Boyhood Dreams And Being Back For A Year

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April 5th 2012
Published: April 22nd 2012
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I don't remember how the collection of books arrived into the family home I grew up in. I was 7,8, maybe 9 years of age when the box of books was taken from the box and put onto the bookshelf. I have dozens of cousins varying in age, so boxes often arrived and boxes often exited. Hand me down clothes, toys, bicycles, books, shoes, skates and even cross country skies have entered and exited my early life. Back to the books. The books were a set of children's versions of classic novels. Their colourful covers, large print, small size and use of illustrations made them both eye catching, easy to transport and the modified classics proved to be an interesting read. I was an avid reader then. I read on the school bus, on my recess and at home (if I wasn't outside playing or causing minor sorts of trouble). I ripped threw this new stack of books. Children's versions of Last of the Mohicans, Treasure Island, Mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. I read them all with curious little eyes, but the books that captured my attention, made me want to be a part of the novel and even conceived some dreams in my little head were the books Call Of The Wild and White Fang. I would read the little versions of these books and dream of the Great White North, husky dogs, the Northern Lights, the wide open space of snow and ice. I would close my eyes to see myself standing on the a sled, 8 blue eyed huskies pulling the sled through fresh powder, fur hat on my head, parka and a gun over my shoulder with the panoramic of snow capped mountains surrounding. Its a dream that had become misplaced for many years in the lost file of childhood dreams.

This dream did resurface a few years ago while living in rural New Brunswick during a winter of tremendous snowfall. I had began using my dad's snowshoes for little wanders in the snow which led me to thinking about dogsledding. I did some research but found only training facilities in New Brunswick and a place to try ski-jorging (which the person on skies is pulled by dogs). While I was travelling I would find myself on a nice beach in Australia, or an open road in New Zealand or enjoying some peaceful moments elsewhere while my mind would wander to dogsledding, thinking how nice it just may be.

Living in Calgary is boring. I don't have a large circle of friends and I don't attend many events. The weather has been a repeating cycle of spring-like weather for a few days followed by cool, clouds and snow. One afternoon while enjoying the sunshine and last nights snow flakes, I got thinking about the mountains. Then the idea of dogsledding resurfaced in my mind. I researched a few companies, made a phone call and we were booked on a 2 hour tour in Canmore.

We left the city before sun-up, arriving in Canmore in the early morning sunshine. We were picked up at the tour office, put into a van with a nice couple from Texas, driven through Canmore and up into the mountains towards Spray Lake. In 20 minutes time we pulled past the lake to the base camp that consisted of trucks, sleds and dogs. Stepped out of the van to the sound of 30 dogs barking and howling in the cool morning air. We were introduced to our guides then to our team of dogs. In minutes we were harnessing up our lead dogs, I was harnessing a Siberian Husky named Brandy while Court was harnessing a mixed breed name Leah. Most dogs are excited as they know they get to run soon while the lead dogs we harnessed were super calm and almost put the harness on themselves while some of the other dogs were jumping, barking and howling. I held the line of the sled tight while Johanson, our guide from Germany, brought the team over one by one attaching them to the line. When the dogs are transported to the the line they are held by the collar which makes the dogs walk upright and most dogs are skilled at walking upright. I witnessed one dog jump over the line and land on it's hind legs smoothly. In no time the team was complete, 7 dogs in total. Once the dogs were attached they went from excited to super excited. Two of our back dogs fought over right and left position. While all the dogs, with the exception of lead dogs, were jumping, barking, howling, they were just raring to go. It gets loud with 3 teams of dogs doing this but the excitement does rub off as my excitement level was growing too.

Seated in the sled, the hook gets lifted, a shout from Johanson , then the jolt from 7 powerful dogs and we were in movement. It was surprising the initial jolt from the start. In no time were we on a fresh powder lined trail, quiet dogs pulling us through the quiet forest, watching the fresh coyote tracks that ran alongside the trail (hoping he is not nearby), listening to the sound of the sled sliding over the snow. It was very peaceful moving so quietly through the forest, the mountaintops peering down, the morning sunshine.

