Sweden Dogsledding, April 2017

Well, seems that I really like dogsledding.

Given that this is the ninth consecutive year that I spent my main vacation doing dogsledding, that shouldn't be unexpected, but it still took me a bit by surprise.

One of the reasons why it took me so long to find out are all the things that usually go with dogsledding, whether they are good or bad. You are usually in a gorgeous, scenic wilderness, which is breath-taking and exciting when the weather is good. You grill steak over an open fire for dinner and do other fun stuff.

Or you are in some sort of awkward situation where things are going wrong. You crash the sled, are caught out in a snowstorm (though I've been told later by the woman in the local post office to call it 'artic blizzard', as that sounds more dramatic), fall into an open pond or keep a dog that's injured in a dogfight from licking its open wounds.

All these things, good or bad, make the trips interesting and memorable.

And yes, there's dogsledding involved, but with so many things happening, it was never clear whether it's the dogsledding I like or the things that happen on the way.

But this year, nothing went really wrong. (There was one day when things didn't go quite as they should have, but everything worked out somehow.)

So far, so good. (Though it doesn't make an interesting story.)

But, on the other hand, the weather was bland.

A few bits of blue sky from time to time. But most of the time it was overcast end everything looked flat and all day. (Although it looks much sunnier on the photographs. But's that just selective bias. I took a lot more pictures when it was sunny than when everything was white.) Some wind, some snow, nothing much, just enough to make it slightly uncomfortable.

But not enough to make it exciting or dramatic.

Standing for hours in a flurry of snow at -2°C and a steady breeze is not fun, but it's not something that is hard to do or to be proud of. It's just dull.

But the trails were good almost everywhere.

No long sections of deep, soft snow. No slushy snow. (Almost) no glaring ice. No meltwater standing four fingers high on frozen lakes. No harsh bits of old molten/refrozen snow to hurt the dogs paws.

Which meant the actual dogsledding was really good.

And, given that there were no extreme situations and, for most days, not much good weather and fantastic scenery to enjoy, the one thing that was left to 'define' the vacation was the time spent on the dog sled.

And it was a really good and satisfactory vacation.

Which, to come back to the beginning, means that I really seem to enjoy the dogsledding itself.


On the other hand, that means that the following narrative will be a bit dull and mostly in the 'we went there and then we went on and then we went there and then we spent the night there' travelogue form.

And lot of images will show featureless white areas with dogs in it.

But anyway...

The vacation was a sort of "director's cut" version of last year's dogsledding trip to Sweden, so it was longer, with new elements added and cutting out some things that didn't work, but at the core pretty much the same.

After last year's trip, I talked with Constanze, which whom I've been on five dogsledding trips now, and we agreed that we liked the place, the dogsledding company, the dogs, the sleds and the way things were organized.

We noticed that we liked the fact that both owners were on the tour with us, which made the whole trip feel more like a family vacation which we were invited to share, that we had fairly large dog teams (even though I had one more dog than Constanze, which felt a bit unfair), and that, at the end, we had a non-sledding day, spending time with the dogs and relaxing. (The free day at the end wasn't planned, it just happened, since we stopped the tour a day earlier than planned, due to trail conditions.)

What we both weren't too happy with was the too warm weather and the resulting state of the trails. And we both wouldn't have minded to spend more time per day doing the actual dogsledding (we did spend, on average, about 3:30 hours per days on the sled) and also more days of doing it.

So we asked whether we could have essentially the same trip, with us as the sole clients, with both, Kenneth and Catte, coming along for the tour, but earlier in the year (in hope for colder weather), more days, longer distances per day and a day off with the dogs at the end. And, as they now knew us, on a skill level that they considered appropriate for us.

(They have a guestbook and from what I've read there, they also do tours with a skill level way above mine...)

They said yes, sure. How about a two week trip, one day arrival, one day departure, one day relaxing with the dog, one rest day during the trip and ten days travelling with the dogs? Three weeks earlier than last year and heading a bit further north, hoping that it would be a bit colder there. Would that be ok?

