Like most people we had wanted to go on a husky ride for a long time, so when we landed in Östersund and were picked up by my cousin (who by the way had landed this amazing job and is now hotel manager of one of the best family ski resorts around Åre) and she said that she has a friend called Claire, who together with her husband owned over 80 huskies – we thought that maybe our dream would come true.
It did! My cousin phoned up Claire who invited us over to their new kennels to meet the dogs and the puppies. Claire let four of the three months old puppies out to play together with our boys in the snow. Such a cute sight!
We booked in for a husky ride for the following day. That evening our middle child knackered his knee (during night skiing) and had to stay at the hotel with dad so for the first time in over 20 years – I had to drive in snow. (Last time I drove in a snow storm I ended up in the ditch)! It was only a 20 minute drive but it started snowing heavily and the visability was poor with snow flakes big as pound coins. It took me over 40 minutes to reach the kennels. Dressed in our warmest snow clothes, double, triple layers, hoods and hats, arctic gloves and woolly socks – it was cold. And it was going to get colder.
Four dog sleds with eight or ten huskies on each were ready to go, barking loudly with exitement. Richard was our musher and led the tour. Through the forest, up on Ottsjö mountain through the ice and snow, past wind and snow swept trees. Past, we were absolutely sure, the entrance to Narnia. It was all spectacularly beautiful.
It was about ten degrees below zero and in the wind it felt like below 20. Spite our arctic clothes and reindeer skins, sitting still we were extremely cold. I worried about Nova, our 6 year old. Richard got the kids to run next to the sled to keep their warmth up, after that they helped him drive until they got too cold to even move. -When children get too cold they just start crying. explained Richard. It was very cold. I could only take my hand out of the glove for a few seconds to take a photos and it would take a whole ten minutes to recover. My iPhone stopped working.
Afterwords, when Nova did start crying from the cold, Richard spotted it immediately and took all three of us on his snow scooter back to our car to warm up.
Richard and Claire came over from Whales about six years ago and lived in an old wooden log cabin without water or electricity for four years. This caught the interest from Channel 4 who a few years ago filmed an episode of Escape to the Wild with Kevin McCloud spending a week with Richard and Claire. Richard said the business grew quickly after being featured on the program and when the offer of buying an extra 30 dogs arose earlier this year, they moved away from the log cabin and into a flat in Ottsjö. – We have never been so sick as that first week in the flat! said Richard. Central heating and suddenly not living as purely as they had been doing in the cabin, took its toll.
Richard also teaches bush craft, survival and foraging classes and sometimes works for Magnus Nilsson of Fäviken Magasinet collecting wild foods in the summer and autumn. He told me of a time when he had asked Magnus –What are you going to do with this food? Because I know it tastes like shit! Magnus had invited him to the restaurant to try it. It had indeed tasted delicious, all 15 courses of it.
Friendlier and lovelier people I have yet to meet. Claire and Richard are an inspiration. I hope to meet them again. Read more about Claire and Richard Reese and Wild Spirit Bushcraft here. The Escape to the Wild episode can be watched here. Check out the Edsåsdalen mountain station here.