Jurgen's Travels in Canada.

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Jürgen
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Joined: April 4th, 2010, 2:24 pm
Location: Estonia, Tartumaa/Tartu

Jurgen's Travels in Canada.

Post by Jürgen » March 7th, 2013, 8:21 pm

Alright, first of all, big, huge thanks to Jo who helped me a lot. She resized pictures for me in photobucket and made the topic of course.

This topic as the name suggests is about my experiences here, in Canada. I arrived in Canada on 23. August 2012 for my exchange year and will be leaving 2. July 2013. At first I did not have many experiences regarding nature so I did not really think about making a blog-like topic here, in Looduskalender. But when writing the Estonian version of the dogsledding trip blog post I decided that Looduskalender community might like this and I will probably have more experiences regarding nature in the future.

The pictures in this post are a little dark since I did not edit them in any way. The weather was mostly cloudy :whistling:

Also exuse me for all the grammar mistakes I have made in this post! :blush: and if you have any questions or maybe your own experiences with something similar feel free to ask and share!




On 30. January all exchange students with YFU(Youth for Understanding) exchange program to Canada gathered up in Monkton village, Ontario for the mid-year orientation. Orientation of course was not the thrilling part of the day… 30. January was also the day when nearly all of us started our trip to go dogsledding in Algonquin park, near Huntsville town.

After a quite boring orientation around 4pm the bus arrived and we started packing. I had a feeling that everything will not turn out as planned and I was right. We couldn’t even start driving before we were informed that our trip has been delayed by a day. Since the bus was already there and the hotel is expecting us we left for Huntsville. Huntsville is 260 kilometers as the crow flies from Monkton.

The bus ride was long and boring… we also stopped for 45 minutes to eat dinner. In total it took us around 4 and a half hours to get to our hotel.

The next day we had to think about what to do during the day. Fortunately that did not take too long and everybody decided that we would go and play two games of bowling and watch movies in the evening. Bowling was exceptionally cheap (only 6 dollars when you borrowed the boots and played 2 games). In the evening most people were watching the movie but me and one of my roommates (Jake) decided to watch hockey instead. Toronto Maple Leafs was playing against Washington. Usually I do not like to watch sports but it was actually quite thrilling to watch at times. For anybody who asks… Toronto won 3-2.

The next day we woke up 6am to get ready for the dog sledding… but of course you cannot fight against Murphy’s laws… we were told that our trip has been delayed yet again by a day. In a few hours we were also told that there are 3 possible outcomes. Firstly we could go and get the full 3-day trip, secondly we could go and get a 2 day trip, or thirdly we would not be able to go at all. Luckily though it happened that we could go for the full 3 day trip that we payed for (trip cost a lot of money…) The second day at the hotel went by extremely slowly and boringly. I was watching the TV pretty much the whole day. In the evening just before going to bed I also felt sick and I had a huge headache and I was thinking to myself that I would miss the trip now because I’ll be sick. (Later I concluded that the room just did not have enough fresh air)

Waking up next morning 6am again and luckily the headache and dizziness was gone. Quickly we ate breakfast, got dressed and packed the bus and finally started driving at the beginning of the actual adventure. It was extremely hot in the bus so I started getting rid of my multiple layers of clothing.

My clothing included: Snow boots that are meant to withstand -70C, 2 pairs of regular socks, a pair of woolen socks, thermo longjohns, jeans, a quite warm farmer overalls, 2 T-shirts, 2 sweaters, a really warm winter coat, skiing mask, a really warm hat and a pair of nice gloves (The gloves proved to be the least warmth-proof item of clothing in the whole set). You might think it was an overkill but I was nice and warm all the time.

After half an hour of drive we got to the dresser(some people had to rent some clothes) and from there we drove to the dog yard. That dog yard is definitely one of the biggest (if not THE biggest) dog yards that I have ever seen. The dog yard is supposedly able to house around 360 dogs and every single dog has a different name (except there are 2 Paul-s).

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Half of the dog yard did not even fit on the picture.

