I saw an interesting post in a travel forum today. Travelers coming to a northern Norway port by cruise ship this winter were looking at a dogsledding tour slated to begin in the late afternoon. In February, “late afternoon” in this part of the world really means “2 PM”, so a dogsledding event beginning at five o’clock really is a nighttime tour.
In the post, the traveler asked why a dogsled company would offer a tour that takes place in the dark, and that’s actually a really good question Here’s my opinion on that subject.
The most important first step is to make sure one is looking at the subject in the right way. You may like to eat liver, but that won’t help much when your next chocolate-looking birthday cake is actually made from the stuff. Surprises that challenge our expectations rarely turn out to be positive.
So when you close your eyes and imagine yourself on the tour, erase the images of a golden sun on snow-covered mountains, or gliding over a mountain plateau where the white landscape meets a gray-blue cloudy sky. Those are nice experiences, too, but not the ones you are going to have.
Instead, you will arrive at the husky farm at night. The same happy husky dogs from the daytime will be there to greet you at night, this time with eyes that flash when they catch the lights in the yard and your headlamp. As your team and sled are prepared for the ride, it’s easy (at least for me) to slip into Walter Mitty-like fantasies about needing to dash out into the darkness to save somebody stuck in the snow. Then you’re off with the same surge of energy from the dogs and in your heart that you feel from a daytime run.
The dogs are steady and sturdy as they pull you along, whether it’s through the forest, along a river or over an open plain or field. The guide in front of you and the dogs know the area and the trail, and have plenty of nighttime driving experience – only YOU are the newcomer to this kind of adventure!
Your headlamp will help show you the way, and gradually as your eyes adjust to the night the natural light will begin to play a bigger part. Hills and mountains will loom mysteriously in the distance. Nearby trees will flicker in and out of view as you look around with your headlamp. The white, snowy ground will pick up whatever light is coming from the sky and amplify it a bit, giving the countryside a glow, especially if the sky is clear and the moon is out.
As you drive along, check the sky! If the sky is clear, you might well see the Northern Lights overhead. If you want the ultimate in arctic imagery, you can’t do much better than gliding through the cold snow on a dogsled with the aurora borealis dancing above you. Unlike an aurora hunt where you are standing still, this trip is not for taking pictures; it’s a time for you to simply experience the moment, marveling that even at night this is a beautiful land.
Is it snowy and stormy? You won’t see the aurora, but instead you’ll see the swirl of snowflakes in your headlamp, the fresh powder landing all around… and ON… you, and if there’s enough snow you might even see the shadows made by your headlamp on freshly-cut sled tracks in the snow.
With all said and done, why would anyone ever go on a nighttime dogsledding tour? Honestly, the best answer I know is simply, “Because it’s one heck of a fun adventure!” If you get a chance, give it a try!