Cani-Rando – Hiking with Huskies

I’ve got a padded belt pulling around my waist, my legs are charging up a mist-covered hill at 7 mph and, by some kind of fitness miracle, I’m not out of breath. Why? Because attached to my not-so-athletic midriff is one very energetic Siberian husky.

When my Editor said “Mary, I think you should go on this Cani-Rando trip,” I blindly agreed, with no idea what she was on about. A quick google later and I was under the naive impression that I §was about to embark on some light hearted summer sledding. It isn’t until we arrive in the Vassieux-en-Vercors that I realise what I’ve signed myself up  for.

After leaving the sun-drenched Drome Valley and driving up into the fog-filled Vercors Alpes we arrive at Esprit du Nord. Following the distant roar of barks we find our way to the kennels to see 50 odd huskies running around their enclosure.

Husky-hikingAfter obligatory (and extensive) cooing and puppy stroking, Jiri and his wife Sarah tell us more about Husky hiking.

Nomadic tribes used to harness their dogs to their waists as they moved from place to place, leaving their hands free for carrying weapons and the like. Adapted from this, modern day husky hikers attach an elastic lead between their waist and the husky’s harness.

So not sledging then. But instead being dragged around the woods by a Siberian husky at full pelt. My mind fills with dread. I can’t run at the best of times. Especially not up alpine foothills wearing hiking trousers and a shell jacket. This could be an interesting day…

I’m soon introduced to my co-hiker for the day, Uppsala. After a quick paw-shake we’re strapped up and ready to hit the mountains. Jiri assures us that we can go as fast or as slow as we need, but I can feel Uppsala pulling, desperate to go as quick as her brothers and sisters. So I concede and find myself jogging up and down the hilly paths of the Vercors.

Somehow, I’m not out of breath. Am I secretly an Olympic runner trapped in a coach potato’s body? I doubt it.

But having a husky pulling you along really takes the strain off running or walking, you just let your legs go with the flow. No doubt new-found muscles will ache in the morning, but right now my body doesn’t even know it’s doing exercise.

“Geeeee, Uppsala Geee”  We veer off down a path. I’m guessing that’s husky for “right” then. I soon hear a shout of “huh”and we’ve turned left. Pretty much fluent in dog now.

Two hours later and we’re still going strong. Despite pulling humans behind them, the huskies aren’t giving up. My body’s getting a workout, some crisp alpine air without even realising it and there’s none of that dreaded arm-yanking traditional dog-walking yields. I can’t help but wonder if my Airedale Terrier would be any good at this…

Mary went cani-randoing with Esprit du Nord, in the Vercors Alps, Rhone Alpes. Prices start from €20.