Friday, September 19, 2008

Early Morning Training Runs

Sled dog, Sobo, enjoys his "breakfast of champions." Eagle Pack Power!

The weather has finally taken a turn for the cooler and Eric and I have been able to get out twice this week for some dryland dog sled training of the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures team.

Thursday's, training run began from the Parkton, Maryland station stop along the Northern Central Rail (NCR) Trail (recently renamed the Torrey C. Brown Rail Trail). We set out at approximately 6:30 am and reached the trail by 7:00 am and were out by about 7:30. For once, there were no loose dogs roaming the Parkton station.

Coming down the trail

After harnessing the dogs and hooking up, we began by running north towards Bentley Springs at a brisk clip. Along the way, we stopped for water and to watch the Gunpowder river meander through the forest. The dogs had several opportunities to practice their "on bys" as a number of suicidal squirrels decided to run right under their noses. Zoe, showed great restraint, did not chase down the little critters, and helped to take the entire team past these distractions. On the way back, we over took Eric and Acadia who were out for a walk and to do some photography. Again, the dogs got to practice going "on by" their favorite sled dog dad, Eric. Meanwhile, Acadia demonstrated the power of the Siberian Husky Death Scream as she caterwauled to join the team in harness.

Sled puppy, Acadia

Lead dog, Zoe

All told, our training run was 5.5 miles round trip, our maximum speed was 13.7 MPH and our cruising speed (moving average) was 7.9 MPH. Weight for this run was 350 lbs.

Friday's training run began at the White Hall, Maryland station along the NCR trail. After hooking up, we headed north towards the Falls. As we approached the Falls (a frequent stopping place for us), I decided to give Zoe the on by command that would take us past the falls. Like the experienced sled dog that she is, she easily lead the team past the Falls and continued down the trail. After going a short distance further down the trail, we stopped for a water break and rested listening to the relaxing sound of the water and it rushed over the rocks. After a brief respite, I gave the "hike" command. Unclear on what this command meant, Sobo began to "come haw" instead. Giving a forceful line out command, he stopped mid turn, however, and lined out. "Hike, hike" and off we went. Going a short bit further, we again stopped and did a "come haw" turning around and heading back towards the station. About a mile out from the station we encounter a jogger, jogging north (towards us) with her off leash Chihuahua. Deciding that this might be a temptation too great for the sled dogs to pass up, I stopped the team, told them to line out, and waited as the jogger went by. Surprisingly, the sled dogs, especially T-Bone, were far better behaved during their line out than I expected.

Mileage marker along the trail

Pausing to water the sled dogs

Okemo enjoys his post dog sledding breakfast

Returning to the station, I unharnessed the dogs, fed everyone, and loaded the dogs in the truck. After a brief visit by Acadia to her favorite Park Service employees, we headed home. All told, today's run, was 3 miles with a cruising speed of approximately 7.9 MPH and a maximum speed of 15.8 MPH. Weight for this run was 350 lbs.

If all of this sounds like fun to you, check out the dog sledding and dryland dog sledding tours and programs we offer along the NCR trail.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Adventures in Kayaking

The Trail Ahead....

On Saturday, it was far too warm and humid to train the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures team so Eric, my sister who is visiting from Seattle, Leslie, and I set off (sadly, without dogs) for a kayaking adventure at the Hammerman Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Eric in the cockpit of his kayak

While Eric and I have kayaked several times including twice on our recent adventures in Maine, Leslie has never kayaked. Arriving at the park, we were glad to see that it was flat calm with little boat traffic. After a short primer on kayaking essentials for Leslie, we settled into our sea kayaks and headed west along the beach towards a water trail we had not explored. Leslie quickly demonstrated that she was a natural.

Leslie in her short and very stable kayak

Along the water trail, she also demonstrated an unnatural fear of bugs when one jumped in her kayak with her and decided to hitch a ride. She did, however, manage to not capsize. All told, we paddled for about an hour and a half and a good time was had by all (even Leslie's bug passenger who was eventually put back in the wilds from which he came).

Kayaking towards the water trail

Eric exploring the water trail

Paddling along the water trail

Rendezvous along the water trail

Leslie kayaking along the water trail

We think this is where Leslie's bug passenger may have hitched a ride

Leslie heading back towards the beach

Leslie and me in front of the beach

Obligatory photo of sled puppy, Acadia, chewing on her stuffies

Friday, September 12, 2008

First Training Runs of the Season

Thirteen Week Old Siberian Husky Puppy, Acadia, watches the excitement

It's hard to believe that it's now dog sledding season after having just returned from vacation in Maine and Vermont two weeks ago but here at Maryland Sled Dog Adventures it is now officially Fall training season. Even scarier, we will begin dryland dog sled rides, tours and girl scout and boy scout badge programs in dog sledding next weekend.

