Talk about going from one extreme climate to another! Harriet Preece was a volunteer at the Pelly Crossing checkpoint and hails from Queensland, NSW, Australia. Harriet didn’t ‘try’ Canada out, like many people do...she just jumped right in and here she is; in February; where it’s summer in her homeland; in Pelly Crossing, YT in the middle of our Canadian winter working on a dog sled race.
“I always wanted to dog sled and I thought I’d never be able to do it because I live in a subtropical part of Australia,” she laughed. Harriet recently acquired a dog and was looking for a form of exercise for her four legged friend. “I have a poodle cross. Don’t laugh.” chuckled Harriet. She discovered dryland mushing. Rather than the traditional runners we see in this part of the world, in Australia, they put wheels on their sleds because of the absence of snow. What a concept, indeed. “It’s a slippery slope,” she said when we inquired as to the number of dogs she might add to make up a team. “You start with one dog, and then you end up with 16!”
Harriet has never been to Canada, in fact, never to this continent, so there was quite of bit of research she conducted before inquiring about volunteering. She’d also had a bit of inspiration when she was much younger. A friend had dog sledded across Greenland! “I had to find out where the Yukon was. That was the first hurdle,” she said. She applied, got the Pelly Crossing gig assigned to her and she arrived in Whitehorse, where she did a dog sledding tour, camped for several nights, and actually got to do a portion of the Quest trail.
Harriets’ job at the Pelly Crossing checkpoint was checking in and checking out mushers, as they came and went, ensuring they had all their mandatory gear. “Sounds a bit like we’re running a hotel,” she laughed.
“Breathtakingly beautiful, Harriet said, when asked about highlights from her northern adventure. “It’s like living in a fairyland. I have to keep pinching myself that this is real.” The “people” aspect of her volunteer experience has been nothing short of overwhelming. “It’s like a big family, like a Quest family:” She’s also been impressed by the positivity and ‘team” atmosphere, even when people are tired from the long hours they're putting in.
Back in her home country, Harriet is an Ecologist working for the Queensland Government, in the area of preservation of threatened species, Koalas in particular. She’s been particularly impressed with Canadians in the wake of the devastating wildfires in Australia. “The nicest thing is the way Canadians are so well informed about Australia and its really endearing, so I think there’s a camaraderie.” She finds many parallels between the two countries; the harshness and the beauty and the extremes in temperature, which she has most definitely experienced during her stay in Pelly. “It’s very hard to get dressed here,” said Harriet. “I like the ability to leave home in shorts and a t-shirt,” Not so in Pelly! “Before I get dressed, I have to check the thermometer.”
Would Harriet do this again? “I would at the drop of a hat,” she said. “Especially if I could get opportunities to do some dog sledding.”
“All my life I’ve heard of the Yukon, those famous places, like Dawson City. I’ve seen these images and read the stories.” Now Harriet will have her own stories to tell when she returns home.