Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fall Training: Objective--Passing

Acadia: My what a large tongue you have...

Today's fall training run with the Maryland Sled Dog Adventures' sled dogs had one objective. Today's objective was passing Eric or Catherine on the trail. Anyone who has tried to take a team of sled dogs past an important person (i.e., the person who feeds them) on the trail, knows that this can be tricky. Because our dog sledding programs and tours nearly always require both Eric and I to be on the trail with the team, this skill is important to us.

Today, we arrived at the Sparks station on the Northern Central Rail (NCR) trail to do some practice passing drills with the team. We hooked up a four dog team with Zoe and Acadia in lead and Sobo and Okemo in wheel. Our fifth sled dog, T-Bone, is in partial retirement and stayed home to read a book on the couch!

The amazing flying, T-Bone, stayed home and read a book

Monkton Station: Northern Central Rail Trail

In the dark we set up the equipment including the lines and rig (the wheeled dog sled), harnessed the sled dogs, and gave each a brief walk. Just after day break, off we went out of the station with me driving the team and Eric riding our bike. The dogs love this stretch of trail and headed out down the trail at about 20 MPH despite the relatively heavy, 350 lb, load they were pulling. This stretch of trail runs through Maryland horse country and the farms, with their stone bank barns and white split rail fences, lining the trail are just lovely. About two miles out, after passing some pastured horses, I stopped the team to allow Eric to catch up. While the team was stopped, I enjoyed the gorgeous reds, yellows and orange leaves on the trees. I also practiced some line out training with the sled dogs.

Fall Foliage

After Eric caught up to us, we began working on leap frogging the bike (we'd pass Eric on the bike, slow down, and Eric would then pass us on the bike). Each time we commanded the dogs to go "on by" and praised them when they did it flawlessly and corrected them, showing them what we wanted them to do, when they did not. After about four passes, the sled dogs had this skill down pat. As we ran the balance of our 8 mile run from Sparks to Monkton, we continued this drill.

Arriving at Monkton station, we rested and watered the dogs for about ten minutes, and then began another drill. This particular drill involved having the dogs turn off the trail into a open field next to the Monkton station, run behind the station house, and come back out on the trail. After many missed attempts, the dogs finally got the idea that we wanted them to "haw" into the open field off the trail. Some of the dogs (Sobo who was in wheel this run) got it faster than others. As I once again showed the leaders, Zoe and Acadia, what I wanted them to do, Sobo valiantly attempted to turn the team "haw" from the wheel (back) position. Good boy Sobo!

Sobo and Okemo in wheel during a water break at Monkton Station

After re-entering the trail, now headed south, Eric and I switched positions and I rode the bike while Eric drove the team. Once again, we practiced passing (leap frogging) the bike. This time the dogs were spot on and didn't require any corrections. Good sled doggies!

Practicing passing drills

Heading down the trail

Arriving back at the dog truck, the sled dogs were fed their breakfast and meat, watered, walked, and we headed home. Our total run was 8 miles round trip with our maximum speed approximately 20 MPH and our "cruising speed" abut 7-8 MPH. Along the way, the sled dogs pulled approximately 350 lbs. At home we found our stone mason well underway on building us, and the sled dogs, a new field stone wall along the driveway.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Announcing our Maine Winter Cabin Adventure!

Driving the team down the trail

While it may seem like a long way off, it's never too early to plan and prepare for the adventure of a life time.

For the first time in February 2011, Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC will offer a four day, hands-on dog sledding adventure based out of our brand new cabin in Starks, Maine. Our Maine Winter Cabin Adventure will give six lucky women the opportunity of a lifetime to immerse themselves for four days learning and living a dog based adventure. Based out of our cabin in central Maine, our Maine Winter Cabin Adventure will provide participants with opportunities to learn all about dog sledding, work closely with our team of sled dogs, and drive their own dog team through the scenic north Maine woods. Other activities will include skijoring, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing. Our Maine Winter Cabin Adventure is a women's only trip, limited to six women, and is perfect for individuals and mother-daughter pairs. Visit our Maine Winter Cabin Adventure page for details and to register.

Skijoring with Acadia

Your accommodations

Okemo relaxes at the cabin

Sign up now because, as they say in dog sledding, if you are not the lead dog, the view never changes!

First Dog Sledding Programs of the 2009-2010 Season

Harnessed in the team position, Wolfie tries dryland dog sledding during his Run What You Brung program

Fall has arrived and with the cooling temperatures and changing of the leaves comes....dryland dog sledding. Here at Maryland Sled Dog Adventures LLC, we've officially begun our 2009-2010 dog sledding season! This weekend kicked off with one of our children's birthday parties and a Run What You Brung training program for a Siberian Husky named, Wolfie or the "W." (Wolfie would like me to explicitly state that he is absolutely no relation to the former president). If you are interested in booking your very own dog sledding program, visit the Tours page of our website to learn more the types of dog sledding programs we offer, and then email to reserve your date.

Okemo meets the kids

Sobo gets harnessed by the birthday girl

Lead dog, Acadia, is eager to take off and "get this party started."

Mushing through the mist with a four dog team

All settled in for a dryland dog sled ride

The fog has burned off and we've had a wonderful birthday party!
Acadia practices her line out

Reluctant at first, Wolfie practices drag training

Distraction training: Acadia and Wolfie practice lining out

The W and Anna take a little jog down the trail to relax

Wolfie and Anna relax after all of the excitement of dryland dog sledding

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Canicross Hike at Sugarloaf Mountain, Maryland

Left to Right: Acadia, Sobo and Wolfie pull hard down the trail

On Saturday, Maryland Sled Dog Adventures hosted its last canicross hike for the season. The hike was held at Sugarloaf Mountain near Frederick, Maryland. While the skies were gray, the rain drops held off until the afternoon. Temps were cool in the upper 40s when we arrived at the trail head and did not warm up out of the low 60s. Fall has finally arrived in the Mid Atlantic. Our hike followed the five mile route of the Northern Peaks (blue) trail climbing to 1,282 feet at the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain. At the entrance to the trail, we noticed a sign indicating that a black bear and cub has been spotted in the area but alas we did not see any bears. This hike is somewhat unusual in that you reach the summit of the mountain at the very beginning of the hike and then the trail follows a series of ups and downs between peaks ranging in height from approximately 900 ft to 1100 ft.

Along for the hike were Anna and her Siberian Husky, Wolfie, along with Eric and I and sled dogs, Sobo and Acadia, both Siberian Huskies. While Sugarloaf Mountain was our last canicross hike of the 2009 season, we'll resume our canicross hikes in late spring 2010. Stay tuned to the upcoming events section of our website for more information on upcoming hikes for you and your dog.

Wolfie (left) and Sobo (right) demonstrate a nice line out!

Canicrossing down the trail with Wolfie and Anna in lead

Wolfie pulls at a nice steady pace!