Our first training run of the season with the dogs was Thursday, September 11, 2008 and our second training run of the season was today, Friday, September 12, 2008. First training runs can be...ahem...eventful to say the least. Thankfully, the dogs ran admirably well considering they have not been hooked up since the end of April.

Early Thursday morning before the sun came up, Eric and I headed up to the NCR Trail with Zoe, T-Bone, Sobo, Okemo, and Acadia. On the dog sled team, would be Zoe and Sobo in lead and Okemo and T-Bone in wheel. Little siberian husky puppy, Acadia, at only 13 weeks of age is far to young to be run in harness yet. While we are very excited by the potential that Acadia is showing for running, she got to take a nice walk with Eric, meet Scooter the Beagle, and all of the Gunpowder Falls State Park staff.

We set off from the White Hall station on the NCR trail heading north. The dogs set a fast past for the first mile, running at a consistent 17 MPH. At Little Gunpowder water fall I stopped the team to enjoy the stunning view as the water cascades over the falls and water the pups.

Little Gunpowder Falls

The dogs were eager to go on so we continued to the next station, Parkton. Along the way we had several opportunities to practice "gee over," and head on passing with bicyclists and walkers. We also had several opportunities to practice going "on by" squirrels and other wild life. One such instance occurred midway up to the falls when we passed an extremely reactive dog. As we approached, I was quite nervous that the dogs would not go on by this very tempting distracting cleanly this early in the season. As the distance between us and the other dog continued to closed, I gave the "on by" command and Zoe and Sobo sailed past the other dog. Woo hoo, the dogs remember their training! At Parkton, I again rested and watered the dogs. After resting, I instructed the dogs to "come haw, "Sobo and Zoe executed a perfect "come haw," and off we went back down the trail South towards White Hall. About a mile up from White Hall, I met up with Eric and Acadia walking North. We stopped briefly, had Eric and Acadia climb into the passenger seat on our Fritz Dyck rig and off we went back into the White Hall station. All told, our first training run of the season was 4.9 miles long, maximum speed was 17 MPH, and our cruising speed was 7.5 MPH. Combined weight for the run was approximately 350 lbs.

This morning, the dogs and I had a special guest come along for our training run. My sister Leslie is visiting from Seattle and decided she really wanted to try a dryland dog sled ride.

Leslie harnessing Okemo

The team lined out and ready to go

Once again, setting out early, we hit the trail by about 6:30 am and begin setting up. Heading north up the NCR trail, we passed several squirrels which the dogs passed cleanly. At Little Gunpowder Falls we rested and watered the dogs.

Resting along the trail

After resting, Sobo decided he wanted to "come haw" on his own. Putting a stop to this, I once again lined the dogs out. After Sobo held his line out for several minutes, I gave the dogs the "come haw" command and off we headed back down the trail with Leslie marveling at the speed of the dogs and wondering whether we would actually fit through the turnstiles on the trail. Coming back into the White Hall station, we fed and watered the dogs, unharnessed everyone, and loaded back up. Of course, while at the station several bicyclists stopped by pet the dogs. Today's dog sledding training run was 2.9 miles, cruising speed was 7.7 MPH, and our max speed was 14 MPH. Together the dogs pulled approximately 450 lbs for the duration of the run.

Monday, September 1, 2008

A Month of Adventures: (Weeks Three and Four) Down East Maine

The Maine Coast

The view from the top of Mt. Acadia

Maine's state motto is: Maine, the way life should be. During the long (and sad) drive home from our two weeks of vacation in Maine this past Saturday, Eric and I thought up a couple more slogans for the state:

-Maine, where drivers know the meaning of the word yield and actually yield (gasp) to other drivers.

-Maine, you're not in Massachusetts anymore.

-Maine, more accidental hunting shootings than criminal shootings (contrast this to Baltimore where residents have converted the city slogan: "Baltimore, the city that reads" to "Baltimore, the city that bleeds" 'Nuff said)

-Maine, watch out for that moose.

-Maine, the wild blueberry state.

-Maine, more lobsters than people.

-Maine, if you can't boil it and dip it in butter, you are probably still in New Jersey.

