our way from the car to the door by the light of Shonah's iPhone, and use it to find candles and then, soon, fall into bed. As she gets settled under the covers, Shonah says to me, "Thank you for planning this day. It was the best birthday I ever had."

I can't even tell you how happy that makes me.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.

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