Eric Keller, freelance art director, is a dog lover. His Web site, thedogsihaveknown.com, is evidence of that. So are his travel habits.
He discovered dog sledding in 1980 when, he says, he participated in a media event in Detroit.
“I took about a two-minute dog-sled race on a loop. It was amazing to stand on this thing and see these guys go,” he says.
His affection for dogsled travel is, he says, a combination of loving canines and appreciating the kind of energy they have.
He says Svalbard, where he spent a week dog sledding, is really a different kind of world. “There’s not a lot to see on the entire archipelago, but it’s got a more moderate temperature. It’s amazing to see a part of the word that’s threatened.”
Svalbard in the early spring is exhilarating, he says. “You have no sense of time. I found myself having a lot more energy there. You’re pushing sleds up mountains and digging through snow. And if it weren’t for that [strenuous activity], I don’t think I would have slept the entire time.”
The dogs: “Some aren’t so sociable and some are affectionate and interact with you when they’re not working. There were a lot of really sweet dogs that I really got attached to. You have to give them water and feed them whale blubber that’s in a big plastic bag. It’s wet. The hardest-working dogs are those that are closest to the sled.”
Newbies: “There are places in northern Michigan where you can go on a day trip with no winter camping and experience being on a dog sled. The camping is a whole other thing to contend with.”
Getting to Svalbard: “I flew Detroit to Chicago to Copenhagen to Tromso to Svalbard.”
Fellow mushers: “There was an 85-year-old woman on the trip who I’ve kept up correspondence with. She’s a rare individual.”
Trip preparation: “You really have to do some training. “You’re pulling the sled along with the dogs and [for that] a lot of endurance training would help. I spent time on the treadmill. Weights are good, and yoga will help give you a sense of balance for the sled.”