Nord-Norge Adventure Part 2: Holmen Husky
Our Arctic Adventure continued on Wednesday night at Holmen Husky, a dog sled outfitter and small lodge. They provided all transportation; they picked us up at a hotel in downtown Alta and took us about 20 minutes to the lodge. We arrived with other people traveling in groups (Americans, Germans, Brits, and one Norwegian couple), so there were about 18 of us that went out on a dog sled tour, 2 to a sled except for our family.
They dressed us all up in snowmobile suits and gave a 10-minute orientation to dog sledding, which really amounts to choosing which brake to stand on to slow down the dogs at the appropriate times. The dogs want to pull and the guides told us that if we fall off the sled, the dogs will continue back to the camp with or without us. The passengers have a snow anchor to throw if the driver is knocked off but the sled is still upright!
That was it, off we went! Ted “drove” first with the 3 of us riding, then the guides signaled a stop part way through and I took over. The leaders took Anders up to their sled and gave him a chance to drive (even though kids aren’t supposed to drive!) He actually switched from sitting to sanding on the back in the driver position while moving! I am thankful that we were right behind the guides, because they had to stop us once to untangle two of our dogs that ended up switching places and pulling more to one side. The trail was very narrow through woods for most of the way, and the dogs would favor one side or the other as they grabbed bits of snow for a drink while running, so sometimes we were pulled very close to the trees and branches. Driving also involved a lot of ducking to avoid branches your face. Because we were out at night, we couldn’t see too far in front of ourselves with the headlamps and moving fast, so I was very glad to be behind the guides to take cues from them. At one point they started telling “brake! brake!” then they dropped down a steep but small hill. If I hadn’t hit the brake and slowed down, that would have been a painful drop. Some of the others behind us said that they weren’t expecting the hill and were surprised! Anders also got a special insight riding with the guides. On a tight curve at the end they looked back at us, and after we came around the corner said, “oh good, another family tipped the sled on that turn this morning.” We did it!
The kids were a little nervous when we were starting out, but quickly turned to giggles because one of the dogs right in front of the sled was gassy! That dog was having digestive problems. It was also constantly squat-running for the first while to poop while running. It was quickly nicknamed “Dingle” and led to a lot of silliness. The other back dog was nicknamed “Lumpy,” the kids say it was a little chubby. The next morning we heard the guides discussing what time to feed the dogs, based on digestive timing. Maybe we just caught Dingle at a bad time of day. And to be fair, Dingle wasn’t the only one that pooped while running, but was very prolific. The Brits also had a gassy dog, so it wasn’t just Dingle’s problem either.
After we returned to camp, we had time to snuggle the dogs and take some pictures. They were much more calm after their run. When they were hooked up and getting ready to go, they are going crazy! Pulling at the harnesses, barking, etc. They were all very friendly with us, although would nip and fight with each other in close proximity sometimes.
After the ride we all went into a main building, built like a Sami lavvo with an additional entryway. There was a fire in the center, and hot cider and cookies for everyone as the guides told us more about the dogs and answered questions. Then we went back to take off our gear and the guides showed us the dining room, restrooms, sauna, and took us to our rooms. We had a family cabin that was built like a yurt but divided into 2 separate rooms, each with a wood-burning stove for heat. We fired them up and got our things settled. Anders was inspired to take some pictures.We had dinner of local moose and vegetables with the other guests, we were at a table with a Norwegian couple and a British couple. There were other Americans and some Germans at another table as well. The dinner was simple and delicious, just what we needed after dog sledding. But we had been up since 4:30am, so we were ready to get back to the yurt for some sleep. Thankfully no one had to get up to use the bathroom during the night, because it was a long, cold walk to the main buildings.
The accommodations were rustic but comfortable. We had this yurt-like building for a family. There were a few other larger rooms for groups, the guide took us to the wrong one first and said something about a honeymoon suite that wasn’t quite ready yet, and in the picture there is a geodesic-dome structure. Most of the other structures are the lavvo-type (tipi-style), big enough for 2 people with full windows on one side. They get fogged up on the inside by morning, so there is a level of privacy. They asked us not to use the outhouses near the sleeping quarters because they are frozen now, unpleasant for users and for the person who has to clean them!
Breakfast was served in the main dining room again, the typical Norwegian breakfast with fresh hearty bread and a selection of cheese, meat, fish, jam, yogurt, and fruit. We had a morning view of the dog yard as well, so we got to watch them socialize and be fed. The kids got to play in a snow fort that someone made, a little prelude to the snow hotel to come.
Panoramic of the yard in the morning.
After breakfast in the morning, there was a tour group from a cruise ship that arrived for dog sledding, so we got to see the dogs take off on another trip. Anders got some great pictures. They are in the gallery along with a few other artistic shots–click a photo to get the slideshow!