So we booked and that was the tour we did this year.

Usually they pick you up at the airport in Hemavan (though that is not literally true - usually it's Catte's father, Stig, driving up to Hemavan to pick guests up and it's really hard not to think about the name and not fall into "Top Gear" mode: "Some say... All we know is he's called the Stig."), but the NextJet schedule was a bit inconvenient and with the flight arriving close to midnight (and being delayed), that would have meant arrival in Umnäs around 1am, which would have been of no use to anyone. So it was better to stay in a (as it turned out, rather nice) hotel in Hemavan and then get picked up at a more sensible time the next day.

The weather in Hemavan was great - cold, but not extremely so, with blue skies and sunshine.

Hemavan weather

But when we got to Umnäs and got the sleds packed, the weather was more like it would be for most of the trip. Overcast with a bit of snow.

Packing the sleds

When we arrived in Umnäs for the 'tour briefing', we asked where we would be starting this year. We had trusted Kenneth and Catte to come up with a good tour plan and, after booking the tour back in June, never asked them about any details. There had been a remark early on that we might be going a bit farther north this time (which we did), so we weren't sure whether we would go there by sled or whether we would put the dogs in a trailer and start the tour somewhere further north.

So only on the day before the tour, we found out that we would be starting in the dog yard again. (And, unlike than last year, we made it all the way back to the dog yard as well...)

And we got our 'dog team lists'.

Dog team list

More than half of my initial team of nine dogs was the same as last year (Prana, Strider, Salt, Tall and Gran), while Constanze also had five dogs overlap with the previous year in her team of eight dogs (Neon, Tufsen, Rosie, Gronk, Gandalf), although there were some changes of dogs during the tour. In my team, Gran was switched for Rönn (which was also in my team last year) and Yoga was replaced by Rosie at some point (neither of which was in my team last year).

By the way, the 'missing' remarks and '50', '55' and '60' numbers on the 'call sheet' above are referring to the coat size.

The starting procedure in the dog yard is, in principle, straightforward.

Dogs in dog yard Dogs in dog yard Dogs in dog yard

The harnesses are on a pile. You grab one, read out the name on the harness, the dogs comes to you (or at least, the dog reacts in some way), you harness the dog and grab the next harness.

Realistically, this only works for the owners.

For clients, this means that you are standing in the dog yard, yell out a name and the dogs ignore you.

They don't ignore you completely - from time to time one comes up to you to watch you yelling or to get petted - but there's no correlation to the name you called.

Dog just passing by

This might be partly due to my mispronunciation of their names (for example, I pronounced 'Strider' like in the Lord of the Rings, to sound like 'stride' or 'rider', and after three days noticed that Catte pronounced the name with a 'flat' letter 'i', making it more sounded more like 'street-er', so no wonder that the dog didn't recognize me calling it by name). But it's probably more that the dogs 'tune out' most of what the clients say.

At some point later on, Loke was a bit annoying (by pulling more to the left than forward) and I went "Loke, no!" every time he did that. At the next stop, Kenneth asked me "Why are you talking to Loke? He's not listening to you anyway." Which was a valid point.

The dog didn't listen to me, so there was no point in talking to it. And the more I was doing it, the more the dog would realize that it could ignore me. And I wasn't prepared to escalate the situation - the 'proper' thing would have been to stop the team, run up to Loke and push him to the ground or otherwise make it physically clear that I was unhappy with his behaviour, so Loke would learn that there were consequences if he ignored me. Three days I did what I should have done earlier - move Loke to another position in the team, where he fitted better and didn't have as much of an effect on where the sled was going.

But for the dog yard it meant that we'd grab a harness and then go to Catte or Kenneth and have the corresponding dog pointed out to us.

Finally, all 37 dogs that would be coming on the trip where harnessed, so we went through our team list, looked for the ones that were 'ours' (and the name on the harnesses are much easier to read from a distance than the ones on the collars) and hooked them up in front of our sleds.

Ready to put the teams in front of the sled

And then we were ready to go.

