ice hotel trip, days 3 & 4

Allan changed into warm clothes, and we went straight to breakfast. After a lot of good food, we bundled up again.

This week, every time I stepped outside, I remembered how much I love the cold, and love winter. I have no tolerance for heat and humidity. In the summer, I'm ready to collapse five minutes after walking outside. But winter! As long as I'm dressed for it, I love the bracing cold air, and how alive it makes me feel.

We were just as excited about our plans for that morning as we were about the Ice Hotel: dog sledding!

We had booked the longest trip that was available through the Auberge, 90 minutes. There was only one other couple on our trip, plus a guide with a team at the front, and one at the back - four teams total.

Once the sleds come out, all the dogs in the kennel go crazy, barking and jumping, hoping it's their turn to go. The sleds have to be anchored in, or the dogs would take off and never be seen again. While they're being harnessed and readied, the dogs are just going insane with happy anticipation. (Stacie, am I getting this right?) Finally the first team takes off, and soon we're flying down the trail.

The trail wound through an arboretum. Snow was shaking off the pine trees, and there was no other sound but the dogs panting and the occasional shouts to get them stopped or started. We were told if they stopped to sniff or pee, when they were finished, to shout, "Allez allez! Allez du chiens!"

We switched driving and sitting twice, so we each drove twice, and were a passenger twice. It was fabulous; I never wanted it to end.

After the ride, we spent a little time with the dogs, had hot chocolate and cookies in a yurt, and held one-month old Husky puppies. We were melting.

Allan and I fell in love with mushing - and with sled dogs - during our trip to Alaska in 1996. We had planned to take a dog-sledding vacation as soon as we could afford it. We had picked out a great company that teaches you how to mush and how to take care of the dogs, and outfits a complete five-day trip in the wilderness. It was to be a very special vacation. (The most expensive part, for us, was getting to northern Minnesota from New York City.)

We were all set to book it... then we started talking about moving to Canada. We knew that if that was going to happen, we couldn't afford the mushing trip, too: the money had to go in the move-to-Canada fund. With great difficulty, I dropped the idea. (I actually mention this in one of my earliest posts: Why Canada.)

Since then, I had pretty much given up on the idea. I started to think we'd never do it.

Our experience in Quebec this week reawakened the idea, and we're talking seriously about it again. Maybe we'll even do it in Canada. Maybe I have a blog-friend who can recommend a guide company...

After dog-sledding, we had lunch at the Auberge, then went down to the cross-country ski lodge. Our package included a multi-activity pass, where we could do anything the resort offers, all paid for, including equipment rental. I had always wanted to try cross-country skiing, but never had the opportunity. This was my chance.

In case you imagine me to be someone I'm not: I have zero athletic ability. As a child, I had a history of painful and embarrassing episodes, always falling and hurting myself while doing next to nothing, and as I got older I learned to avoid anything that required balance or coordination of any type. Allan has seen me try to climb a fence. It's a pathetic and dangerous thing.

I love to hike and to be outdoors, but I'm not competitive, and it was a great relief when I aged out of being the last one standing when choosing sides for teams. Hey, I'm not whining about it, and I'm not complaining. It's just the facts.

For some reason, cross-country skiing always stuck in my head as something I might be able to do. But living in New York City and not being big outdoors types - and never taking a winter vacation - we never went out of our way to try it. So I thought this trip would be a great opportunity - it's paid for, it's at the lodge, and if I can't do it, I'll just stop, nothing lost.

So, I tried it. And I did ok! I managed to ski on an easy trail, had a very hard time turning around - fell, had a hell of a time getting up - and skied back. Most amazingly to me, I actually did better than Allan. He fell several times, and didn't enjoy himself much at all. I completely sympathize, since I've been there more times than I care to remember. I mean absolutely no disrespect to my esteemed partner when I say: this was the first time in my life I was actually not the worst one at something, that I actually did all right at an activity the first time I tried it. Go figure.

After we managed to get back to the ski lodge, that was quite enough activity! Dry clothes and a drink at the bar were in order.

We had another wonderful dinner at the Auberge, and fell asleep almost immediately after.

The next day, yesterday, we left early. We drove back through frozen Quebec, through snow-covered Ontario farmland, back into the sprawl, and home to our Cody. She and Ellen The Amazing Dogsitter had a fantastic time without us.

How much do I love to travel? I even love a nine-hour drive, talking with my sweetie and listening to music, watching the world outside the window. A fantastic four days.

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