dryland dog mushing

Beginnings

As the old year closes and the new begins, we often talk about goals and resolutions. I have my own set of personal achievements to strive towards this year, but I think now would be a good time to write about my mushing goals.

Every season, I set a goal at around 150 total miles. We generally start running in October, and continue up until late March, weather permitting. This gives us six solid months to accrue distance. If we’re lucky, we get a head start in late September, and run into April. Either way, 150 miles is a pretty attainable goal.

As of January 1st, 2015, we have around 83 miles in the books. Dexter is behind with only about 70 miles, since I didn’t run him in our first race and he’s had a minor paw pad injury this past week. I’m not too sure about his future in mushing, since the pups have definitely hit their peak and run much faster than he does now. I don’t want to force him to run, but I’d hate to leave him behind. We’ll see how he does after a week of rest. Hopefully we’ll see some snow this season, which he does run better in.

I’ve got a few other mushing related goals I’d like to accomplish, for this year and the future:

  • Purchase an Arctis Cart (slated for Summer of this year)
  • Dryland mushing roadtrip 
  • Stay in a cabin with mushing trails in the vicinity
  • Overnight mushing trip (mush to a spot, pitch a tent, then mush back the following day)

If anyone has any suggestions for those last there, please let me know! They’re not really activities I’ll be able to do around New Jersey, so any advice is appreciated.

Have a happy 2015!

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkeys howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches, where storms come and go as lightning clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you – beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. 

― Edward Abbey

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Water World

After all the rain we’ve had, the trails down in the Pine Barrens were more like small lakes. We tried a new 5.7 mile loop, which involved maneuvering through some huge puddles that just about submerged the the rig. The dogs didn’t seem to mind. Especially Dexter – he actually ran better than ever. I guess maybe he’s a Labrador mix after all. 
 Towards the end of our run, we caught up with Jessica’s team and Bryan’s team (fellow Jersey Sands mushers). It was nice having some teams to chase for the final stretch, and to get the dogs used to other dogs nearby. Passing is a different story, but I’m grateful to have other mushers involved in this crazy sport to train with me!

After all the rain we’ve had, the trails down in the Pine Barrens were more like small lakes. We tried a new 5.7 mile loop, which involved maneuvering through some huge puddles that just about submerged the the rig. The dogs didn’t seem to mind. Especially Dexter – he actually ran better than ever. I guess maybe he’s a Labrador mix after all.

Towards the end of our run, we caught up with Jessica’s team and Bryan’s team (fellow Jersey Sands mushers). It was nice having some teams to chase for the final stretch, and to get the dogs used to other dogs nearby. Passing is a different story, but I’m grateful to have other mushers involved in this crazy sport to train with me!

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Race Day

We had a great time at the Betty Carhart Memorial Race this weekend. I ran Denali and Knox in the two dog pro bike-jor class. Dexter came along as our cheerleader, but he didn’t run. He’s made it clear he prefers slow-paced runs, so I’m not going to run him competitively for the time being. 

The race was Saturday and Sunday, with our run on Saturday being one of our fastest to date. We were technically second out the chute, but the team before us didn’t show up, so we went first. Two other teams started behind us, including a team of super-speedy hounds. We had a very strong start, and right as the dogs began to slow down, the hound team passed us.

Some folks get upset when teams pass them, but this was a victory for us. I pulled to the side of the trail and commanded the dogs to let the other team by, and they listened. There was no issue, no tangles, no attempts to mess with the passing team. Then, we got the added bonus of a team to chase to the finish line. Yes, we finished second, but our time would not have been what it was without those speedy hounds in front of us. 

Sunday was about 20 degrees warmer, so I kept the dogs running a little bit slower. The rest of our class didn’t show up, so we were the only team to complete the two day race (in two dog bike-jor). We were guaranteed first place, but I’m still very proud of how the dogs performed.

I’m looking forward to our next race, held in the same spot (Mt. Misery in Brendan T. Byrne) but by the Pennsylvania Sled Dog Club. January 10th and 11th, mush on!

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Truckin'

We’re still here, trucking along. Our first race is this weekend (the Betty Carhart Memorial Race) and we’ll be competing in the 2-dog pro bike-jor class. I’ve decided to sit Dexter out for this first race, since he’s a bit slower than Denali and Knox. Normally, I really don’t care about speed, but I’d like to see what my youngsters can do without having to keep Dexter’s pace. Should be a fun weekend!

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Hot October

Camping in the Pine Barrens came with its share of ups and downs.

I had to commute into Manhattan for a work meeting, so we didn’t get down to the campsite until about 4:30 PM. Denali and Knox were immediately comfortable on their tie-outs, since we had camped there this summer. Dexter was a bit antsy, but I still managed to set up my new (bigger) tent and cook dinner. The sun sets around 6 PM and we made it a pretty early night.

It was in the mid-40’s when we woke up on Saturday. I cooked up a quick breakfast (pork roll, eggs, and tea) and loaded the dogs for our first run. The campsite is about five minutes from the Mt. Misery trail, so it was nice to get an early start without the usual hour and a half drive.