Ready to go

Something that surprised me last year, and which impressed me again this year, was how calm and quiet the dogs are. The picture was taken about a minute or two before we started and usually on tours, at this point the dogs would be crazy with excitement, barking, tugging, jumping up and down.

Here, they sit or lie quietly on the ground, slightly apprehensive.

Only once the first sled (Kenneth) starts moving, there is a short moment of the usual excitement, but that's ten seconds or so, since then it is time to get moving as well.

Another amazing thing is that the start works with the dog teams side by side. All teams leave through the reddish-brown gate at the end of the dog yard (the thing with the grey-blue metal on the bottom and the four wooden planks at the top is part of the fence, not the gate, so that does not open) and there are no dogs trying to mingle with other teams, entangling the lines or getting in the way. It's a surprisingly orderly process. (Which should not be surprising - the dogs have done that a lot of times, so they should know what to do, but I haven't seen that anywhere else.)

The way from the dog yard to the lake is, like last year, interesting.

Instead of going straight out, you start with a tight downhill turn, then across a street (though it's a dead-end street and they had put some snow on it where we were crossing), then the path goes through a couple of trees, before another turn and down an icy path onto the lake.

So it's a bit like an overture to an opera - it gives you short bits of the main themes of what's about to come in a very compressed form.

Last year we worried about that part, as there wasn't that much snow and, especially between the trees, there were some exposed rocks on the ground. (Which essentially means that you can't brake there.) This year the rocks were well covered, but with icy patches, which means that you can use the brakes (you don't need to worry about getting them trapped by a rock), they just won't have much of an effect.

But, like last year, there weren't any problems and soon we were out on the lake.

First minutes of the tour First minutes of the tour

It didn't snow, but the sky stayed overcast all day, so the light was diffuse und almost everything looked uniform and featureless...

Overcast conditions Overcast conditions

...except for the occasional cluster of trees or bits of open river...

Trees in snow Open water in snow

...and, of course, the sled teams.

First day of sledding Catte's sled Catte's sled Catte's sled Catte's sled Catte's sled

In theory, I should have recognized the trail, as it was the same one we had taken the previous year, but with snow and trees as the only landmarks, I didn't recall anything.

So while, for example, these two pictures might have been taken at more or less the same place, they may as well be ten kilometers apart.

Umnas area dog sledding Open water in snow
2016 2017

Sometimes you an idea where things are located in relation to each other when you come down from a mountain plateau and get a good view of the landscape below, but even that didn't help much this year.

Almost able to see the valley Slightly better valley view Slightly better valley view

But the trail was well marked and in good condition and it was fun being dogsledding again.

And once Viktoriakyrkan came into view again, I knew where I was.

Viktoriakyrkan Viktoriakyrkan Viktoriakyrkan

Close to the church are a couple of wooden huts and Kenneth and Catte of 'caretakers' for one of them.

Oeverst-Jugtan hut Oeverst-Jugtan hut

It's a comfortable 48 km distance from their dog yard along well maintained and (in this direction) easy trails, so it seems to be the usual 'first day destination'.

Something that did change from last year was the addition of dog houses.

Oeverst-Jugtan dog houses

They dog houses were new. They hadn't been there all winter, but set up recently, so we were the first or second tour that was able to use them.

Having dog houses makes arrival a lot easier.

You just take the harness off the dogs and put them in a dog house.

No need to set up the nightlines, and, as the houses were already lined with "wood wool", no need to put down straw or put coats on the dogs. And the dogs are protected from the wind and the snow. (And, presumably, as it's not exposed to the elements and the snow below, the wood wool does not need to be changed as often as straw that is put on the ground, as that is (usually) one good for one use.

Dog in doghouse Dog in doghouse Dog in doghouse Dog in doghouse

Though, of course, there's always one who prefers to be 'roughing it' and the outdoors.

Dog resting outside

Next morning, the weather hadn't changed much.

Dog and doghouses

Time to feed the dogs, harness them and move on.

