Finland – Dog Sledding with Hetta Huskies
Crossing into the Lappi (Lapland) region of Finland from Norway on the E8 still deep within the Arctic you notice an immediate change in landscape. Suddenly the roads straighten out and all around you is an endless snowy plateau interspersed with forests and frozen lakes. There is also substantially more snow here than in Norway. Passing Sami reindeer herders and the odd snowmobile there is little life out here, It is the frozen tundra of the last great European wilderness.
The reason we are here is to visit Pasi and Anna at Hetta Huskies for a short day safari out with the dogs. We arrived in the afternoon and dropped in to see them. We booked in for the following day on a 13 km stretch which also took us to a snow castle. We had a look around and met a number of the very enthusiastic guides that work there and Anna was also very accommodating offering us a place to wild-camp on the farm for the night. We had a tour of the facilities at the farm and more importantly the dogs. Those that know me will know I’m not the worlds greatest dog fan. Allergic from a young age I didn’t grow up with any pets and every large dog I passed usually tried to pull me off my mountain bike! Still, I love the wild look of the Siberian Huskies and Arctic Finland (and indeed Hetta Huskies) seemed like the best place on earth to go dog-sledding.
I wont go into detail on what makes Hetta the best choice for a great mushin’ experience, there is a plethora of information on their website which outlines the need for responsible travel/tourism, regional sustainability and the ‘leave no trace’ code of ethics. Not to mention the huge amount of love and care the dogs receive on the farm and indeed throughout their life. All of this is clearly seen both on the website and on the ground.
The following morning we had a briefing from the guides on the operation of the sledges and the likely scenarios we would encounter and how to act accordingly for the safety of both ourselves and (more importantly) the dogs. We met our dog team of six out in front of the other sledges and then we were off. At first I was a little apprehensive of the actual speed these dogs would haul us at but it wasn’t too fast at all,It was a relaxed pace. We had a stop off at the snow castle for some coffee and biscuits which was a nice break and comes highly recommended. The snow castle is built fresh every year by the owner and 4-5 others. It takes them a few weeks to construct it from cutting the ice out of the frozen lakes and building the walls etc. They then have to leave the snow settle before removing the mould and moving it along.
After we had finished we helped the guides put the dogs back in the kennels or onto the chains with a couple of the dogs going into the house for some R&R. We were invited in for a late lunch with the guides which we gratefully accepted and spent some time with them talking about anything and everything. We left Hetta around 1600 and moved south through Finland heading for Sweden. We wee really lucky here with the winter temperatures as prior to leaving the UK the long range forecast was predicting temperatures in the region of -25 c to -30c. Luckily for us it was a lot milder and we only saw temperatures of -8 c overnight making wild-camping less of a problem.