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.