The dogs did great – I know I say it a lot, but they’re really starting to round out as a team. Even Dexter has been keeping a better pace with the speedy huskies. I wanted to explore the surrounding trails a bit more, but it warmed up too fast. 

Most of Saturday was peaceful, until a family rolled up and took the campsite directly next to mine. That’s the one thing you can’t prepare for when you book online – families that just drive in without reservations.

The kids weren’t really bad, I just wanted to relax and not listen to their squeaky little voices. The family also had a small dog with them. It was perfectly well behaved, but of course my meatheads wanted to either wrestle it or eat it (can’t be too sure).

I eagerly awaited sundown so I could cook my dinner and have the darkness provide some seclusion. It was another early night, since I wasn’t sure if it would be cold enough to run the dogs the next morning.

I’m glad I decided to stay, despite family, because Sunday’s run was beautiful. I drove out before breakfast, since it was already nearly 50 degrees when I woke up. We were on the trail as the sun was rising, and it made for some beautiful light through the pines.

While it was warm at the campsite and at the trail head, the trail itself felt a few degrees cooler. I wasn’t going to push the dogs, and had planned to just do a mile and a half, but they were on fire. We took a few breaks for water, but they were revved up and ready to run each time.

We did the whole 3.8 mile trail again, and they ended strong. There’s a hill towards the very end of the run, and Denali must have seen an animal or something, because they took the hill full speed, when normally I have to pedal the rig along.

The dogs got a well-deserved breakfast of kibble, beef, and eggs while I cooked my own (awesome) campfire omelette. My neighbors were wide awake, so I decided to pack up and head home before my “check out” time.

All in all, I’m glad I went, but I’m looking forward to colder temperatures and (hopefully) fewer campers next time.

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In the Pines

We had our first real run in the pines this past weekend. Slow but steady 3.8 miles at Mt. Misery (charming name, eh?) in Brendan T. Byrne State Forest.

I was hoping for colder temperatures, but it hovered around 47 degrees which meant lots of breaks. The dogs did well despite the temperature. I think they were just happy to be running those sandy trails again.

We’re heading back there this weekend to camp and mush. Can’t wait!

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End of Summer

Finally things are starting to cool down again. Please, let this be the last of summer temperatures. We’re ready for frosty mornings.

Finally things are starting to cool down again. Please, let this be the last of summer temperatures. We’re ready for frosty mornings.

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Park Runs

Awesome run this morning after several days of humid grossness. It would have been better if it was a little colder, but that’s my only complaint!

The dogs did great. To start, they usually yap their heads off as we’re leaving the house, which I’m sure isn’t pleasant for my neighbors. Today, they were silent and focused. Dexter has been acting rowdy at hook-up, lunging at Knox and tangling himself up in his excitement. Today, he stayed still and didn’t cause any problems.

The run went perfectly fine, no chasing squirrels, no barking at dogs – granted, they didn’t really see any squirrels or dogs. But I’ll still count it as a win.

What really impressed me was the dogs’ “on-by” when passing people and vehicles. There were multiple instances where we had to pass by moving and parked cars, and they did it flawlessly.

We also passed by a herd of children waiting at a bus stop – all squealing, “DOGGIES!”, no less. Dexter showed some interest, because he’s a social butterfly, but Denali and Knox powered through and he took the hint. 

Despite their issues with other animals, it’s awesome to have them listen to me under most other circumstances. Good dogs!

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Beat the Heat

Summer returned with vengeance last week, and temperatures in the 80s and 90s meant no runs for my little team. 
 It’s finally starting to cool off, but we still have to take it slow. This morning was still around 60 degrees, so we only did a quick half mile around the neighborhood.  
 Dexter has been running better than last season, though it’s too soon to make any real judgements. Denali has been easily distracted by squirrels, but she’s getting better with every run. Knox is doing well, although he tries to pull over and yap at a Labrador we pass by in a fenced yard. The team needs work all around, but they’re doing gret for so early in the season. 
 We have some cooler temperatures coming in on Sunday, so I’m planning to take the team out to Six Mile Run. Fingers crossed it stays nice and cold!

Summer returned with vengeance last week, and temperatures in the 80s and 90s meant no runs for my little team.

It’s finally starting to cool off, but we still have to take it slow. This morning was still around 60 degrees, so we only did a quick half mile around the neighborhood. 

Dexter has been running better than last season, though it’s too soon to make any real judgements. Denali has been easily distracted by squirrels, but she’s getting better with every run. Knox is doing well, although he tries to pull over and yap at a Labrador we pass by in a fenced yard. The team needs work all around, but they’re doing gret for so early in the season.

We have some cooler temperatures coming in on Sunday, so I’m planning to take the team out to Six Mile Run. Fingers crossed it stays nice and cold!

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Fall is Here

Day two of fall training. It was a bit warmer and more humid, so we took it slow. The squirrels are very active right now, and Denali needs to learn to keep her prey-drive in check!

Day two of fall training. It was a bit warmer and more humid, so we took it slow. The squirrels are very active right now, and Denali needs to learn to keep her prey-drive in check!

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