When you first arrive at Hetta Huskies, you will see two main buildings – our farmhouse and a separate outhouse – and an area designated for parking. You will immediately be able to see that you have entered an active and dynamic farm since we will more than likely have projects like kennel repairs and building ongoing in the main yard area.
The farmhouse is used by all of the guides during the day for communal meals and computer-based work (as well as by the occasional client escaping from the cold). It is also our home.
On the back end of the farmhouse is an enclosed area where clients can add layers, change footwear etc pre and post safaris.
Most short-safari clients, however, no longer need to actually come into our house since we moved the souvenir shop from the farm back up to the farmhouse area in the summer of 2016. It has a functional till (which we are surprisingly proud of, since it is a lot more work than one would think to price a huge range of products and souvenirs). The shop itself contains a selection of arctic clothing, miscellaneous toiletries that clients might have forgotten to bring with them, some hand-carved and hand-painted items from our guides and Hetta-Huskies mugs and buffs. It is decorated with Saami symbols and is pretty hard to mistake because of the large pyrographied bear on its door.
The yard has two main buildings; the farmhouse and garage workshop that has a variety of functions: one side is a kit storage area and workshop which can be heated for specific projects, one section houses the kayaks through the winter, another is a drive-through shelter for snowmobiles and sleighs in the winter. In the centre there is a warm room that functions as a dog kitchen and indoor sick-dog cage facility.
Behind the farmhouse and outhouse we have an enclosed recuperation area which is reserved for sick dogs or those that are transitioning between nights spent on beds in the guide house or farm house and the farm. The enclosure in this instance is important since this area is quite close to the main road and any escapees could easily put themselves in harm’s way if they were not contained by the area boundary.
A 200m-long lit path connects the farmhouse area and the farm itself. Approximately half-way along this, there is a storage building for building materials on one side and a storage barn on the other. After that, you cross a small bridge before reaching the junction to either the walking gate or main front gate of the farm (the walking gate is not shown on this map).
Look out for dogs just after this junction since the slipstream around the farm also crosses the track in this area (marked in orange on the map above) and there are often teams of dogs flying past!
Look out for dogs just after this junction since the slipstream around the farm also crosses the track in this area (marked in orange on the map below) and there are often teams of dogs flying past!
Just before you turn from the main path towards the main farm gates, shown below, look to your left. In summer, you can see the pretty impressive 'GEE HAW' training area very clearly (in winter, the handrails are often covered by snow).
This is the area on the map shown where there are numerous crisscrossing trails in the forest marked in red, and this is where we run with the dogs in the summer, and teach them to turn left and right at each junction. It is really fun for dogs and guides alike.
NB: Visitors enter through the main front gate (which is also wide enough for car, snowmobile and quad-bike access), although there are three other gates, two of which are simple walking gates and one, the back gate of the farm, is where we depart through for all of our safaris...
The whole perimeter of the main farm area is enclosed by 2m high fencing so that any dogs that escape are enclosed within a restricted area (eg if a child lets go of a leash when walking pups around the agility course, for instance). This is the circular area shown in, approximately, the centre of the map above. You can see that there is another circular trail marked just within the perimeter fence and this is our agility course and nature trail.
The perimeter fencing not only protects the local reindeer from our dogs but it also protects our dogs from visiting reindeer that can cause havoc and wild animals that might otherwise attack them (eg the two marauding wolves that were attacking reindeer and which also, unfortunately, killed dogs in the Santa Safaris / Transun UK farm (which did not have good fencing or enclosed cages, just 40km from us) in 2010).
We saw their tracks around our own farm but we believe that the good fences helped to keep our dogs safe.
The farm itself is divided into three distinct areas: the cage area, the chain area and the kota / client area. However before you even arrive at the first cages you cross the puppy agility course trail which loops around the farm.
Hand-painted paw print signs every 10 or so metres help you to navigate along the puppy agility trail and nature trail during the winter months.
The first fences that you walk past in the cage area are our puppy kindergarten and puppy Hilton fences so it is sometimes difficult to keep people moving to their waiting teams! Our dogs live in a mixture of cages (with companions) and on solitary chains. Learn more about why we have these a dual systems here.
