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I was a single, lonely, college student. Recently, I had been discharged from the military and left for college because it seemed like a better option than staying in the military or starting the slow grind to retirement.
I didn’t make the best of my Navy experience but I was determined that college would be different.
Unfortunately, it didn’t start that way. It began as a lonely experience where I struggled to make friends.
I was only four years apart from my collegiate peers but it might as well been 30. They were focused on partying, dating, conversing with high school friends. I was focused on getting good grades because if I failed, I would have to pay it all back. As a broke 22-year-old, that wasn’t an option.
After taking plenty of time to wallow, I gathered my resolved and decided to do something about it. After searching many offerings, I stumbled upon Becoming an Outdoors Woman.
This nonprofit was devoted to getting women outside. I saw a winter adventure package of cross country skiing, snowshoeing, and dog sledding. I was intrigued by all the activities but it was the thought of a team of dogs pulling my frozen meat package across an icy landscape that made my heart pitter-patter with excitement.
Shredding with a Sled
Dog sledding involves an enthusiastic pack of dogs dragging a sled over snow and ice with a human, who is holding on for dear life. This doggy powered transport can reach up to 10 miles per hour and capable of running 125 miles in a single day.
Before I stepped foot on this snow shredder, I learned the three rules of “how to shred with a dogsled”. One: Don’t let go of the sled. Two: Don’t let go of the sled. Three: WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T LET GO OF THE SLED!
Though it was a quick lesson, it was one I took seriously. I knew that I wouldn’t have to chase down a sled because our smart handlers ensured that we had people scattered all over the dog sled course. Just encase our courage outweighed our skill, since the odds of a highly-skilled team of dogs being able to return without their low-skilled human were just shy of a guarantee.
I had seen more than one sled go by without a human.
As with any new adrenaline-inducing experience, my stomach felt a sick tug of anticipation as I hoped my nervous laughter would sound a lot like excitement. I wanted to do this, I signed up for this experience, but here I was a bundle of nerves and doubts.
Luckily, when my brain and stomach fail me, my body marches on. I gripped the handlebar, looked at the dogs, and yell my first command.
Not that it mattered. The dogs began running as soon as the anchor was released. I did managed to yell the appropriate commands before corners, more as a testament that I could balance on a speeding sled and say things….loud things.
The dogs were well versed in the trails which they had run their whole life. They were happy to run full speed around corners and straightaways even if their human was being dragged uncontrollably.
At some point, I had probably not leaned enough or got cocky with my standing ability and lost my footing.
My wet boots slipped off the sled runner and before I realized what had happened, I was being dragged by an enthusiastic dog sled team.
As I was holding onto the handlebar and my feet were dragging uselessly behind me, I wondered, what now? I don’t remember this part of the “how to shred with a dogsled” tutorial. Instead, I tried something that wasn’t mentioned.
I managed to run fast enough to get back into a standing position and jump back onto the sled runner. The endorphins kicked in and I mentally christened myself – The Dogsledder Shredder Queen.
My antics didn’t go unnoticed. The other participants and handlers had witnessed some of my shenanigans. They were sure to let me know that I had done an exceptional job recovering.
I left that extended weekend with about the same amount of friends as I started with (which was zero) but I had learned that I am good at standing, falling, and recovering.
At least, while trying to shred with a dogsled.