After breakfast, Constanze and I were usually the first ones out with the dogs, while Kenneth and Catte to clean up the hut without us being in the way.

But it was always a change of atmosphere when Kenneth left the hut.

He is undoubtedly 'the boss' for the dogs, so once he was outside, the dogs did pay attention to what he was doing.

So when we were outside and the dogs suddenly looked attentively in the same direction, it was clear that Kenneth had just left the building.

Kenneth coming from the left Kenneth among the dogs Kenneth leaving to the right

The destination of the second day was one that I already knew - Ammarnäs.

Ammarnäs is pretty much 'at the end of the road'. For most visitors it's the entry point for trips into the Vindelfjällen nature reserve, so, while small, it has a good touristic infrastructure.

We had our two 'rest days' in Ammarnäs when I had been there on a dog sled tour in 2014. (Although, on that tour this meant that we were doing 40 km round trips on both days. But since we were running with empty sleds and all other days had 60+ km trips, it were easy days for the dogs.)

But for now, we first had to get to Ammarnäs.

Leaving Oeverst-Jugtan

Trail and weather conditions were the same as on the previous day, so there's not much to say about it.

Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes
Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes Between Oeverst-Jugtan and Ammarnaes

We made our way to Ammarnäs and set up the dog camp.

Just arrived at Ammarnaes

First we made their places a bit more comfortable by giving them straw to sleep on.

Straw stack Dog on straw Dog on straw
Dog on straw Dogs on straw Dogs on straw

As usual, some of them couldn't be bothered to get up when we brought them the straw, so we dropped the straw on top of them, so they could build their 'nest' later.

Dog under straw

Then it was feeding time, which is almost on an industrial scale. There are enough bowls for all dogs, so dogs don't have to wait for other dogs to finish their meals before they get fed.

Dog bowls on snow Dog bowls on snow

So all bowls are set out on the ground and get a scoop of water each.

Giving the dogs water is the important part.

If this would be just about feeding the dogs, we could have given them their meat (or sometimes kibble) directly. (We usually did that when feeding them on the trail after three hours of sledding.) But the dogs need to be hydrated, so they get their afternoon and morning food in dog bowls with water.

As everything, this doesn't always work. Some dogs tip their bowls over to get rid of the water and only eat the meat. But at least they have the opportunity to get water and if they are thirsty, they don't tip their bowl.

As this was (with 35 km) the shortest daily distance on this tour, we arrived in Ammarnäs early (before 2 pm), so we had some time to sit down for some afternoon drink on the veranda of the place we were staying at.

Afternoon drinks Afternoon drinks

It even left me some time for an afternoon walk up to the ''potato hill', a hill overlooking the Ammarnäs Delta, which was used to grow potatoes on the south facing side and supposedly the most northern place were potatoes are produced. But mostly it's used as a sightseeing point and, in summer, for having a barbecue on top.

Ammarnaes potato hill view Ammarnaes potato hill view

I also had been hoping to see some bits of blue sky on the horizon, but the cloud cover was continuous.

Then off to the restaurant for dinner.

Ammarnäs (and Bäverholmen the next day) were also a minor 'rest days' for Kenneth and Catte, as both places have restaurants, so they didn't have to prepare dinner on those days.

Before leaving next morning, we had to rake the straw together and move it to a big pile somewhere at the side of the dogs 'sleeping quarters'.

After that, it was mostly the same as on the previous two days, with the same weather and the same trail conditions.

From Ammarnäs, we followed the street for a while. (Yes, I mentioned that it is pretty much 'at the end of the road', but technically the road continues along the river for about nine kilometers into the nature reserve, although in winter it is more commonly used as a snowmobile trail than as a road, which is one of the reasons why the road is not cleared from snow.)

Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes
Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes Constanze and her dog team on the road north from Ammarnaes

This was also the point where I was getting worried about the set-up of my dog ,team.

I didn't have any real problems with the sled so far (no close encounters with trees, rocks or streams), but I had been falling over twice when the left runner of my sled got off-track into soft sand and sank in. But that happened on trails. Here I was on a two lane street and there were one or two points where I worried that I might get off the road and dip into a ditch at the side.

