Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Dog Sledding Adventures: Lynch Mountain, the Tadpole, and the High Plateau Trails

On the trail at Baisley Lodges

As we begin our second week in Canada, the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs, Eric and I have enjoyed several wonderful dog sledding trips and adventures on the trails here in New Brunswick and Quebec. With so many great trips to recount, I’ll be keeping each of these blog entries quite short (lest I spend the rest of the trip here at the Edmundston library and not out on the trails with the dogs).

Riding on the dog sled

Okemo: Harnessed and ready to go

After a day of rest on Thursday, the sled dogs and I headed out to run the very hilly Lynch Mountain trail. While Gino had given me a preview of this trail on Monday after we arrived from the back of the snowmobile, the blizzard conditions that day were not conducive to me remembering much of the terrain.

Zoe and Sobo demonstrate "line out"

After my “swim” through chin deep snow earlier the week, snow shoes were a required piece of equipment on this dog sled adventure. For this run, we harnessed Acadia and Zoe in lead, T-Bone in team, and Sobo and Okemo in wheel.

Snowshoes are loaded on the dog sled

As we headed out, we first missed the turn off (a haw) for the trail that heads up Lynch mountain and had to execute a “come haw” at a road crossing which, much to my surprise, the dogs performed flawlessly on command. A come haw, early in a dog sled run can be a tricky command to get the dogs to follow since the sled dogs do not always want to turn around and return the way they came, especially early in the trip. This, however, was not the case and the dogs, following my command came haw.

Returning the way we came, we made the turn up hill but inadvertently selected the steeper of the two uphill routes. Climbing steeply, the sled dogs and I both got good work outs as we worked up the steep hill. Turning right, we followed the trail up through more gentle terrain, eventually passing the maple sugar house and a camp. After a stop and rest to catch our breath at the top of Lynch Mountain, the dogs were once again raring to go and off we went down, and down, and down. Before we knew it, we made the gee turn to head back to the excavator’s parking lot where the dog truck was parked. Total mileage was approximately 5.6 miles with a maximum speed of 17 MPH and a cruising average of 6.2 MPH (slow but this averages in the steep uphill climb to the top of Lynch Mountain). The balance of Friday was spent at the vet check and mushers’ meeting for the Can Am Crown Sled Dog Races with our host, Gino (running in the 30 mile race).

Sunday morning, March 1st, dawned clear and cold and after some rain on Friday evening and a solid freeze up on Saturday, the trails were hard and fast. Just the conditions I was looking for, I headed out to run my very favorite trail in all of Canada, the Tadpole trail. The Tadpole is a ten mile jaunt through pines and mixed hardwoods requiring a good deal of concentration. The Tadpole trail could also be aptly called the “don’t forget to duck” trail as there are many low hanging branches that will whip you right off your sled, if you are not careful. Indeed, at one point along the trail, I apparently did not duck fast enough or low enough and a low hanging branch grabbed my hat from my head. The Tadpole trail is easily the most technical trail I have ever run on a dog sled and requires excellent dog sled driving skills to avoid a wipe out or a collision with a tree. It is a narrow, twisting and turning dog sled trail that the sled dogs absolutely love to run. Indeed, I think I may have seen a twinkle in Okemo’s eye as he galloped downhill and ran through a tight turn. As expected with this type of trail, the whole dog sled team turned on the speed, producing a fast run in fast conditions. Unfortunately, I was so busy concentrating on driving that I didn’t get any photos of the Tadpole trail.

Blue skies and fast trails

Fish eye view of the trail

T-Bone in team and Sobo (l) and Okemo (r) in wheel

Monday morning the expected nor’easter that dumped more than a foot of snow on DC, New York, and Boston arrived here in New Brunswick and began generating new snow, albeit at a slightly slower rate than it had in the States. Our host, Gino, and I headed out Monday afternoon for a nice run on the fourteen mile High Plateau Trail. On my team were Zoe and Acadia in lead, Maggie (one of Gino’s big furry dogs) in team, and Sobo and Okemo in wheel. For this run, we elected to give sled dog, T-Bone, the day off. At about a mile from finishing the run, 9 month old Acadia, lost focus and we moved her out of lead and into wheel, moving Sobo up into lead and placing Acadia in wheel alongside Okemo. Even given this loss of focus, I was pleased that Acadia had completed a full 14 mile run, pulling hard and consistently for the entire duration. Total mileage for this dog sled adventure was 14 miles with a maximum speed of 13 MPH and a cruising speed of 7.8 MPH (not bad given the overall length of the run and the number of runs the dogs have done over the past week).

Lots and lots of trees

Stay tuned for more updates, as the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures sled dogs, Eric and I explore more of the wonderful trails here in New Brunswick, Canada.