I meet a lot of people, it’s just a part of the travel experience. Sometimes I’m not always ready to meet them though. If I had a bad day or am feeling particularly introverted, I may not be open to learning about them and their lives. That’s a shame because whenever I do I am richly rewarded with great stories from warm, open hearted people. If travel has taught me one thing it’s that most people almost everywhere are fundamentally good. From simple gestures to amazing efforts to provide aid, I am routinely shocked by our ability as humans to help out someone in need. That’s why it’s hard to choose my favorite person I met throughout my 2012 travels. So many people touched me in so many different ways, but if I had to choose (and I do) then I have to point to Megan Routley the owner of Kingmik Dogsled Tours in Alberta, Canada.
Megan is a seasoned vet of some of Canada’s most inhospitable areas. She’s explored the Northwest Territories, the Yukon and spots on the map that will probably never have a name. All of this has been done in the harshest of winter weather conditions and all in the name of training with her dogsled team, her true love in life. Megan is also the owner of Kingmik Dogsled Tours, a business she took over several years ago and has been growing ever since. Kingmik has a long history in the region and was the first to offer world class dogsled tours around the Lake Louise area. The tours have always been popular, and with good reason. The experience was an exhilarating one that I shall never forget.
I have to admit, I fell in love with Kingmik tours during my excursion, but spending a couple of hours on a sled chatting with Megan taught me a lot, and convinced me that we had made the best decision possible by booking with them. The tours are obviously how Megan makes a living and how she can afford to care for her pups. But she also has several other mushers who contract with her, and as business waxes and wanes, so does their ability to take out visitors and make money. Don’t get me wrong, business is strong for them, but it’s not what it used to be.
I loved meeting Megan not just for the great experience of mushing with sled dogs, but for the valuable lesson she taught me. We could have done a lot of things that day. We could have gone skiing, visited a spa, even taken a helicopter tour. While some of these activities would have benefited the local community, not all would have and none in the way that mushing with Megan and her dogs could have done. We weren’t just putting money into her coffers, every visitor who goes on a dogsled excursion also helps perpetuate a tradition. If business slows, if people stop visiting and going on dogsled tours, then how can they learn about the important role sledding has played throughout Canadian and even American history? (For the U.S. it’s Alaska mostly, Google Balto if you want to know more)
The most telling thing Megan said to me that snowy Sunday was that “if people don’t come, Canadian, Americans, or whoever, how can they learn about this important heritage?” And that’s exactly right.
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