That is not quite the situation in the images below (when I was worried about getting off track, I didn't have time to take pictures), but it illustrates the point. When not overtaking, the sleds are supposed to run in a single line. But my team wasn't just a tiny bit to the side, it was following a trail of its own on the other side of the road.

Sled not on the right track Other sleds in a nice line

In addition, Gran, one of my wheel dogs, had the habit of 'dipping' strongly to the side. All dogs 'dip' for snow to cool on the trail, but usually they put the head down and pick up some snow from the ground right next to them. But Gran didn't seem to like the 'trail snow' and rather snatched some soft snow from the side of the trail.

Which is fine in principle, but as Gran was a wheel dog, that meant sudden, unpredictable jerks to the side, which I wasn't too happy about.

So Kenneth asked "Why don't you move the dogs around?"

And after shuffling the dogs around a bit and putting Loke (who was the one moving me to the left when running in lead - while Snövit was doing a great job) in wheel and moving Gran one row forward (where the side-dipping didn't influence the sled so much) and Strider in lead, all problems were solved in one stroke.

I did some changes later on, but they were only to keep the dogs from getting tired (mentally and physically). As the wheel dogs do the most pulling, you should change them from time to time. And some dogs, like Lind, are good in lead but get stressed by leading and lose their focus and concentration after a while, so you can only put them in lead for a day or two, before moving them further back again. But this first change was the only one to sort out problems.

Once off the road, it was the same as on the preceding two days: overcast skies, everything grey in grey.

Ammarnaes to Baeverholmen Ammarnaes to Baeverholmen

But the visibility was better than on the previous days, so when we were going up or down a mountain, we had a good (although still mostly textureless due to the diffuse light) view of the valleys below.

Coming up from a valley

Usually we were following some existing trail (either an official snowmobile trail, well marked with a diagonal red cross on top of a wooden pole or a dogsledding trail that Kenneth and Catte had marked at the begin of the season with long sticks), but here we had to go off-trail for a while and find a way across the plains before getting onto another trail.

Off-trail sledding Off-trail sledding Off-trail sledding Off-trail sledding

As usual, after about three hours we had half an hour break. Rest and snacks for the dogs, tea and sandwiches for us.

Resting on the trail

And then we were on our way again.

Sled dogs running Sled dogs running Sled dogs running

And when we came back down from the mountains, even though visibility wasn't quite as good as in the morning, the view was familiar and we were approaching Bäverholmen.

Baeverholmen view Baeverholmen view

Bäverholmen was the place where we had our rest day last year.

Unfortunately the place where the dogs were resting was a bit exposed to the wind (and the straw that was available wasn't as dry as it should have been), so Kenneth built a snow wall to act as a wind breaker.

Snow wall for dogs Snow wall for dogs Snow wall for dogs

We were also a bit out of luck, as the main guesthouse (where we stayed last year) was fully booked, so Constanze and I had to stay in a smaller, slightly decaying hut. (The picture of the interior shows the full interior - there's the couch to sleep on and a camp bed at the door. And that's pretty much it.)

Baeverhomen small hut Baeverhomen small hut

But then, we have had tent based dog sledding tours, so any hut is a luxury. This was just in stark contrast to all other huts we have seen in Sweden or Finland, which (regardless of size) always justified an "and cosy" at the end.

But there was dinner at the restaurant (last time I had the reindeer, this time I went for the elk, so if I go for the fish next time, I'll be through the non-burger options...) and there are warm showers at Bäverholmen, so it still is a nice place to stop with the dogs.

Next day started out mostly like the previous days, but we were heading somewhere new.

But, first of all, the dogs needed to be fed.

Preparing the breakfast for the dogs Preparing the breakfast for the dogs

Some of them seemed to be looking forward to breakfast.

Dog licking lips

Others didn't seem to care much.

Oboy sleeping

And then we were out on the trails again.