For the past two weeks, Eric and I along with Zoe, T-Bone, Sobo, Okemo, and little Acadia have enjoyed exploring all that Maine has to offer. While we visited and explored Maine, we stayed in a cottage in Lamoine Beach near Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park.

My, what a large nose you have....

"Now listen up Okemo," says Acadia

During our stay one of Eric's favorite activities was picking wild blueberries which we then used to make blueberry muffins, blueberry syrup, blueberry pancakes, and blueberry scones. We even grilled a pork tenderloin which we stuffed with apples, blueberries and shallots. Of course, we also purchased local lobsters (or as Mainers say: "Lobstahs") and boiled them. Of course, in addition to cooking at the cottage, we explored many of the area's restaurants. While there we enjoyed lobster at the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound, two delicious pizzas at Pat's Pizza, as well as several other restaurants. Unfortunately, we never made it to tea at Jordan Pond House.

Maine Blueberries

Maine Blueberry bush

Steamed lobsters and blueberry scones

Dreaming of blueberries and lobsters....

Another favorite activity was kayaking. From our rental, we could access Berry Cove and the rest of the waters surrounding Mount Desert Island. Early in our trip, we decided to have a tandem kayak dropped off (the vendor referred to it as the "dog boat" since it had a small space for a dog) and went out paddling with T-Bone. During our "three hour tour" we stopped and explored numerous coves and rivers and saw many loons and other water fowl.

On yet another day, we hiked Acadia Mountain with Acadia and Zoe. Of course, we had to get some pictures of Acadia on the Acadia Mountain sign. From the top of Acadia mountain, we enjoyed outstanding views of Some's Sound, Northeast and Southwest Harbor. Once at the top, we continued down the other side of the mountain enjoying fantastic views of Some's Sound.

Eric, Zoe, Acadia and I hiking up Mt. Acadia

Eric, Zoe and Acadia with Some's Sound in the back ground

Eric, Zoe and Acadia on the way up Mt. Acadia with Echo Lake in the background

Some's Sound: The view from the top of Acadia Mountain

Eric and Zoe at the summit of Acadia Mountain

Eric and Acadia at the summit of Mt. Acadia (yes, Acadia is chewing on the sign)

Yet another kayak trip involved a wonderful paddle around Long Pond where we stopped briefly for lunch and cheese and crackers. Little Acadia, our then 10 week old Siberian Husky pup, accompanied us on that trip.

Kayaking is tiring even when the humans do the paddling

While on Mount Desert Island we also toured Acadia National Park via the park road stopping to explore Sand Beach, Thunder Hole (not thundering while we were there), Fabbri picnic area, and Cadillac Mountain.

The porcupine islands from Cadillac Mountain

Mist settles over Frenchman Bay

Acadia National Park: The rugged Maine Coast

Sobo at the top of Cadillac Mountain

Thunder Hole

Me and Acadia at Thunder Hole

Eric, Okemo and Acadia at Thunder Hole

We also enjoyed nightly campfires at our rental cottage and a day spent lunching and exploring Bar Harbor. Of course, we took plenty of time to give the sled pets (and the humans) plenty of rest and relaxation.

Sled dog, Okemo, dreaming of Moose Burgers

Even the humans got to rest...

Big brother Okemo and little sister Acadia

While on Mount Desert Island, Eric and I and the sled pets also enjoyed exploring many miles of the carriage roads that crisscross Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park. On one hike, we hiked around Eagle Lake.

Sobo at Eagle Lake

Eagle Lake

The carriage roads of Acadia

Sobo, Acadia, Zoe and me in front of a carriage road bridge

Signs on the carriage roads

Zoe, Sobo, Acadia, Eric and me with the Bubble Mountains and Eagle Lake in the back ground

As we hiked the carriage roads around Eagle Lake, a bicyclist suggested we might wish to try out the private "Rockefeller Roads" surrounding Little Long Pond with the pups. The carriage roads surrounding Little Long Pond are particularly nice for hikers since no bicycles are allowed on these trails.

Heeding this suggestion, later in the week, Eric and I bundled Acadia and Okemo into the car and headed out for a hike and lunch on the private carriage roads around Little Long Pond (not to be confused with Long Pond where we kayaked). It soon became apparent that these trails served as the unofficial dog park where many local and visiting dogs came to socialize, romp and swim.

Little Long Pond

Hiking toward Seal Harbor near Little Long Pond

Cattail at Little Long Pond

Boat House on Little Long Pond where we stopped for lunch

Look Mom, no feet! Acadia jumps happily at Little Long Pond

"Vacation may be over but I'm looking forward to dog sledding season," thinks Acadia