Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ten Miles on the Tug Hill Plateau

If you are not the lead dog, the view never changes!

Sunday morning Eric and I along with the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs headed back to Winona Forest for a long training run from the Wart Road trail head. Click here to check out a map of the trails throughout the forest. This trail head is especially popular with snow mobilers and skiers and less popular with mushers. We love it, however, as it provides easy access to some wonderful trails and lots of "gee/haw" practice. Arriving at approximately 10 am, we were pleased to find very few other vehicles in the lot.

Snowy Wart Road

Harnessing the dogs, we put Acadia and Zoe in lead, T-Bone in team, and Okemo and Sobo in wheel. Shortly after harnessing, Frank and his Alaskans arrived, hooked up and went out.

Blur of motion: Frank and his Alaskans

Shortly after harnessing, I had planned out a nice 10-11 mile run that included a variety of trails ranging from wide open main corridor trails to narrow and twisty woods trails. The plan was to run north on Wart Road to Winona Way.

Heading down Wart Road

As we turned "gee" onto Winona Way, the snow was deep and ungroomed for about .25 mile but quickly opened up to groomed trail.

Deep unbroken snow on Winona Way

As we sped along Winona Way, we passed several groups of skiers. Coming to a couple skiing with an off leash dog, I gave the dogs a hard "on by." Not sure exactly what it was, but just as the leaders tried to take the team on by, T-Bone, in team, dove at the other dog, pulling me and the sled into the skier. Apologies all around and no injuries to dogs or people thankfully. So embarrassing, though, since the dogs know better. Winona Way is a fabulous wooded trail that climbs gently up hill until it intersects with Hawley. Along Hawley, I decided to experiment with the dogs' positions on the team, and put Acadia in single lead with Zoe and T-Bone in team, and Sobo and Okemo in wheel. Turning right onto Hawley, a wide open trail, we sped along. Coming up to Bargy, I gave the dogs an "on by" telling them to cross Bargy and continue on Tucker. For some reason, the dogs refused to "on by" Bargy. Two cross country skiiers got to watch me repeatedly have to plant the snow hook, get off the sled, and show the dogs what I wanted them to do. After about what seemed like 10 trys, the dogs finally got that I wanted them to go "on by" Bargy and through the intersection. Just as we crossed onto Tucker, the skiiers said that the "other musher" said that Alice's wasn't groomed in at that end and that he had turned around. Giving the "come haw" command, the dogs executed a good turn around in the middle of Tucker trail. Approaching Bargy once again, we turned "gee" onto Bargy and headed north. Heading north on Bargy, Acadia took us cleanly "on by" and over North Church road, on by the first entrance for Dog Leg. Turning "gee" at the second entrance to Dog Leg we followed dog leg until it routed us on Alice's Ally. Along Alice's I found a nice place to pull off and snack the dogs and have a cup of tea. Traveling north along Alice's, we came to the intersection of Alice's and Hessel and turned "haw." Just after starting out on Hessel, T-Bone blew off one of his boots which I was able to collect. Stopping the team, I re-booted T-Bone and off we went. At the end of Hessel, Acadia had been in single lead for approximately four miles. Stopping briefly, I once again moved Zoe up into lead with Acadia and off we went heading south on Bargy. Zoe and Acadia easily "on by'd" North Church Road, turning "gee" on Hiscock. Hiscock is another favorite woods trail of ours and we were pleased to find it was nicely groomed (at least along this stretch). Following Hiscock, we turned "haw" onto Winona Way and followed Winona for a short distance to Hawley. From here our plan was to turn "gee" onto Hawley and then "haw" onto Bill's Belly. As we approached Bill's Belly, it was clear that Bill's was not at all groomed in. Since the dogs were tired and not in the mood to break trail, we continued on along Hawley to Wart Road heading back into the trail head.

Heading back into the trail head

Arriving back at the trail head, Eric and I got the dogs squared away and watered and set up the camp stove to make our own lunch of mac and cheese and grilled corned beef and cheese sandwiches. After lunch, we decided to go out for a short skijoring run with Acadia and Okemo of about 3.5 miles. Returning to the truck just as the sun was setting we headed home to watch the Super Bowl and eat pizza. Yum.