The cages (back to back on the RHS and a single row bordering, on two sides, a large running fence on the left hand side) form the boundary of the main farm track for a while. The running fence is used daily for a mixture of training, free playtime and fitness recuperation post-injury and there are additional running fences (one which is c. the size of three normal cages and one which takes up the entire back corner of our farm) for retired dogs to hang out in.The harness, line and tool shed and the sleigh shelter which has designated areas for each size of sleigh, are also on the right-hand side of the main track. Everything from every tool to every sleigh has its own designated and labelled place so that guides can easily put their hands on everything that they may want.
The central area of the farm is made up, on two sides of the main track, of individual running circle chain places (most of which are on a sandy-soiled slope and therefore have very good drainage) and beyond this area is the client area.
In the client waiting area, there is one traditional fabric kota (the local word for teepee) and one luxurious and well insulated wooden kota which multiday clients also sleep in during their first night of their safari.
Building an arctic kota was, for us, a multi-year project. On the first year we built the surrounds and benches but left a sandy floor (shown here). The following summer we added underfloor heating and a concrete top and the third summer, we added tiles to the floor, book shelves to the walls, etc. It was a long and very drawn-out project.
There is also a mini wooden teepee in a small cage for the pups to hang out in and play with the clients in, an outdoor (dry) toilet with light, a male 'pee' area (which reduces usage of the outdoor toilet), a woodshed and an open fire area.
Our agility trail also passes through this area and winds its way between trees towards the outer edge of the perimeter fence and we have a bunch of fun things to do in this area including taking photos through peekaboos.
seeing how many people can fit into the igloo we build in this area, each year, and a piste which is open for all of the young at heart to sledge on - not just the kids!
This is also the area in which we normally teach clients how to drive sleighs for themselves (although, if you are taking part in just a 2km farm-trail safari, we will probably do this in the cage area since your dogs will be set up waiting for you within the farm, rather than on the start line.
Throughout the farm, signboards dotted around which tell stories about our farm and dogs and there are quite a lot of these concentrated in the kota area. If, however, you prefer to spend your time on the farm playing with the dogs rather than reading, you can take a quick photo of the signboard codes which pull you to the information you are interested in, which is also always available for perusal afterwards, on our website.
When there are clients on the farm for a morning or afternoon programme during the winter season, we generally have fires burning in each kota and in the central open fire place, have hot drinks available in the smaller kota and serve food in the larger kota. We always encourage clients to keep active and warm whilst waiting and strive to make sure that there are plenty of things to do. As well as playing with the pups and taking them for walks around the agility course (being careful, always, to protect the pups from the adult dogs), clients can enjoy sledging on the piste or competing to see how many people can fit in the igloo at once. (These activities are not restricted to children!)
Children should be accompanied at all times, but particularly when walking pups, to make sure that they don’t let the pups go and to ensure that they don’t give them their gloves to play with (since they will quickly be eaten)! None of our dogs bite but they do jump up on you in search of cuddles and this could knock over or frighten a small child.
We have about 20 hectares of land on and around the farm and our 2km safari tracks run around the perimeter of our own land. Within the perimeter tracks, we have an extensive track network – most of which has been cut and dug out by hand – which we use for GEE and HAW training in summer and quad-bike training in the autumn and spring.
Some of these tracks are usable year-round and others - eg some of the skijoring trails - are only usable in the winter or spring or summer season since they either traverse inaccessible tracts of summer marshlands or have too tight trails for use by sleigh or quad (ie they can only be used on foot or when skijoring).
This is the main reason why we have a winter and summer version of the farm tracks since tracks emerge in the summer which the winter guides have never seen, and vice versa!).
You can see from our winter farm trails map that the start line which the majority of our clients depart from, on their safari, is actually in the middle of our farm trails.
(There are more open routes within our GEE HAW maze in summer but some of the marsh tracks which we can use in winter become too boggy for summer use.)
For Guide Use Only
We also have a shelter hidden in a so-called 'Elf Den' in the woods which the guides often hang out in, after work during the summer months. That is, when they are not making their own knives, working on other bushcrafty projects or hiking, biking or paddling, of course.
Even the walk back to the farmhouse from the farm at the end of the day, past our wood store, is pretty special. It is wonderful to be surrounded by so much arctic nature.