Sunday, January 30, 2005

Ontario Dog Sledding Memories

I was shocked to learn about a tragic accident that took the life of John Daley (see photo above). I spent a winter working with John and am very sad to hear about his passing on. I took some time today to go through an old photo album filled with dog sled pictures taken from Voyageur Quest’s first season offering Ontario Dog sledding trips. That year, 1993, we teamed up with John‘s Windigo Chain Outfitters and operated 4 day dog sled trips to Temagami’s Diamond Lake. John’s dogs were really outstanding - incredibly trained. We started the trips with an orientation and practice run at Andorra Lodge before heading down the Red Squirrel Road for 3 days and two nights in heated wall tents. Our guests loved the experience John was the consummate alpha male himself- if a dog was really out of control, he would wrestle the dog to ground and bite the dog’s lip. The dog would immediately settle down and John would carry on – with a blood frozen to his handle -bar mustache. Another memory of John - traveling down Diamond Lake at full speed on the last morning of a trip, looking across to see John’s team really flying - with John doing a headstand on his sled. He will be missed.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Snowshoe Revival!

It is wonderful to see the renewed interest in snowshoeing! 15 years ago, Voyageur Quest used to operate winter trips to Camp Pathfinder located on Source Lake just north of Algonquin Park’s Highway 60. We began our adventure at the old Park Museum at Found Lake and backcountry skied down the Source Lake Road before crossing the lake to Pathfinder. The trips were loads of fun and a real adventure just getting to the island with all of our gear being hauled on sleds! Most of our guests at that time were keen to backcountry ski.

We would pack a lunch and head for the day - ski up to Raven Lake and descend on a breathtaking pine trail to the Mizzy Lake trail. While our packages included snowshoes, it was very rare that our guests would ever want to use them. Snowshoes, to our guests at the time, seemed very “yesterday”… “old fashioned”. On these trips, our snowshoes ended up used mostly as shovels while making quinzy’s!

How times have changed! With people paying closer attention to their fitness and diet, snowshoes appear to have filled the demand for an innovative way to enjoy winter and keep fit. The Snowshoeing boom has followed the growth of running, cycling, triathlons, and Nordic skiing in the 1980’s, and the development of modern, aluminum framed snowshoes, have enabled users to enjoy snowshoeing from their first step.

Leading Snowshoe manufacturers like Tubbs reported snowshoe sales increased at more than 20% per year through the 1990’s. According to the United States National Sporting Equipment Association, US outdoor enthusiasts purchased 444,000 snowshoes in 1994, while 640,000 were purchased in 1995. For the first time ever, over a million pairs were purchased in 1996.
More than 5 million Americans went snowshoeing in 2000 – 3 % of all Americans over the age of 15 – according to the Outdoor Industry of America. There appears to be no slump for the sport, which has mushroomed over a decade with annual increases of 20 – 30%.

Interested in heading to Algonquin Park to try snowshoeing? The Algonquin Park 3-Day Winter Lodge Adventure is a great way to experience Algonquin's winter and experience snowshoeing at the same time.