Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dog Sledding and Skijoring in Canada (Day Two)

If you aren't the lead dog, the view never changes

After Sunday and Monday's blizzard, Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear.

With the amazing weather, Eric, the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs, and I headed out for some skijoring and dog sledding on the Trappers’ Cabin loop trail. The trail system starts in New Brunswick and traverses into Quebec. The trails are lightly used and one of the few other users is a trapper who uses a dog team to help haul his gear. The 8 mile Trappers Cabin trail is one way to access the trapper’s “off the grid” cabin. The first portion of the trail climbs gently paralleling the Madawaska River. At the top of a small plateau, the trail turns “gee” and heads up sharply through a pine forest. Approximately one mile later, the trail reaches a working trapper’s cabin. For today’s adventure Eric planned to skijor with T-Bone (but T-Bone had other ideas) and I planned to run just four dogs. Harnessing the dogs we put Zoe and Acadia in lead, followed by Sobo and Okemo in Wheel. T-Bone was harnessed and booted but then put back in his box while Eric got geared up with his skis, skijoring line, and belt.

The four dog team: Zoe, Acadia, Okemo, and Sobo

Cresting a small rise

About a mile down the trail after I took off with the four dog team, I noticed the sled dogs were distracted and looking back. Since this is unusual behavior, I glanced behind and noticed that T-Bone, complete in booties and harness, had caught up with us and was running full speed along behind in an effort to catch up. Not happy running behind, however, T-Bone jumped between the moving team and sled in an effort to resume his rightful place on the sled dog team. Not wanting to leave T-Bone behind and not wanting to hit him with the dog sled or end up in a massive tangle, I stopped the team, loaded T-Bone into the sled bag, clipped a neck line on him to keep him secure. As we climbed up towards the trapper’s cabin,T-Bone rode in the sled bag, seeming to enjoy the ride and sights of the trail.

Here we come!

Reaching the trapper’s cabin, the sled dogs and I stopped for a brief lunch on the trail. While I ate lunch, the dogs rested and were snacked. Shortly after breaking camp and heading back towards the truck, we bumped into Eric skiing towards us wondering where his skijor dog, T-Bone, was. Eric quickly snapped T-Bone onto the skijor line and we both headed back towards the truck.

Eric skijoring with T-Bone

Eric didn't want me to use this photo!

T-Bone demonstrating a nice line out

Altogether, the dogs ran approximately 8 miles round trip to the trapper’s cabin with T-Bone riding about four miles in the sled bag and skijoring back about four miles with Eric. Our maximum speed was 18 MPH while our cruising speed was a slow 6.1 MPH. Total load was approximately 250 lbs.

The sled dogs LOVE going down hill