The first official day I spent in the North Pole was Feb. 23, 2022. I was overwhelmed with the amount of snow they’ve had (and continued to receive)—the mounds were double the size of me! The sad part was that the snow was so fluffy that climbing the mounds was nearly impossible. The roads were always clear from snow but super icy, which would have made for the perfect sledding condition… if only we had a sled.
Our first day was the jam-packed with two activities in different areas of the surrounding cities. We were up before the sunrise for the first activity: Driving two hours from our isolated ski resort to the nearest city where we met Neils, a Sampi native and leader whose family owns over 6,000 reindeers that live on their huge property. I spent hours in -15 degrees Celsius listening to the history of how his people came to own all the reindeer and how his tribe is the only tribe in all of Sweden allowed to own reindeer.
After Niels finished his speech, full of admiration for the animals, he allowed us to go into the enclosure to feed three of his reindeer. They were very overwhelmed with 50 or more people stampeding their way onto their land, but after a while they settled and became more social. The reindeer let us hug, pet and feed them. After the excitement of the reindeers it was time for us to leave. I could’ve spent the rest of my life with Niels on the reindeer farm, but I was excited to do the other activities for the day.
Before our next activity, a visit to the Husky lodge, we spent two hours in the city of Kiruna. My friends and I stopped at a gift shop and I bought my first real souvenir: A stuffed moose that had a Swedish scarf wrapped around its neck. I named that moose Niels after the Sampi native I spent the morning with. The city is a very cold area, and the townspeople take advantage of that cold with their parks. Instead of green spaces with playgrounds and walking trails that we find in America, Kiruna has ice parks with slides made completely out of ice blocks and other structures built completely out of compacted snow. We rode the slides a few times before cutting ourselves off due to the cold. After our city tour, it was time to go to the husky lodge. I was really looking forward to this part of the trip because I’ve missed dog interaction terribly. Fortunately, the experience did not disappoint.
Right as we got to the lodge we all were instructed to dress in warmer clothing and chose partners to do the husky ride with. My friend Kevin and I rode together since neither of us had ever had an experience like this before. There were 12 dogs per sled, and they took us on a 30-minute ride around the land. It was amazing to see the work these dogs love to do. To prove that this was something the dogs enjoyed doing, we took a small break half way through the ride. Just as the dogs caught their breath, they started to tug on the leads and howled to leave and continue the run. They couldn’t wait to get back out there. It was refreshing to see how much the dogs enjoyed their jobs. Once the ride was over, we got to sit with the dogs and younger puppies at the lodge.
Despite the long days in the cold, this trip was worth it. I really missed spending time with my pets, and our day at the husky lodge satisfied my need for some dog interaction. Overall the whole day was the best part of the whole journey and easily became the best day of my entire study abroad experience.