Winter Getaway at A Canadian Cabin and Sled Dog Ranch

A few years ago Micah and I found ourselves in desperate need of a weekend away from noisy condo life and insane neighbors (I wish I was exaggerating). As the weather was just on the cusp of winter and our getaway location was narrowed to places we could maximize our weekend time with a day on either side for travel, we settled on Whitehorse, Canada. It had everything we were looking for. Most importantly, it’s fairly close, only a ferry ride and a two hour drive away, but still involves leaving the country. Having been to Whitehorse several times before, I’ve stayed in many of the Whitehorse hotels/motels which are perfectly adequate, but for this trip we decided to search for a quiet B&B or cabin with amenities (I wanted an indoor, non-communal bathroom for my stress-free weekend, thank you very much). The B&B I stayed in with my family during my childhood no longer exists. It was owned by an old couple and the wife used to bake cookies and knit hats with super large pompoms on top for my brother and I. This couple exemplified the Canadian stereotype of gracious hospitality and general warmth of personality. I had no doubt we would be able to find somewhere equally as welcoming now, and I wasn’t wrong.

Our internet searches turned up several cabins available for rent in Whitehorse, it is after all a winter tourist destination for outdoorsy types, but many of these cabins are without electricity and water and have a communal bath house. And then we found it, Muktuk Adventures, Guest Ranch & B&B. This place offered a dog lot full of Huskies to pet, a lodge where we could join the staff and other guests for breakfast and dinners (for a small extra fee), and three different types of guest housing: rooms in the main lodge with a shared bathroom down the hall, a couple rustic cabins lacking electricity and running water, and one cabin, Shilo’s Chalet,  with electricity, a wood stove, and an indoor bathroom with hot water on demand. Maybe it’s because every child in Alaska grows up with a soft spot for Huskies because of the story of Balto- the sled dog that saved a village by delivering medicine when all other means of transport failed. Or maybe it’s because I just like dogs, but there was no question. Shilo’s Chalet sounded like everything we were looking for.

Muktuk Adventures Shilo's Chalet, our cabin in Whitehorse, Canada
Muktuk Adventures Shilo’s Chalet, our cabin in Whitehorse, Canada
After a ferry ride and a two-hour drive from Skagway to Whitehorse, we finally arrived at the turnoff to Muktuk, about 20 minutes away from the Whitehorse downtown. Dusk was falling. The bare tree branches stripped by Autumn reached over and at our car like gnarled arms. As we continued down the long driveway wondering if we’d made the right turn, we were both thinking, “and this is how you die…” Finally we came to the dog lot out front of the main lodge. All thoughts of the drive were banished as the old huskies came over to greet us and we were warmly welcomed into the lodge by the owner and interns and offered mugs of tea. I could tell we would like it here. The owner, Frank Turner, like all Canadians it seems, was unfailingly friendly! And the same could be said for the international student workers we met, and they were from all over Europe: Germany, England, Holland, Ireland.

Muktuk Adventures Husky Dog Lot
Muktuk Adventures Husky Dog Lot
After a pleasant evening with the Muktuk staff, which involved tea, a guitar, a keyboard, singing, and conversations comparing cultures, we eventually retreated to our cabin. The cabin was very cozy. There was a kitchenette, a comfortable couch in front of the wood stove, and beds to sleep at least 6 in the loft.

Shilo's Chalet kitchenet
Shilo’s Chalet kitchenet

Shilo's Chalet couch and woodstove
Shilo’s Chalet couch and woodstove

Shilo's Chalet Double Bed
Shilo’s Chalet Double Bed

Shilo's Chalet loft beds
Shilo’s Chalet loft beds
We had a view of a lake from our porch.  And we used the grill on the porch a couple of the nights to grill meat we bought in town.

Shilo's Chalet view of lake
Shilo’s Chalet view of lake
In the mornings (we couldn’t rouse ourselves in time to join breakfast at the lodge) we watched huskies in training pulling 4-wheelers by our cabin. As it hadn’t snowed yet, we declined the offer of a 4-wheeler ride, promising to come back someday for sled rides in the snow. I realized the long driveway was necessary to give the dogs somewhere to run. These dogs, while providing rides for the Muktuk tourists, are training for serious sled dog races. Frank Turner is a long-time dog musher and an award-winning one too. All the racing dogs live outside in the dog yard each with a box of hay for a bed. The retired older dogs are allowed to sleep inside and roam around the property. The seasonal workers are even allowed to let dogs sleep in their cabins if they form attachments with any of the Huskies. Some of the retirees had not adapted to their new-found freedoms and continued to sleep outside on the patch of ground where their box once stood. Surprisingly, from our cabin we could barely hear the yowls of the dog yard, so we still had a wonderfully quiet stay.

Micah playing with the retired racers
Micah playing with the retired racers

Whisky can I take you home with me?
Whisky can I take you home with me?
During the days we drove into town and amused ourselves by visiting our favorite places and each evening we returned to Muktuk. We spent our evenings either visiting with the lodge staff or sipping tea and playing card games in our cabin. We never actually made it to the hot springs (which had really been the reason for our trip) because we just couldn’t see the point of sitting in a warm pool while our heads were freezing in the winter air when the wood stove made the cabin was so warm and cozy!

3 days of tea and Dominion (the card game)
3 days of tea and Dominion (the card game)
We had such a great stay at Muktuk Adventures and the dogs were all so friendly and cute that I was definitely ready to take one home by the time we left.

Take a dog home with me?!? OK!
Take a dog home with me?!? OK!
I cannot recommend a stay at Muktuk enough! Who knows, you might even return home with a dog!

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