Think about it – Driving your own team of sled dogs in the pristine arctic wilderness of Lapland. Not for a few hours, not for a day, but for 5 days straight? Overnighting in a different wilderness cabin every night, far from any form of civilisation. Would you be up for the challenge? Is it worth it? What can you expect? As per usual, we asked our guides to share with us the top 6 things they look forward to every time they embark on a Wilderness Tour with our guests.
Psst! Scroll down to the bottom to see a few more pictures from the tours.
1. The Dogs – Our No. 1 superstars
Goes without saying that the dogs are the stars of the week. Passion for the dogs brought us all here, the company, the guides, the customers – the whole camp. They are the alpha (pun intended) and omega of this whole show. Running is what sled dogs have been doing as a man’s best friend for millennia. They have unparalleled energy and are always beyond excited to embark into the wild. You can hear it in the ear-shattering howls when the sleds are brought out and the dogs know it’s business time.
On the tour the customers ride and care for their own team of dogs throughout the 5 days out in the wild. During introduction people are often a bit concerned they might not remember the names of their dogs, or won’t be able to tell them apart. But as it happens, already on the first evening at the cabins the conversation revolves around the different personalities of the dogs and their individual behaviour. You learn who is the frequent pooper, the chatty one, the snacky one, and the one who demands cuddles at every stop. Every day our guests connect more with their dogs and at the end of the tour saying goodbye is always bittersweet. By the end of the tour everyone has their favourite dog(s) picked out. And as every dog lover knows, that bond is hard to break. We reply to inquiries about how specific dogs are doing years after tours. Did you know, that you can sponsor a retired senior dog, and even adopt a retired dog if you are sponsoring them? Learn more here.
2. Leaving the world behind – Quite literally
When leaving the camp, we also leave civilisation behind. Truly and utterly. We spend 5 days out in the wild, overnighting in wilderness cabins with no electricity or running water. Daily we can cross distances as long as 60 km, and we are outside all the time, regardless of the weather. It refocuses you and puts things into perspective. The most basic needs become the main priorities: warmth, water, food and shelter. These universal needs are so easily satisfied for most of us in our everyday life that we don’t even spare a thought for them. Water comes out of the tap, food from the supermarket, heating by pressing a button.
In the arctic wilderness none of these things come as given. Absolutely everything else loses importance, your social media, your work emails, that argument you had with your spouse. The team members become close very quickly, as co-operation in extreme conditions simply requires comradery and working together. The circumstances also strip people from pretence and prestige. It grounds you and puts your focus back on the important things. Also, the experience for sure makes you appreciate all the convenient things back home again…
3. Can you hear the silence?
When leaving the sled dog camp, and leaving the wilderness cabins in the mornings, the dogs are dizzyingly loud. I mean, think about a class of first graders excitedly chatting away in the beginning of a school day, and then tenfold it. When embarking for the day the dogs are incredibly loud as they are just so excited to just get a move on already. But once everyone is out on the trails we get enveloped in silence. The only things we hear are the dogs breathing and the slight wind in our ears. Occasionally you can hear the runners of the sled gliding over the snow but apart from that there is simply silence and beautiful landscapes. Trees covered in heavy, thick snow, bending under its weight, frozen rivers and lakes, also covered in snow, the surface glittering like a million diamonds. It’s just us and the dogs moving silently through the wilderness of Lapland. Did we paint good enough picture yet?
Both our guides and guests say that for them sledding is aching to meditation. You are completely in the moment, you look over the dogs, you look around at the vast emptiness in its white cloak, and as cheesy as it sounds, you feel one with the surrounding nature. Things seem to make sense.
4. No tour like other – Tailor-made tours á la nature
Not one tour is the same. Of course, the parameters are the same – it’s the same itinerary, the same log cabins, the same meals. But every guide is different, every dog is different, the order of the trail is different depending on in which order you visit each cabin. But most importantly, the conditions are different every single time. Depending of the time of the year, we might only have a few hours of sunlight per day and we get to admire the long sunrises of midwinter. Later in the Spring the sun doesn’t seem to go down at all and it’s bright as ever for 20 hours a day.
It can snow for 5 days straight, it could rain, it can be freezing (yep, -40 degrees is not uncommon at night). Or maybe you have to apply sunscreen every other hour and you wish you’d brought those glacier sunglasses. It can be foggy, there can be a snowstorm, and then the next day we are treated with one of those glorious Lapland days where the whole sky is dreamy blue and pink and the clouds, if there are any, look like cotton blooms. It really depends on the weather whether the tour is a challenge or a breeze.
This past season we had fresh powder snow every few days. Looks absolutely amazing, but it also means breaking trail. We can assure you that pushing your sled in deep snow to help your team of dogs to pull is definitely exercise at its best and will keep you warm!
5. The howling – Ode to the night
“One of my favourite things on tour is right after the dogs have had their evening meal, and like clockwork they start to howl in unison. It still gives me goose bumps every time.” When 40 close relatives of wolves start their ode to the night, to the moon – surrounded by the primordial taiga that has always been there, and will be there long after we are gone, it puts things into perspective.
6. The Milky Way and the moon shadows
As we have next to no light pollution up here in Lapland, you can witness a very impressive night sky during clear weather. People usually think it’s the Northern Lights that really impress you when you turn your gaze to look up at the arctic sky. Don’t get me wrong, they’re fine and dandy, sure. But it is actually the thousands of stars glistening up there in the vastness of space, casting a silvery light across the land, that truly blows you away. At times you can see the milky way clearly with a naked eye.
If the stars are aligned (yep, I just used that pun), and you are here around full moon, you should brace yourself for moonlight shadows. The night is incredibly bright and you can easily make your way to the outhouse in the middle of the night guided by the light of the moon. Everyone is sleeping around you, the cabin, the dogs, the whole world around you is completely still. You jump into your overalls and head out for a night pee. You stop to look up to the sky. The velvety firmament is dotted with thousands of stars, the moon is bright and you catch the bewildering solar spectacle of the Aurora Borealis dancing across the crystal night sky.
Can you see it?