And while we hadn't been on a dog sled here, we already knew the first few kilometers, as this was the way to Adolfström, where we went by snowmobile(-trailer) on our day off last year.

Baeverhomen to Adolfstroem Baeverhomen to Adolfstroem

This time (taking a slightly different way onto the river), the start went without a problem. (Last year Constanze and I both fell of our sleds when trying to go from the starting point onto the river.)

We went quickly through Adolfström, on the trails beyond and had some good trail along a river, with a good view of a frozen waterfall.

Frozen waterfall

But then, near a place called Gautosjö we ran into a problem.

There are some rapids at this point in the river, but usually, in the winter, there is enough snow to be able to get over the rocks.

Gautsjoe rapids Gautsjoe rapids

But here the rocks were exposed and while it would have been possible to get through with a snowmobile, a dog sled is not a finely manoeuvrable vehicle and trying to drive through would not have been a good idea (and when you fall, you are likely to fall on rocks, which isn't a good thing either).

So we tried to find an alternative route, which meant turning the sleds around, going up an icy trail and over an iced-over parking spot, following the snowless road for a hundred meters and then going down to the river again.

That improvisation didn't work quite as well as hoped, with, at first, two sleds entangled (the snow hook of my sled had wedged itself on the runner of Constanze's sled), then one fall and a sled running free, then another accident and two sleds running free, then getting unexpected help by someone with a snowmobile in stopping one of the sleds, and then suddenly having two sleds running free again.

But after ten minutes of hectic and chaos, everything was under control again and nobody was injured and nothing was damaged or broken. All well that ends well...

Although in retrospect it might have been better if we had unclipped the dog harnesses from the tuglines and then slowly moved the sleds through the stones in the rapids. (But that's easy to say with hindsight.)

The most humiliating thing about it was the fact that my dog team was loose and ran off the street back down to the river without any problem or tipping the sled. At that time I was standing beside the road with Constanze's team (as that got stopped and I reached it before Constanze, so I stood on the brake to keep it from moving anywhere until Constanze got to it). But Kenneth (who was ahead with his sled to catch mine) shouted at me to follow him, so went with Constanze's team and the moment I went down the river bank, I fell of the sled and lost the team again. So my dogs managed to get the sled down to the river fine without me, but with me in control, the sled fell over. (Which, technically was a good thing, since a toppled over sled is slower than an upright one, so Kenneth had my team already secured when Constanze's team arrived where he was. But it kind of shows that my 'dog driving skills' are probably more on the negative side, if the teams to better without me.)

After everyone was back on their sleds and all four sleds were back together, we continued on the trail next to the river. And there were no further rapids ahead, so everything was fine.

Trail next to the river Trail next to the river

And the rest of the way was (mostly) easy going. There were some icy bits where the snow got wet and then frozen again, but there was always enough snow around, so we didn't need to go along the ice.

Next to icy patches Next to icy patches

So we had a good run, by now with Snövit and Prana running in lead on my team.

Me and the dogs on the way to Jaekkvik Me and the dogs on the way to Jaekkvik

And at the next rest stop, everyone was relaxed again. Dogsledding as usual (including the fourth day of grey skies).

Dog resting as a group Dog resting as a group Dog relaxing Dog relaxing Dog having a few kibbles

Although I have no idea why Salt was all slobbery at that point, with wet fur on the head and a big (and surprisingly durable) bit of slobber hanging down from the mouth. (Although I am slightly confused about identities here, since the dog next to the slobbering one is clearly Strider, but a picture taken a bit earlier seems to show Strider next to Loke in the second row from front. But maybe I had switched dogs around during the break.)

Slobbering dog Slobbering dog Slobbering dog

So onwards to our next destination - heading for Jäkkvik.

Onwards to Jaekkvik

The final bit of getting into Jäkkvik was a bit tricky. The trail was fine, but we needed to get from the snowmobile trail on some sort of forest road and the corner is at an angle of 70°. I find 90° corners challenging on a dog sled and I was sure I'd fall off the sled on this one, But while the sled does hit the snowdrift on the inner side of the corner (at least I don't hit the tree) and it tilts over and goes on only one runner, I somehow managed to keep control, push it back upright and get back on it. After falling off (and letting go off the sled, which you should never do) earlier that day, I felt glad that I made this corner, even though I am aware that this was more luck than skill.

