A Great Road Trip – Winterdance Dogsledding Tours

A few weeks ago, at the insistance of a friend, I reached out to Tanya McCready at Winterdance Dogsled Tours to see if there was still time to get in a dogsled tour on on her 5,000+ acres of backwoods trails near Haliburton, Ontario, just south of Algonquin Park. I knew my old friend Sarah Lemay, who runs Toronto’s only breastfeeding boutique Evymama, would be up for just this kind of adventure.

With some quick-thinking related to the acquisition of car seats, we were also able to pull her two charming kids, Remy and Tayla, out of school to join us. You can check out the video below to see what we discovered. It wasn’t what either of us expected…in a really great way.

The Basics of Dogsledding

Our trip up to Winterdance took about three hours with a couple of breaks along the way. Upon our arrival our guide Mike gave us the full run down. In essence, dogsledding is less about the sled and more about the dogs. Knowing how to read their signals is key, along with a communicating to them through controls on the sled. For the uphill portions of the trail, we had to jump off the sled and walk alongside, and as we coasted downhill, heavy use of the brake kept the lines taught and the dogs from getting hit by the sled. We headed out onto the trail with Mike’s training, knowing that it would all make sense in short order – and it did.

The dogs would slow down and look back at us if we ever slacked off pushing on the harder sections. They are driven to be constantly moving forward, so we also had to use the brake to keep them from running right into the team in front of us. But developing these skills and understanding what the dogs were communicating to us was all part of the fun of the first half  of our tour. Once we got the hang of it, we could really start to enjoy the scenery and the camradie with the team.

After and hour or two out on the trail, we crossed a lake and got an sense of how far from the city we truly were. Cliffs with massive turquoise icesheets covering their soney faces rose on either side of us, and the dead silence of this pristine and isolated part of the world began to work it’s magic on our city-tired souls. Sarah’s father had always been described to me as a modern-day coureur des bois, and I imagined that this was the kind of experience that people who were deeply connected with nature had. The early explorers of Canada were in touch with the land and connected to their animals in such an inate way that they could go weeks and months in the vast wilderness without seeing another human and be perfectly at ease. Our guide was kind enough to also prepare a lunch for us on the shore of the lake, and we had delicious hamburgers and hotdogs in front of a crackling fire before finishing the last leg of our tour, which saw us speed down a few hills and past other visitors just at the start of their own adventures.

Things You Need to Know

  • Dogsledding tours at Winterdance are suitable for children and adults.
  • The tour is very safe and the sleds don’t go much faster than 20km/h on the downhill sections.
  • The dogs will be barking before the sleds embark on their tour – this is normal and is just to show their excitement.
  • Tours can be a couple hours, a half or a full day – call to confirm availability.

As a snowmobiler, I’d half-expected a fast-paced, competative race through the forest (and had already strategized on how to keep ahead of Sarah, Remy and Tayla.) But this is not what Winterdance’s dogsled tours are really about. What I did find was an incredibly peaceful escape from the city. Compared to my snowmobile trip a week later in Muskoka, this was serene, connected and left me feeling recharged.

For more information on all kinds of winter, summer, spring and fall outdoors activities in beautiful Ontario, please visit www.OntarioOutdoor.com.

Many thanks to Mike McLaughlin of CityBird Films for creating this video of our break from city life.

Escape the 400s – A New Way to Get Off The Highways

Find some new roads to get you off the 400 series highways. A great series for motorcyclists!

THE LAST EPISODE – The Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Trip

This is it! The last episode of the Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Show. In our final week on the road we snuck down the Bruce Peninsula to visit old friends Barb and Dave Wynd at the Taylor Made Bed and Breakfast in Lions Head where we availed ourselves to the best breakfast on the Bruce. Riding over to Mattawa Voyageur Days to take in performances by the Northern Pikes and George Thorogood, we stopped briefly in North Bay for a night of Karaoke at Partners Billiard and Bowling.

We stopped in with our friend Melissa Marquart from the Ottawa Valley and took in a mind-blowing meal of authentic Polish proportions at the legendary Wilno Tavern. Our last great ride of the trip was on the Peterson and Elephant Lake road, which I enjoyed way too much, and finally we stopped in Peterborough to get a little help from Dan Jacobs, composer of many of the songs heard in the videos, to sign our trip to a close.

It’s been a whirlwind tour and we’ve made so many memories, but sooner or later everyone has to go home. We hope we’ve inspired you to think about exploring the world just outside your back door – Ontario!

Oh, and stick around after the credits, for a special treat. See you on the highway.

Day 61 Video – The Last Daily Update!

Our trip ended like it began – torrential rain in Etobicoke! Episode ten – the LAST EPISODE is live tomorrow!

Day 60 Video – The Second Last Day

It’s our second last day on the road, but we’re not stopping until we’re done! Check the video for what’s next!

EPISODE NINE – The Ultimate Northern Ontario Road Show hits Manitoulin Island


This week we went in-depth on the Island of Manitoulin, staying there five whole days at the iconic Mindemoya Court Cottages and Campground where we indulged in all the requisite campground activities, from a spirited all-age game of softball pitting the ruthless Beavers versus the tyranical Chipmunks, to a cookout and campfire, to far too many belly-flops and cannonballs off the dock into the Caribbean blue of Lake Mindemoya.

Our main reason for visiting the island was to spend some time at Ride Manitoulin, one of Ontario’s newest motorcycle events. Lucky for us a couple of adventure touring fun-a-holics, Steven Fox-Radulovich and Colin Wilson, took us out on a ride through some of the unpaved corners of the island and we caught an eye (and mouth and nose) full of some dirty goodness.

Mike’s pop, Pete, joined the crew for a couple days and helped us figure out what a poker run is, and successfully lose four hands! He also took Mike’s bike back to Toronto for service, as we’d just crossed the 11,000km mark and it needed service! Thankfully, he generously donated his Honda ST1100 (which some of you might remember from last year!) to let us complete the trip on two wheels.

We also did a ton of other stuff, like went to a smash-up derby, sung the theme song from Rawhide while holding a miniature shotgun, and drank some amazing ice caps. But you need to watch the video to find out about that.

Day 55 Video – We Traded The ST for a Scooter

Day 54 Video – Hello Taylor Made Bed and Breakfast

We’re visiting with the most motorcycle friendly B&B in Ontario this summer – the Taylor Made B&B.

Day 54 Video – Goodbye Manitoulin!

We’ve left the isle of Manitou after five days of riding, smash-up derbies and lots of good swimmin’.

Day 52 Video – Smashup Derby

We went to the 2012 Summerfest in Manitowaning, and although the sausages weren’t that great we saw cars smash each other repeatedly, which we liked.