A day of sled dog mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon

The best way to understand what it’s like to run the Yukon Quest is to spend a day mushing your own team of sled dogs. So on Saturday, February 1st, that’s what we did.

I still only had one of the 9 people in my group, the rest being stranded in Vancouver by Air Canada, but Lori and I drove out to Lake Laberge, and were met by Jeninne Cathers from Cathers Wilderness Adventures, with a team of 6 huskies and a snowmobile.

After meeting the dogs, and some basic instructions for Lori, off we went across the frozen lake. I was happy to lay back in the sled and take photos while Lori drove the team. It was a gorgeous mostly-sunny day – cold at -34°C but with less wind than I had expected.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon, with Cathers Wilderness Adventures
I was quickly very happy with my choice – photographing while driving the team takes a lot of coordination! I did, though, manage to get some images I’m very happy with when we did this 2 years ago and I was the musher. 🙂

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon
Jeninne kept her distance and shut the snowmobile engine off a few times to give us a better wilderness feeling, but came over a couple of times when she saw the dogs get tangled.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon
I tried a few times to get a picture of Lori by shooting backwards over my head, and finally got a good one.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon, with Cathers Wilderness Adventures
For a while we were on the trail of the Yukon Quest 300 race (the YQ300) which would start the next day.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon
The stop for a picnic on the beach is always very enjoyable. I gathered wood while Jeninne took care of the dogs, then she lit the fire while I went for some husky snuggles.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon
A Yukon gourmet meal – smokies cooked over a fire in the middle on nowhere at about 30 below zero 🙂

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon, with Cathers Wilderness Adventures
The picnic was over much quicker than it is with a larger group, so we had time for a hike. Jeninne let the dogs off, and we climbed a hill above the beach. I really enjoyed seeing the different dynamics and interactions between the dogs compared to when they’re working as a team.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon
This was the view from the top of the hill we climbed, looking south across Lake Laberge towards Whitehorse.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon, with Cathers Wilderness Adventures
I thoroughly enjoy working with Jeninne and her dogs. She ran the Yukon Quest 6 times, starting as the youngest person to ever finish the race, but now prefers to just do the mushing and hiking-with-huskies tours.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon
When it was time to leave, each dog came to its allocated position and calmly stood while Jeninne hooked them up. With Lori now more confident driving, she was given more space and more silence to savour the experience.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon, with Cathers Wilderness Adventures
Happy huskies doing what they were born to do.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon

I hadn’t been able to find my glove liners that morning, so was photographing bare-handed. At one point I told Jeninne that I needed to take care of my hands, and that I had enough photos I was happy with. Then we came around Richthofen Island and the light was so wonderful I started shooting again. I frostbit the tips of 3 fingers and my little finger developed a large and very painful blister that night. That’s my worst-ever frost-bite. Dummy!

The next two photos are examples of what that light was like. It wasn’t the dumbest thing I’ve done to get a photo, but it’s close 🙂 – I went out and bought new merino wool gloves liners the next morning.

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon

Mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon, with Cathers Wilderness Adventures

Jeninne’s dad, Ned Cathers, met us as we neared the beach where my van was parked, and we had a bit of a chat – I hadn’t seen him since our trip 2 years before. Among other things, he and Jeninne and I discussed possible ways to get the rest of my guests out mushing once they arrived. Then Lori and I headed back to the city. As is almost always the case, she was thrilled by the experience. The next day, she’d be able to much better imagine what the Yukon Quest mushers were doing.



Comments

A day of sled dog mushing on Lake Laberge, Yukon — 2 Comments

  1. Murray, a couple of marvelous mushing shots…the team coming at you with the lake stretching out behind and the substantial mountains rising up way in the distance…that is so evocative of your experiences on the day.

    Winter camping in the Adirondacks of NY this January, we saw a full mushing team out on the Lake one day but though he no doubt saw our sled and snowshoe tracks as he crossed them (and our canvas tent and wood stove smoke) it looked like he had his hands full…but it was quite the sight for us!