Mizu Mission: Swedish Lapland With Tamara Schlemmer

Posted on April 05 2018

Tamara Schlemmer is the owner of a husky camp in the Swedish Lapland – the northernmost part of Sweden. We got to catch up with her and talk about her career, love for dogs, and the cold Swedish Lapland winter.

I got my first dog when I was 8 years old and have always tried to give my dogs the liberty that they need to run in the outdoors, so living up here 68 miles away from the polar circle seemed like the perfect place. I’ve been here for forty years now.

For the last four years I have been running Café Husky Camp where guests can come visit and go out on dog sledding adventures. It has been a great experience to share this beautiful place with others, teach them about dog sledding, and show them the beautiful landscape that Sweden has to offer.

Days up here involve a lot of early mornings and late nights. The temperature drops so low at night that it’s important to keep a close watch on the dogs that sleep outside, especially during the winter months. They huddle together closely as a group and warm each other throughout the night. In the morning, the dogs prepare for a day outside with guests by taking a run up the frozen river, following paths in the snow that were made by reindeer during the night.

Winter here lasts 7 months, with temperatures often reaching as low as -40° Farenheit. On top of that, this past winter has given us more snow than any other year that I’ve been here.  For this reason, it may have also been the hardest winter I can remember. Aside from the cold temperatures, that much snowfall meant a lot of digging and preparing for the day ahead with the guests out on the sleds. Not to mention hard work for the dogs in the deep snow!

Most of our guests have never worked with dogs before, so we spend a lot of time here planning and teaching before heading out for the day. Heading out on the sled with dogs is a tough balancing act. With the harsh climate you have to bring enough gear to be prepared for the unknown, but also keep the sled light and fast. With every extra kilogram packed, the dogs run just a little bit slower on the way back. A trip out that takes 4 hours, could take 6 hours on the way back as the dogs run out of energy.

One memorable day from this winter is when I set out on a day trip to an old Sami hut normally only reachable in summertime (the Sami are the last indigenous folks in Europe and are still a strong community). I wanted to set a path for some guests that were coming later that week. All was going well until the last 5 miles to the hut. The storm had covered all of the tracks and our day trip soon turned into a race against the sunset while fighting through deep snow. I tried to stay off of the sled as much as possible to make it easier on the dogs, but every time I stepped off I couldn’t keep up. With only 3-6 hours of daylight, we had to keep moving. Eventually, we made it to the hut in the late evening hours by headlamp.

Exhausted, hungry, wet, and cold, I took care of the dogs first. I took their harnesses off, let them play around with each other (somehow they always have the energy to play), gave them food, and something to drink. There was no running water at the hut, just the frozen snow outside. I was able to quickly melt snow for my six thirsty dogs with the warm water inside of my V10. Once the dogs were taken care of I made a cup of tea, started the fire, warmed up, and dried off. I even had enough warm water left over to make a soup for myself. Simple warm food, a small hut in the woods, and relaxing after an amazing day outside with my dogs… it felt like heaven.

Up here, having a vacuum insulated reusable bottle is the only option. The obvious reason is that there aren’t many places to buy plastic bottles, but even if you do find them, the water will freeze and the plastic gets so cold that it breaks in your hand. Finding a way to keep water warm is crucial to staying alive in such a harsh climate. The V10 has become my go-to for long days on the sled.

It is an isolated life up here in the North. The intensity of the environment is what keeps me going. It took me many years to get used to, but now I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned to embrace the cold weather, the wind, and, how to let go of the need to always feel comfy and warm. You have to have this mindset up here. If you don’t, your life will just become a constant battle against nature, and trust me, you won’t win.

To learn more about Tamara and her husky tours, check out her website.

All photos by Mike Fuchs.

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