Another interesting thing( for me) was that all of a sudden there were ravens everywhere. Near Stratford there aren’t any ravens (granted… you can see them sometimes I guess if they get lost) and now all of a sudden I see 25 ravens in one place. It was a nice feeling to hear that intelligent bird after that half a year since I had last seen and heard one.

To make us more familiar with how to handle the dogs we were all asked to get one dog and transport it to the transport truck. I was told to get Nile… Nile is a really lively young dog. Since my photo bag was on my belt he could but his paws on it and really fight against me. It was quite a hassle to get him to the truck… not to mention he was one of the furthest dogs in the whole dog yard.

Once ready we drove for another 5 minutes and arrived at the “trailhead”. Just a road in the middle of a forest really… We were shown how to pack our sleighs and how to hardness the dogs and told what each dog does. Mostly people had either 5 or 6 dogs in front of one sleigh. The front dogs are the lead dogs… the brains of the team. They guide the other dogs where to go and they will understand your commands such as “Ha”(Left), “Dzi(i)”(Right) and “Ready” “Lets go”. The middle dog is the line dog... as I understood the middle dog(s) keep the whole team going straight in a line. Last two dogs are the wheel dogs. They are the ones who mostly pull the sleigh.

The whole group was divided into 2 groups and I was in the group to leave first. My partner jumped into the sleigh, one of the guides removed the “anchor” and off we go. Even with full breaks on the dogs could drag me around… really shows how strong they actually are.

The moderate speed seemed to be around 15km/h and faster or slower depending if we go down or up a hill. While going down a hill we had to step on the breaks to not hurt the dogs (gravity would make the sleigh go faster than the dogs and the sleight could hit the dogs) and while going up a hill we had to get off the sleigh to run with the dogs. It is funny because every time there is a hill they look at you to make sure you are running… and people tell animals do not have emotions and thoughts?

After sleighing for around 45 minutes we had a lunch break. A nice opening (unfortunately I do not have pictures of it because they were done with a wrong mode on the camera and they were too bright). Just before leaving I also saw a raven couple flying together… it seemed like they were playing. After lunch we kept on sleighing for 1 and a half hours until we arrived the camp.

As we arrived the camp we had to unhardness the dogs and put them on their place, unpack the sleighs and then we had to do chores. A group of people (including me) went out to get firewood. The company that organizes the dog sledding there has the premission to take down small birch trees near the camps so that is naturally what we did. We took down a total of 3 small birch trees. The trees had to be cut into rough logs on spot… guess who mostly did that… the few boys that there were there. Furthermore when we got back to the camp we were also told to cut the rough logs into smaller logs so they would fit into the ovens. A good half an hour to 45 minutes of sawing (with a bow saw) later all the logs were cut. Next up we had to get water from the lake… that was not too hard because there were only 20 liter vessels and the camp was only 50 meters away.

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Ineffective way of cutting down the tree... but it worked!

After the chores we had free time… which I used to talk to one of the guides, Devon. Around a hour later we had dinner. Dinner consisted of steak, potatoes and gravy. After a full day in fresh air the food on my plate was gone within 2 minutes. After dinner there were still a few more chores to do such as feeding the dogs (Dogs were fed frozen bricks of chicken) and “making their bed”. The bed was just a sheet of straw but it was funny to see how happy the dogs were when they got that straw.

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Girls's tent/gathering area/cafeteria. Most of the people in our group are seen on this picture.

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Comfortable... or is it? The dogs seemed to be content.

It was only 8pm but it felt like it was nearly midnight… Me and a few other exchange students and Devon went on the lake to listen to ice. Since it was getting colder the ice was playing different low-pitch noises… the noise was similar to that of when stepping on melting snow. Also looking into the sky we saw a lot of stars. Since there was no light pollution around we could even see the Milky Way. Nonetheless I must admit I have seen even clearer sky in Estonia. A few of us saw a falling star… or well a comet or a meteorite really…

Finally all of us were too tired and we decided to go and sleep. As we walked into the tent the temperature in the tent was probably around +45C. It felt like a sauna... At least it was nice and cozy to fall asleep. In around 2 hours though the temperature had dropped to near 0 because the fire in the oven had extinguished. It kept extinguishing throughout the night so rest of the night I did not get good sleep. At least I could listen to the mysterious ice. The ice was not the only noise though. By now a strange crackling noise had appeared. I still do not know for certain but I think it might have been the water in tree branches freezing and thus making it break.

