February 23, 2009

Dashing through the snow...

During the summer months, Atlatl Mike and his horse, Rocky, give tours in Dawson City - heart of the Klondike Gold Rush.

In the winter, Mike and Rocky trade their big wagon for a Whitehorse-based one-horse-open-sleigh, giving rides to tourists from all around the world.

It was a beautiful sunny day on Sunday and Mike invited us to meet Rocky and go for a sleigh ride.

Jade meets Rocky.

A more formal introduction.

Rocky is a big horse - and by "big" I mean "monstrously ginormously gigantically enormous". Not to worry, though, because even though his XL-pizza-sized hooves could flatten you, and his droppings are large enough to bury you alive, he's a gentle, gentle creature.

Rocky is definitely not "My Little Pony". The bottom of his belly is taller than Jade.

When Rocky was harnessed, we all bundled into the sleigh. When Atlatl Mike clucked his tongue, Rocky took a step and the sled lurched forward. It was like Rocky wasn't even trying. It was amazing to feel how much power one single creature could possess.

Fawn and Halia, snug and comfy in the sleigh.

Rocky pulls and Jade rides "shotgun".

As we rode, I thought about older times in the Yukon, when people huddled under buffalo robes and tried to keep warm on the long horse-drawn ride from Whitehorse to Dawson City along the Dawson Overland Trail.
"Off we went into the silent night and into a silent world of white. For five days we would sit in this open sleigh, our noses icicled, our feet warmed by hot bricks and charcoal, while we crossed the Yukon Territory in a wavering diagonal line north. I have never embarked on a stranger journey..."
- Laura Berton from her memoir "I Married the Klondike"
The view for much of the trip...

Now, you can do the drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City year-round in six-or-so hours.

Stopping for a short break (until I can climb out of the waist-high snow to get back onto the sleigh).

The sounds of a sleigh ride are so different from those of our modern combustion-engined modes of transportation. I can only imagine how noisy people thought automobiles were when they first started appearing.

A beautiful, sunny day for a quiet sleigh ride. We listened to the birds singing, the runners sliding, the soft sound of hooves tramping in the snow, and the occasional squeak of gas from the back end of a giant horse...

You can tell Atlatl Mike loves Rocky and you can tell he loves sharing the joys of horse-drawn transportation with others. The horse and sleigh aren't the only sources of entertainment: Mike's a natural story teller.

Atlatl Mike chats with his passengers.

One of the added benefits of the ride is that, when I sing Jingle Bells and get to the part about the one-horse open sleigh, I can say, "Yeah, I did that!"

Dashing through the snow...

In a one-horse open sleigh.

O'er the fields we go...

You know the horse is big when it makes a six-seater sleigh look small in comparison...

On the way back, Mike offered me the reins. Aside from the whole harnessing and caring for the horse aspect of it, driving a horse-drawn sleigh seems even easier than driving a car (though it's not quite as easy as a dog team where you have only a brake and some voice commands - if the dogs are behaving).

A great way to spend a winter day.

When the trip was over, Jade fed Rocky some carrots and, later, Mike and I enjoyed some hot chocolate. What a great way to spend a winter day.


Anonymous said...

What gets me is how absolutely fearless Jade is. I know she has no experience with horses, so she doesn't know to be afraid, but lots of kids are a lot shyer in any given situation. Me, on the other hand, not *quite* so comfortable around horses. I'm glad Rocky is so gentle, but I still didn't want her anywhere near his huge feet!

APF said...

That looked like an absolutely magical day!

Matt, Kara, Hunter and Cavan said...

That looked like a blast!!

Anonymous said...

Do you remember how she fet the deers in Hitzacker. Other kids are much older than her. They were afraid to try. Like mother like daughter. Lucky you ! And it is a beautiful horse. Nice shots Michael!

Every Photo Tells A Story said...

Jade is fearless:) She didn't even bat an eye being nose to humongous nose with Rocky!
What a great way to experience all that pure, white snow and blue, blue sky.