Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Our First Dog Sledding Run at Tug Hill

Arriving at the historic CCC camp, after the drive up to New York, we were excited to get out on the trails in Winona Forest for our first run on snow of the season. We dropped (musher jargon for letting the dogs out of the truck so they can potty and be harnessed) the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs and set up for a late afternoon run. The parking lot had two other dog trucks in it when we arrived but all in all, it was very quiet.

Sled dogs hanging on the picket line at the CCC camp

Heading out, we did an approximately 5.5 mile run. In lead, we hooked up our youngest dog (8 month old), Acadia, and our oldest dog (9 year old) and best leader, Zoe. Behind the leaders, we put T-Bone. When running on snow, T-Bone must be booted (for information on where we purchase our gear, visit our resources page) because his long fluffy foot fur is prone to ice balls. Behind T-Bone, in wheel we put our "power dogs" 4 year old Siberian, Sobo and hardworking 3 year old, "big white dog," Okemo.

T-Bone modeling his dog booties

Wheel dog: Okemo

The team

Setting out, we started out from the trail head on Pussycat Trail, crossed Route 90, turned "haw" on Bargy, made a "gee" on Frank's Fancy and headed down one of my favorite trails. Why is Frank's one of my favorite trails? It's a lovely little jaunt through mixed pine and hardwood forest with some nice twists and turns that really tend to excite the dogs. About half way down Frank's Fancy, Frank Caldwell and his team of eight Alaskans caught up to us. Given the narrow trail and our pup, Acadia, being in heat, Frank's dogs did not want go smoothly "on by." As the dogs balled up, Frank got off his sled to untangle them and then began to demonstrate what I am calling the human snow hook maneuver as his dogs began to drag him down the trail. As most mushers know, many dogs fell the "whoa" command is purely advisory in nature and it's really the brakes (drag, claw and snow hook) that mushers use to stop their teams.

Stop signs mean nothing to sled dogs...this is why we have snow hooks

In his haste to untangle the dogs, Frank had forgotten to deploy the ever important snow hook. After all of this excitement, the dogs were raring to go and off we went. At Hessel, we turned "haw," crossing Bargy and turning "gee" onto Alice's Ally. As we made the "gee" onto Alice's, we were beginning to lose light and I urged the dogs to pick up the speed. Alice's, like Frank's Fancy, is yet another winding, twisty forested trail which the dogs love. We followed Alice's to the connector trail that connects Alice's to Dog Leg and around we went on Dog Leg back to Bargy where we went "gee," and headed back to the trail head and the truck, arriving just as the sun was setting.

Upright on the runners, Frank Caldwell

The intersection of Alice's Ally and Hessel

Feeding and walking the dogs, we headed back to Pulaski with just enough time to meet up with Frank and Regina at Stefano's for some yummy Italian food.