Growing up, I always wanted a Siberian husky, so the opportunity to go husky trekking with Spruce Island Husky in Västerbotten, Sweden, was like a childhood dream come true.
Spending a few hours with 31 Siberian and Alaskan huskies is surely therapeutic, whatever ails you.
These dogs are adorable, friendly, and bouncing off the fences to go for a run (or at least a fast walk, as I soon discovered).
Love at First Sight: Arriving at Spruce Island Husky
“I love you all,” I proclaimed with arms wide open as we entered the outdoor kennel at Spruce Island Husky, a few minutes drive from our lodging at Granö Beckasin.
There was a chorus of barking the moment the dogs smelled us entering their territory.
I tried to take it all in as they did their best to communicate an urgent desire to get out and run around.
These are trained sled dogs who've grown up associating groups of strange people arriving with either going for a hike in the woods (during the warmer months) or sledding (in the winter, from December to March).
Initially, we walked around and looked into the pens of these delightfully rambunctious creatures.
Some dogs were jumping up on their hind legs to meet us at eye level, while others were happy to observe from their dog houses.
My initial impression was that these pups are well-cared for given the space they're provided, the cleanliness of the grounds, and their healthy appearance.
I later confirmed the Swedish authorities ensure kennels adhere to specific regulations, including the amount of space the dogs need.
I was a little surprised at how small they seemed, as I always imagined sled dogs to be larger given they pull heavy loads long distances.
As we would later learn, they are fed a special diet starting every fall to help them bulk up for the more strenuous winter season.
This change to their diet also coincides with a period of physical training whereby they pull ATVs instead of sleds.
The owner of Spruce Island Husky (pictured above) let four of the huskies out so we could go trekking with them in the surrounding forest.
Instead of letting out a dog for every person, it was easier to take half that number and have us switch on/off during the walk.
Each dog was outfitted with a special harness designed for them to pull stuff (like me) safely.
Each human was given a belt to wear around his/her waist.
A stretchy cord with metal hooks on each end was used to connect husky to human.
The need for a stretchy cord was apparent once the fence to the outside world was slid open.
The dogs were off and running, or at least moving as quickly as they could, given the slower humans creating resistance.
Husky Trekking in the Woods
It's an exciting experience having one of these energetic dogs pulling you through the forest.
They only occasionally stopped to sniff one another or take a sip of water from a creek; otherwise, it was full steam ahead the whole time.
Going uphill was fine. However, you had to lean back on the downhill sections to make sure you didn't slip.
One of the things I noticed was some dogs leaned heavy to the left side, while others leaned right.
Dogs, it turns out, can be left and right-handed (pawed?) just like humans.
I imagine it's essential to take these tendencies into account when putting together a team of dogs to pull a sled.
Our guide, the owner of the company, said huskies only care about three things: running, eating, and making puppies.
Not a bad way to live life!
When I unclipped a husky from my belt to allow someone else to give husky trekking a try, it was an instant physical release.
It was only after you unhooked them that you got a sense of how much force they're exerting.
The experience left me wanting to go dog sledding — badly!
At Spruce Island Husky, you're provided a sled and team of dogs to mush!
Of course, instruction is provided, but you have the opportunity to take the reigns for a few hours (or days, if an overnight trip is of interest).
Lunch with the Huskies
The experience only got better after we wrapped up our walk in the woods.
Back in the safe confines of the kennel, more dogs were let out of their pens, and it was a full-on husky play party.
They were running around at full speed, panting, sniffing, peeing, and doing anything but standing still for pictures.
I took a break from trying to snap photos when we were offered organic vegetable soup cooked over an open fire.
It felt like an appropriate choice, given the cool autumn weather we were enjoying.
After the soup, I discovered the secret to snapping photos of Siberian and Alaskan huskies — camp out next to the water bowl.
It was the only time they stood still long enough to get clear shots with my iPhone.
And all of these photos were taken with my phone. Thank you, Apple.
Planning a trip to northern Sweden? If you schedule any time at all in Västerbotten, I highly recommend including these dogs in your agenda.
Husky trekking and dog sledding with Spruce Island Husky can be booked through Granö Beckasin lodge.
To keep up with these adorable furballs, join me in following them on Instagram.
My tour of Västerbotten was arranged in partnership with the Adventure Travel Trade Association, Visit Västerbotten, and Granö Beckasin as part of my attendance at the 2019 Adventure Travel World Summit.