Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Dogsledding--the ultimate winter fun

What a rush, to be pulled behind a team of 12 amazing sled dogs. Before I ever knew what a bucket list was, I had one, and dog sledding was certainly on it.

We recently had the opportunity to join Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel on an amazing adventure through the New Hampshire countryside near Jefferson in the White Mountain region. Here they have provided homes for over 150 sled dogs, ranging from racing Alaskan Huskies, to more traditional breeds like Siberians and Malamutes. This non-profit organization focuses on rescuing Alaskan huskies in need of a home, giving them a "job for life" but no sled dog is turned away.

We arrived rather well bundled up we thought, but our mushers took one look at us and offered us additional clothing. To our surprise we were encouraged to embrace the dogs rather than a cautiously extended a hand to let them sniff us. These dogs were raring to go. We were quickly also encouraged to help harness up the 12 dog team. Mitch jumped right in. The dogs were led out on two hind legs, which doesn't harm them, we were informed, but necessary if a handler is not going to be pulled over by the strength and enthusiasm of a sled dog who is ready to run. And boy were these dogs willing to run.

We were also a little surprised to see the dogs chained to a platform with a small house atop. We were informed this was perfectly kosher for the outdoor "working dogs" who often threw the straw out of their house to sleep outside on it. Now these dogs were real athletes we were soon to find out.

There was not enough snow on the ground to actually ride in a sled. Instead the 12-dog team was hooked up to a buggie fashioned from an old Volkswagen. The buggy was tethered so that the eager dogs wouldn't bolt before the driver was ready.

What ensued was a 20 mile journey along an old railroad trail that was filled with sheer adrenaline. The dogs are only controlled by verbal commands, and on the way home our driver commented, "I hope they don't shortcut through the hay field."

One of the biggest challenges, besides staying warm, was when we would go between the balusters that were set up to control motor traffic on the trail reserved for cross country skiers, snowshoers and of course dog sledders. There was only a few inches clearance on either side, and at times we must have been going 15 to 20 miles an hour.

Muddy Paws offers a variety of adventures from Mush-Inn Tour An Overnight Experience with the "Longest Dogsled Ride in New England” that begins in Jefferson and ends in Milan with a two night stay at the Mahoosuc Inn. The “Presidential Range Ride, covers 7-15 miles of trail along the historic Rail Trail in the White Mountains that offers incredible views of the Presidential mountain range. Or there is the 15-22 miles of scenic, remote, “authentic back woods” trails. But perhaps the biggest thrill of all is the "Drive your Own Team" excursion.

Summertime adventures include the “Paws &; Paddles” Adventure Package which combines a rafting trip and a buggie ride, "designed for those guests that want to pack in as much adventure into one day as humanly possible."

The White Mountain region of New Hampshire offers a variety of winter activities, and the Muddy Paw adventure was high on our list of fun we had there. For more information visit: winter fun.

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(c) 2012 Ruth Mitchell - all rights reserved

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