We pull into the parking lot of the Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve and turn off the car, the silence within magnified by the light snow that quickly accumulates on our windshield. Quietly, we put on heavy layers of winter clothing, grab our cameras from the back seat and open the doors simultaneously. A wave of sounds, sights and smells envelope us like a dense fog, and we are immediately transported into another world where snow and ice paint the landscape white and sled dogs and hardy adventurers rule the land. Snow crunches below our field, almost imperceptible above the cacophony of barks, whines and growls of hundreds of sled dogs eager to hit the trail. Handlers and mushers from all over the world, dressed in the bright colors of their home countries, run around the staging area preparing their dog teams for upcoming races. The distinct odor of wet dog blends with the smell of hot apple cider and stew emanating from the kitchen exhaust; perhaps made more pungent by the icy cold air that we inhale through our warm, wool scarves.
My wife and I are here in Haliburton Forest in the Haliburton region of Ontario, Canada to witness the 2017 IFSS Sleddog World Championship, and annual event that is hosted this year by Canada – appropriate on this country’s 150th anniversary of Confederation. We came here specifically to see the dogsledding team events, but we are just as happy to watch single skijoring races and to just mingle with the dogs in the handling areas. It is such a pleasure to see the passion these competitors have for their sport – man and beast alike.
Between races, D and I stop for lunch in the onsite restaurant, where we dine on fresh soup and salad for the bargain price of $7.50 each. Satiated and warm, we venture back out into the cold just as the snow starts to come down a little faster, accumulating nicely on the trails. The 6-dog races are scheduled for the afternoon, so since we have some time to kill, we hike the one kilometre down the road to the Wolf Centre, an interactive exhibit that shelters a family of Grey (Timber) Wolves that can be safely viewed from a heated indoor viewing platform.
We have the place literally to ourselves, and the gentleman who has manned the desk there for the past 22 years is kind enough to regale us with stories of wolves, Haliburton Forest and the Haliburton region for more than an hour. The wolves are cooperative, rising from their midday beds to chase the passing dogsleds down the fenceline of their enclosure, occasionally howling their pleasure – or discontent, I’m not sure which – at the passing canines. We take lots of great photographs through the 1-way glass and then bid farewell to our guide and the wolves before trekking back to the races. We arrive just in time to see the last several dog teams arrive back at the finish line, including our two favorite teams of Siberian Huskies. It is time to leave, but we are glad we made the 2 hour drive and look forward to returning to the Haliburton Forest again in the near future.
To get there;
Google Map to Haliburton Forest
For more information, visit the official website at the event by clicking on this link.
For local accommodations, visit;
For more information on the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve;
For outfitting your next adventure, contact Algonquin Outfitters;