Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maryland Sled Dog Adventures Goes Dog Sledding in Canada (Day One)

Driving north through northern Maine on Sunday, Eric and I along with the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures’ sled dogs were blessed with good weather despite the dire predictions of a big nor’easter slated to dump 1-2 feet of snow in the State.

Arriving at the Canadian US border late in the afternoon, we cleared Canadian customs, and hit the Trans Canadian Highway headed west towards St. Jacques, New Brunswick. The biggest and most important question, will the dog sled (riding on top of the truck) pass safely under the awning marked 9 feet 0 inches. The answer…..yes, the dog sled (and sled dogs) along with us humans managed to “clear” Canadian customs just fine.

After arriving on Sunday evening at Baisley Lodges on the Madawaska River, our home away from home for the next two weeks, and socializing with our hosts, Fran and Gino Roussel, we headed out to provision the cabin with groceries in Edmundston, NB.

On Monday morning, after a restful night’s sleep in our snug cabin , we awoke to full blizzard conditions as the nor’easter racing up the Maine coast hit the Maritimes and New Brunswick. Over the course of Sunday night, Monday and Monday night, we picked up approximately a foot and a half of new snow here in St. Jacques. Never one to waste good snow, we devised a plan that would allow us to explore some of the new trails that our host, Gino, had groomed in since we visited last year. The plan was simple, Eric would ride the snow machine with Gino and break trail for me and the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs. At the six mile loop, Eric would take over the team and head back to the truck while I continued on with Gino so that he could show me the ten mile loop and the Lynch Mountain trail. The plan hit a minor road bump when I went to turn the truck into the trail head parking lot and got stuck. Even with four wheel drive, the truck was good and stuck. After a brief attempt by Gino and Eric to push the 5000 lb truck out was unsuccessful, Gino wisely decided to prevail upon his heavy machine operator friend to winch us out with his front end loader. A few short and stressful moments later, the sled dogs and I were free and safely parked (not stuck) in the trail head lot.

Harnessing the dogs, we put Zoe and Acadia in lead, followed by a booted T-Bone in team, followed by wheel dogs, Okemo and Sobo. Eager to follow sled dog dad, Eric, down the trail, the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures dog were raring to go.

Out of the trail head we followed the trail winding gently up and down through the Madawaska river valley. Coming to a seasonal road, we turned the team “gee” and headed steeply up hill. At the top of the hill we turned the dogs “haw” and traveled upwards through a pine forest. Coming to the six (which is actually 7) mile turn around, I handed the team off to Eric while I continued on through the ten mile trail on the back of the snow mobile with Gino while Eric drove the dogs back towards the dog truck. After completing the 10 mile loop, we headed back to where the dog truck was parked, arriving only a few minutes before Eric and the sled dog team. After a brief pause to remove the dogs dog sledding harnesses, snack the dogs and load the truck, Gino and I continued on to explore and groom the Lynch Mountain trail while Eric and the sled dogs returned to the cabin in the dog truck.

Altogether, the sled dogs ran approximately 7.2 miles while pulling between 200-250 lbs. Maximum speed was 17 MPH and cruising speed (factoring in the hills which were slower) was approximately 7 MPH.

(Unfortunately, due to near blizzard conditions during this particular dog sledding run, we did not get any photographs. Photos of the gorgeous trails here in Canada will be posted in subsequent blog entries)