Ghosts of Fortune Mountain: Mushing in the Rockies

It’s winter. It’s cold. But that doesn’t matter. I have a team of eight rowdy huskies waiting for me to say, “HIKE!” before we lunge onto the frosty trail for an incredible two-day adventure. Snowy Owl Sled Dog Tours of Canmore, Alberta, has us gliding through the trees and along a frozen lake on way to experience the Ghosts of Fortune Mountain overnight expedition.

To get used to the sled and the power of the dogs, a quick 25-km (15.5-mile) loop along Goat Creek has us mastering the skill of riding the thin runners on the back of the sled — two people per sled. The afternoon is spent running up and down gentle trails far into the backcountry, far from roads, phones and the comforts we take for granted. Leaving it all behind and trusting the team are exhilarating.

As the shadows creep down the mountainside the camp comes into view. It’s amazing how a tent tucked into the snow-crusted trees can suddenly look so inviting. But there is still work ahead. It’s up to us, and the guides, to start the fire and prep the meal for the dogs. Each tired dog expects their fair share of praise as they are unharnessed and fed a warm nutritious meal. After a few hugs, they bed down for the night knowing tomorrow is another exciting day on the trail.

While we brag about our new backcountry mushing skills, the guides use the campfire to create a feast of “Family Label” recipes including filet mignon, seasonal vegetables and well-earned desserts. The campfire crackles while we listen to tales of the ghosts of Fortune Mountain, and the legends of the Native and Inuit cultures.

The dogs are comfortable curled up in the snow, but we crawl into a fur lined winter expedition tent and wrap into cozy sleeping apparel. Protected from the cold, I listen to the wind as it whispers through the trees. I can’t help but wonder how the early explorers handled the hardships of winter. Soon, however, sleep steals my thoughts.

Day two starts with the sounds of the guides prepping the breakfast as the dogs yelp in anticipation. Like old pros we harness the teams to ride further into the woods. The afternoon has us retrace our tracks from yesterday. Over 80 km (50 miles) of mountain trails, icy lakes and abandoned logging roads have passed under our sleds. As we unharness the dogs for the last time the cuddles linger longer. What may have been another walk in the park for them was a trip of a lifetime for us.

Photo ©Snowy Owl Tours

Article courtesy of the Canadian Tourism Commission. The text has been modified from the original.