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Good morning Wet Lake.

The morning of the second day was quite slow. A few chores to do and eating breakfast. Eventually we hardnessed the dogs and got ready for a longer day of dogsledding. Since we had no packs on the sleighs we supposedly should have moved faster but since it was too icy our guides kept our speed around the same as on the first day.

The day seemed to go by without anything much happening until my parter hit her head against the sleigh railing while jumping on the sleigh. Since I did not have the heart to tell her to run up the hills I tried to run for both of us... bad idea. It tired me out quite fast and after 3 hills I was too tired and I was moving too slow... since the sleigh behind me had trouble stopping then incident was bound to happen. After that incident one of the guides mixed the teams up and I ended up on the sleigh behind me. The new dog team was actually a racing team and it was actually quite hard to get them to stop. The rest of the day went by without any more incidents and we got to the camp around 4pm.

Yet again we had to do chores but this time I decided to stay in the camp and wash dishes and get water from the lake. The people who were getting the firewood (note that it took them nearly double the time and they brought back nearly a third less logs) supposedly were too tired to cut up the rough logs. And so I was told to cut up the rough logs and I spent another 35 minutes cutting logs that day. I do not mind though, it is a good workout.

The night of the second day went by with a lot less happening since it got cloudy and it was getting warmer and warmer with every second. So I went to "bed" sooner than last day.



It got quite warm in the tent and not because of the stove but because the temperature outside got close to 0C The fire did not extinguish either so the second night I had a good sleep.

The morning of the second day was extremely cold. The clouds had disappeared during the night and since we were in a valley all the cold air was concentrated in the bottom of the valley, making the temperature drop to around -25C

The morning of the third day was a little bit more busy since we had to be back at the trailhead by 12:00. Even though we were in a hurry I managed to go and take a few pictures...

Everything that needed to be done in the camp got done in a matter of an hour and a half. In the cold we headed back at the trailhead by the same trail that we used to get to the camp. Along the way we met a few other dogsledding convoys and for some reason it felt like we were going faster than on the first two days. Finally on the third day... I managed to nearly flip over the sled just as many others had already done. If I had slid a few more centimeters to my right we would have "crashed" into a creek. Luckily I managed to slow down the sled and turn it on time to prevent that from happening. But that incident made us fall one spot behind in the convoy.

We arrived at the trailhead 10 minutes before the second group. It took us only around half an hour to unpack the sleighs and get the dogs in the transport trucks. We drove back to the dog yard, helped to get the dogs to their houses and after that we had a final meeting with our guides in the office of the whole company. I said my goodbyes to the guides and especially to Devon... Devon is such a person I would like to know personally and be friends with...

And then we started our long ride back to Monkton. Emotions and memories going through my head I fell asleep. After a while I started listening to music and the time started flying. While getting closer to Monkton the bus windows started to form something strange on them. Beautiful flowers and trees of ice...

When we arrived in Monkton I was pleased to see that my host family was already waiting for me. We also dropped off another exchange student and then hurried home. You can imagine... after 3 days of adventuring I was quite tired and it did not even take 2 minutes before I fell asleep... back in the comfortable and warm bed.

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Jürgen
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Location: Estonia, Tartumaa/Tartu

Post by Jürgen » March 7th, 2013, 8:23 pm

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Dogsledding.

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More dogsledding.

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Beatiful sunset on Wet Lake.

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Forest looks a lot like it is in Estonia.

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Jürgen
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Posts: 231
Joined: April 4th, 2010, 2:24 pm
Location: Estonia, Tartumaa/Tartu

Post by Jürgen » March 7th, 2013, 8:24 pm

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Ready to leave + camp site.

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View.

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Frozen bus windows.

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