She is surrounded by 150 dogs. Some bark as she passes by. Others jostle for attention, hoping to be chosen for the trip.
For her big expedition, musher Jocelyne Leblanc chose the best of her dog lot. Together, they set off from the starting line for the 2010 Yukon Quest.
It was not Leblanc’s first time taking the reins of a dog team or venturing alone into the forest.
For the past 10 years or so, she has been leading dogsled adventures for tourists visiting Yukon, bringing along her confidence and a sense of fun as she initiates participants to this form of traditional transportation on backcountry trails.
On these outings, which can last one or more days, she aims to share her passion with her guests.
“First, they have to learn to communicate with the dogs,” she says. “Then, they have to learn about the different sounds of the forest.”
For Leblanc, the silence and calm, amplified by the beauty of the landscape, are the main attractions of the many different circuits.
“It puts me in a very relaxed state of mind,” she says, comparing her excursions with a recent experience in the Bahamas. “The vacation package I bought included meditation at 6 a.m. every morning. But, guess what? I never managed to go.”
Having grown up in New Brunswick, Leblanc is in her element by the sea. And although her memories are filled more with stories about fishing than mushing, she is writing a new chapter in her life.
In her early 20s, Leblanc hitchhiked across Canada with a girlfriend. When they reached Vancouver, someone piqued their curiosity with stories of Yukon.
In their quest for the exotic, they decided to continue their journey, and carried on to Whitehorse.
One thing they were not told, however, was that Whitehorse was the capital.
“When I saw the McDonald’s and A&W signs, I was frankly disappointed,” she admits.
She has since grown to appreciate this city where she finds it easy to work in both summer and winter.
During the summer, she is a pastry chef at a cafe, but come October, she becomes a dedicated musher.
“Whitehorse is the heart of Yukon,” she says now. “You have all the conveniences of a big city, but you can be in wilderness in just minutes.”
This article is excerpted from the second edition of a tourism brochure created by RDEE Yukon, the economic development branch of the Association franco-yukonnaise (AFY). You can get a copy of the brochure (in French) at the Centre de la francophonie in Whitehorse or at the tourism information centre in your community.