About three hundred meters further on, we got lucky with the trail. We needed to cross an (often busy) road, but we were able to get onto a small river that enters the Hornavan lake and can cross the street under a bridge, avoiding the traffic.

After that, it's a small turn over the lake and we reached the dog resting area and are met by Sophia (or Sofia - I don't know how she is spelled), Kenneth and Catte's daughter. Jäkkvik is our rest point, so after four days, we and the dogs have a day off, but it is also our resupply point, where we fill our sleds with all the food (human and dogs) for the rest of the tour, since none of the places we will be heading to after this will have real shops or restaurants. (And, slightly more relevant for me, no electrical power, so I needed to charge all my gear and cameras here and hoped that this would be enough for the rest of the tour and that at least the GPS and one camera would not run out of power.)

So Sophia was waiting with a car full of food - about 200 kg of meat and another 60 kg of kibble. Plus some food for humans. (But there's only four of us, so in comparison, that's a negligible amount.)

The original plan was to have dinner at the local restaurant, but it turned out that this is only open on weekends. But there's a shop in town, so we didn't have to ration the food that was intended for the trail. (And even then, we probably wouldn't have noticed - it's not like we were short on food at the end.)

At that point, we had to say goodbye to two dogs in Catte's team. As far as I gathered, on of them had been ill for most of the season and this was a bit of a 'test run' to get the dog back into running, but it seemed like the dog was not quite that fit again and it was better to drive the dog home now instead of taking it on the much longer second part of the trip (where sending a dog home would be much harder to arrange). I am not sure about the other dog, but it seems like that might have had some stomach problems or something like it and gets driven home as well.

While this is inappropriately selfish, I was quite happy that Catte did run with eight dogs from here on and not replenish her team with dogs from the larger client team (i.e. mine).

The dogs had a nice place to stay. There was a five meter high snow wall on one side to protect them from the wind (although it was not specifically there for the dogs, just a side effect of moving the snow away from the paths around the houses) and lower snowbanks on two other sides, so the dogs had a good flat area to lie on, with protection from the wind.

Dog rest protected from the winds

And another thing that Sophia brought were sacks with hay.

Sleds with bags of hay next to them

So we were able to give the dogs nice big piles of hay to sleep on.

Dogs on hay piles Dogs on hay piles

As hay is much fresher than straw and much 'smellier', it is also much more interesting for the dogs. They usually ignore it when you bring them straw, but pay a lot more attention to the hay.

Dogs getting fresh hay Dogs getting fresh hay Dogs getting fresh hay Dogs getting fresh hay

And with its greenish colour, it looked like we just had planted four rows of dogs...

Dogs on their hay beds Dogs on their hay beds Dogs on their hay beds

In the meantime, Kenneth and Sophia had dug a hole in the snow wall to build a natural 'freezer' where we could store all the meat until we put it on the sleds two days later.

Meat freezer

The place we were staying in was by far the largest on the whole tour (and that includes the guesthouses in Ammarnäs and the main building in Bäverholmen).

Kyrkans Light through glass window

The place is essentially the parish hall of the local church, which operates as a hostel. As it was built for visiting study groups, confirmations, wedding parties and similar things (but also for skiing, fishing and mountain hiking), so it has about ten bedrooms and probably place for forty people in addition to some annex buildings with another 30+ beds and a tent site (though that was at the moment being occupied by 35 dogs on their hay beds).

Side note: One of the smaller buildings was named "Paradise" with the apartments "Adam" and "Eva" (well, this was church property after all...), so in theory, you could stay in paradise if you visit Jäkkvik. Though the web site also states "Note: Dogs and other pets not allowed in Paradise.", which sort of spoils the concept. (I don't know whether snakes count as pets or whether you can have one in paradise. Also no specific info whether eating apples will get you expelled.)

