From a Student’s Journal
“My Perfect Wilderness Adventure” by Sarah
As a fifteen year old, I’m happy to say that I recently experienced my third adventure with Chopaw Expeditions, and can’t wait to go back again. The staff are amazing, very knowledgeable, helpful, and do everything to help create long lasting memories. Two of my adventures have been dog sledding, which is a fantastic way to discover and experience the nature of Algonquin’s wilderness. It’s also a great way to build your self confidence and teamwork skills. In my case, the dog sled journey was perfect because it combined my love of animals, with my love for nature and history. For thousands of years dog sledding was the primary means of transportation for people living in cold climates, and I wanted to experience how people lived before the days of cars, trains and airplanes. Algonquin Park was spectacular, with amazing landscape features year round. Chocpaw is also a great venue for teens working towards their Duke of Ed levels. Over the course of a few days you make new friends with like-minded people, and learn to work well, both independently and as part of a team. I’m already planning my next visit!
From an International Duke of Ed Coordinator
D of E Gold Dog Sled Expedition – February 2016
I have been on two dog sledding trips with Chocpaw, 6-day Gold level D of E tours. Feb 2016 was the most recent.
The organisation is very slick. We had to travel from Scotland with multiple legs to the trip, but Chocpaw made sure we had transport to and from Toronto once in Ontario. When it came to the dog sledding, we first met our sled guides Heather, Liam and Kaity the night before for a sled etiquette demo, and to distribute essential kit. This intro definitely raises excitement levels but also calms any fears at the same time. The next two days it’s training on the job; it becomes an intrepid adventure, learning how to brake and hold on for dear life, running up hills with leaden legs. My D of E group were soon into a routine at each camp, with various tasks essential to the success of the expedition: gathering water from frozen lakes, searching for firewood and sawing back at base to create small log mountains, cooks beavering away at the stove inside a smoky tent, and making sure the dogs are provided for.
The dogs are everything. We pick them up from their yard home, each one with their own identity and character. Miraculously, each sled guide knows the dogs, from hundreds living in their wee strawed homes. Their excitement at being included in the sled team is obvious, as you walk them to the gang line. It feels like they are pulling you to the action to be honest. They clearly love to pull sleds and don’t hide their feelings with an impatient mêlée of barking as they wait for the command to be given. The sound of concentration and dog satisfaction as the sled first pulls away is incredible; barking instantly replaced with quiet, just sled sliding on snow.
Participants are taught that a successful sled team means working with the dogs, giving words of encouragement when deserved and running with the team to get up hills. At camp there is pampering time as the humans take time out to thank the dog teams for their efforts that day. All the dogs are receptive and appreciative. It was a real team effort.
This is the magic that dog sled expeditions provide. We could have trekked or canoed in our home country but sledding brings a team together like nothing else. It is a physical challenge at times but the rewards are worth it. You may well be following a trail but there is still a pioneering atmosphere, especially with fresh snowfall. Camp tasks become instinctive after a couple of days and the dogs become travel companions, work colleagues, comrades. Dogs and humans are on first name terms by the end of the trip, and we all know the canine characters from the other sled teams as well. There are always tears as humans say goodbye and return the dogs to their yard homes for a well-earned rest.
The other requirement of a successful trip for me is a football game – at Camp Craig we made a suitable arena with sleds marking the boundaries, like an ice-hockey rink. Canadian sled guide Liam and Kaity the Aussie gave it a World Cup feel and we played out an epic match.
I’ll be back in late 2017 with a new batch of Scottish kids to experience the magic. Highly recommended for adventurous souls.
David Low/Duke of Ed Coordinator/Scotland
From an Educator’s Desk – Chocpaw Testimonial
Written by Tom Lewis, Director of Leadership and Community Service, Pickering College
I have been bringing students to Chocpaw since their very first year of operation. I would not have maintained such a long association if it were not for the fact that Chocpaw offers such a unique experience that you won’t want to miss. I was looking for an out of the ordinary expedition for my students in a winter camping setting and gave Paul Reid a call. It was a great decision.
Paul and Marg Reid are tremendously accommodating. Whether it has to do with routes I wanted to travel, special food needs that my group may have, or extra experinces I wanted to add, such as building snow shelters, my students have always come away with a rewarding experience. Many have returned to do other expeditions.
Chocpaw Expeditions allows your students to experience dog sleddging as it should be experienced. The students will be driving their own sleds, feeding and watering the dogs, gathering their own wood and water, in other words, gaining a complete appreciation for winter camping while sledding.
Chocpaw guides are a terrific group. They reflect the care taken in their selection. I have found that they relate well to the students and truly enjoy what they are doing.
The expeditions that I lead tend to be four days in length and fit well with our shool’s Duke of Edinburg and Leadership Programs. The students find these trips physically and mentally challenging but incredibly rewarding.
I would throughly recommend Chocpaw to your school. Perhaps we’ll pass each other on the trail someday.
Chocpaw in Publications:
Wolfpack: A Reflection on Dogsledding Nipissing University Blog, by Justin Bereczki
“A Lesson Like No Other” in The North Bay Nugget, by Kate McLaren
“Dogsledding – Adventure, Camaraderie and Huge Learning!” by Paul Strome in Pathways: The Ontario Journal of Outdoor Education; Vol. 16, Issue 5, pg 26-30
Chocpaw on Trip Advisor.