Winter Camping with Abitibi Sled Dogs

Winter Camping with Abitibi Sled Dogs

Some people run inside at the mention of a flurry, a squall or snow. And then there are others that think, "what a great time to sleep in a tent." I fall in the latter category. I personally love winter and everything that comes with it. The snow, the ice, the cold, the warm and cozy winter fires, the lack of mosquitos. All of it. When we were invited to be the first to winter camp with Abitbi Sled Dogs, we were beyond stoked. Well, maybe I was more stoked than Carolyne - but she is a trooper and came along for the adventure!

After spending our day dog sledding and warming up with a cup of hot chocolate, it was time to get our accommodations for the evening set up.

Jacob and Chantal already had the tent and wood stove set up in the bush, we just needed to get the sleeping arrangements set the way we intended. After starting a fire we got to work on making our tent, a home, so to speak.

Abitibi Sled Dogs provided us with all the equipment needed for a warm and cozy night. We rolled out our self inflating mats and our sleeping bags from HotCore. HotCore is 100% Canadian owned and operated with an incredible mission. Hotcore is honored to work with the Take A Hike Foundation. Take a Hike is a full-time alternate high school program using the outdoors and adventure to engage vulnerable youth in school, community and mental health support. Full-time clinical counselors embedded in every classroom help students overcome barriers to social and academic success, leading to high school graduation. And that is something we can get behind. I cannot speak enough about these sleeping bags. They were so warm, soft and my favourite feature - they were silent. They didn't have that traditional "swish, swish" sound a sleeping bag makes when you roll over or adjust your sleeping position. I fell in love with these bags.

We got our tent all set up, the wood stove rolling and decided to reward ourselves with an oak milk latte from Kintore Coffee. Since these bevvies have a high chugability factor, we chased them with some tea before supper.

Jacob and Chantal graciously welcomed us into their home where we broke bread with them and shared stories of entrepreneurship, adventure and of course, talked about their 28 babies. It was such an honour to get to know these people and their way of life. I have two dogs and I know the mayhem that can cause on a daily basis!

After the humans ate, it was time to feed the dogs. 28 dogs were barking and yelping, they knew it was time to eat! This was like a well oiled machine. Every dog gets tethered to one side of the kennel while the second person follows with the kibble. After the kibble is served, the next person follows with a bucket full of "dog soup." This is a traditional concoction used by mushers to help hydrate and feed their dogs. While out on frigid excursions and only surrounded by snow, the mushers would use a double boil cooker to melt snow and cook their food (soup and other frozen meals) and use the left over water to melt/cook meat for the dogs creating a sort of dog soup. It looks like slop, but the dogs loved it. Jacob poured some soup into Diamond's bowl and turned to look at me and said, "there's something satisfying about hearing 28 dogs licking their bowls clean." I stopped and listened and it was a surreal sound. 28 dogs that went from excited barking to licking bowls and lips after their supper.

After supper comes the duty (ha!) untethering the dogs and poop and scooping the kennels. Carolyne and I watched as Chantal and Jacob went from kennel to kennel giving each and every dog love, affection, ear rubs and belly rubs. These dogs are so happy and well taken care of by both Jacob and Chantal.

As we said our good nights and walked into the bush to our tent, we were treated to a group howl from the kennel, one of many we would hear during our stay. The dogs would pipe up and howl for about a minute and then fall back into an eerie silence.

Once we got in the tent it was time for a wee snort of Fireball and a game of cards to wind down from our adventurous day. I almost always have my Base Camp cards packed with me for our travels. They can be used as a regular deck of cards or as an ice breaker game as each card has a different question on it. I had my ass handed to me in Crazy 8s and then we had a quick snack to kick start our metabolism before bed to help keep us warm through the night. We also stocked up on wood as it was going to be -25C that night and we didn't want to wake up ice blocks.

We were up every 2-3 hours to stoke the wood stove but it was a great night in the tent. When we woke up the next morning we had one of my favourite kinds of coffee, Tent Coffee as well as some oatmeal and a sandwich. After doing the dishes and rounding up our gear we were ready for our next adventure.

As we were parting ways with Jacob and Chantal (and all 28 dogs) I could tell that this adventure left an indelible mark on me. Not only did we get to experience the north in a way not many have done, but we met some fantastic, down to earth people whom we have continued to chat with since returning home.

We're already planning our next trip back, with more dog sledding and more nights in the tent.

You can either run and hide when winter comes, or you can get outside and experience winter in a way that you'll always remember. Spending time with Abitbi Sled Dogs will do just that.

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