One convenient feature of having a hostel, built for larger groups, to ourselves was the big kitchen. As this is designed to be able to provide food for events and, since that includes things like weddings, where 'feeding the masses' doesn't mean that you can get away with a big pot of stew, the kitchen is large, very well equipped and would do most restaurants proud.

So while that still meant that Kenneth and Catte had to make dinner and couldn't go to a restaurant, this was also the best equipped place on the trip to do this.

But the most important thing about the pictures above is not the building, but the conditions under which the pictures were made - in bright sunlight under blue skies.

On our rest day, most of the clouds were gone and we had a nice day out in the sun. (And it wasn't that windy either.)

And the dogs were nice and warm as well.

(The previous sentence is a weak attempt to justify showing the next group of pictures.)

I had a small thermal camera with me and did a few pictures of the dogs with it.

Dogs resting on snow thermal image Dogs resting on snow thermal image

What is quite noticeable is that it's a sunny day, as the trees show up as warm (at about 10°C, I assume).

I was a bit surprised how warm the dogs were on the outside.

Thermo image of sled dog after rest on a sunny day Thermo image of sled dog after rest on a sunny day

They have thick, isolating coats, so I expected them to be about the same temperature on the outside as anything else warmed by the sun (so about the same temperature as the trees) and their internal temperature 'hidden' from the outside by the fur and only visible on places where their fur was thin or non-existing (cheeks, mouth, nose, eyes, paws).

But that's not quite how it works. Even resting dogs generate a lot of heat and unless dissipated by win, it will 'seep through' the fur. And while the face is a bit warmer, it is not extremely so. It would probably quite different at -20°C or below.

Interestingly, the camera had sufficient temperature resolution to identify Yoga, who was wearing a neoprene 'jacket' to keep a strained shoulder warm.

Thermo image of sled dog with neoprene vest Thermo image of sled dog with neoprene vest

Although the image doesn't provide much information about how effective this is. The temperature on the outside of the 'jacket' is slighly (about 3° C, I guess) lower than on the fur, so it seems like it retains some of the heat inside, but it might also radiate heat on the outside faster than fur does. And 3° temperature difference probably doesn't have much effect on a strained muscle. But then again, the outside temperature doesn't say much about the temperature on the inside, much less about the temperature at the skin or in the muscle.

So while thermo-cameras are fun, they don't really give that much information if you just take snapshots and don't plan their use properly...

To get back to normal photographs, here's a picture of a friendly tree in Jäkkvik.

Friendly tree in Jaekkvik

Jäkkvik also has flight connections, although not quite operational in the winter.

Jaekkvik plane Jaekkvik plane

As usual, a 'rest day' isn't really for rest, it more properly a 'maintenance day'.

The sleds are emptied and the sled bags are dried, gear is checked and repacked, the sled runners are either smoothed again (removing any irregularities from running over stones or streets) or replaced, and the dogs, especially their feet, are checked for injuries.

All things that are easier to do and more pleasant when the sun is shining. (From a technical point, it is better to have an overcast travel day than an overcast rest day, although, of course, sunny weather is always appreciated.)

Checking on the dogs Checking on the dogs

It was also a good day for postcard writing, as there's a post office in the shop in Jäkkvik, so this was the last real chance of getting mail sent before the day we would be going back to Hemavan to fly home. And it's better to write postcards on a day off, as you're not quite as tired as you are when you've been on the sled all day.

(Unfortunately it also turned out to be a good day for losing stuff as well, as I had updated my notebook and left it somewhere and didn't notice it when packing my bag the next morning, so my notes on the first days of the trip are missing, which is one of the reasons why I am not sure when I put which dog in which position and when and where things happened exactly.)

At the end of the day, we all went to sleep rather early, since the next day would have the longest distance to cover - about 90 km, so we would be on the sled for more than seven hours.

But at least at dusk it looked like we might have some nice weather the next day as well.

Jaekkvik sky at dusk

Continue with the second part of the dog sledding trip

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