We stopped for a little half time break, the dogs enjoying water while we drank our hot chocolate. As this tour company comes through here often, they have made a little friend who waits around this area. A squirrel named Jeffrey, who I was told has a taste for chocolate chip cookies. As we stood around chatting a squirrel came running. The tour guides identified it as Jeffrey and in no time Jeffrey was lifting the lid on the cookie container then running off to enjoy another meal the size of himself.

The dogs were getting loud again, it was getting time to go. We began our trip back with Court and I in the sled then I got my chance to stand on the back. The view from the back is better as you can see all 7 dogs and there movements. The two leads would guide the sled into our tracks from before then back into the fresh powder. So here I was kind of mushing a team of dogs, surrounded by forest and mountains and you know, it felt just great. After we got back to base camp we gave the dogs some treats and some attention. I had anticipated the teams to be complete huskies but had learned throughout the day about the different blends of breeds used for racing. Alaskan Malamute are bred with Greyhounds and English Pointers to create a faster dog for racing. We learned about their diets of chicken and chicken water, their summer training that involves a large treadmill that a team can run on. I learned about prices for starting a team and sled. I could really see myself later on in life, the fur hat, grey beard, the parka, a team of blue eyed huskies pulling the sled into the wilderness.

Then we went to Banff to enjoy some sights and spent the night. I lived in Banff following college and it was the stepping stone into the world of travel. I was young, living in a postcard, seeing loads of new things, meeting international people plus I had survived my first flight which put me on my path to wanting to see and experience more. So it has been special to visit Banff town on a few occasions since I moved to Calgary. For a bit of nostalgia I wanted to go to my most memorable bars while in Banff. So Court and I drank and snacked at a few different places around town while I looked around the room remembering the people and the times from so long ago, realizing I wouldn't even recognized the old Gifton of so long ago. The evening did consist of plenty of beers and plenty of talk of scenarios of how I could live a life and own a team of huskies.

Nostalgia hurts and I realized this at 5am while I was leaned against a hotel toilet getting rid of my night of excess. When I was twenty years of age living in a party town like Banff, many early mornings I could of been found in a similar position. I awoke at something past 8 am thinking death could be arriving anytime soon, I showered then went outside for some mountain air. I walked through the waking up town and down to the river where I sat in the cool embrace of the morning air. I stared at the nostalgia in front of me remembering all the times from so long ago.

The original plan was to venture into British Columbia but the weather forecast was calling for 25cm of snow to begin anytime. I didn't want to go back to Calgary yet but I wasn't fancying the thought of trying to get home in a storm and hey I still thought the Grim Reaper was en-route. We choose the safe decision and returned to Calgary seeing only a bit of snow along the way. I reported directly to bed and awoke a few hours later alive and positive.

I realized I've been back in my country for a full year now which has got me thinking. I been thinking last year has not been much of a success, but not a failure either, just middle-ground. It was originally very difficult to be working and living a boring life when I would rather have been elsewhere seeing something new. But now I've accepted that my life can't always be so eventful. I've arrived at new goals, I have a short term plan of retiring the chef whites permanently, I've applied to a college. Now I'm at a point of waiting, I'm waiting on a letter from the college and also the summer job that I have but is not fully confirmed yet. I have a 5 year plan and maybe even a 10 year plan that involves blue eyed huskies. When I was a young boy I dreamed of the great white north and dogsledding, when I was a teen I dreamed of being a chef and making grand meals in grand locations, and when I was a young chef learning so much everyday I was dreaming of learning beer brewing. Now, I await a letter that will say if I will get to start my quest into the world of beer this fall, if not I will be applying the following year. I'm realizing an exciting life is just a dream away and letting dreams get pushed into the lost files folder inside our head is a big mistake. I wandered the world with little planning and returned home a new man with no plan, no goals. It can be hard to stay driven without a carrot at the end of the stick and now the carrot is on the end of the stick. Life can be beautiful if I want it to be.

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