pine barrens

Finishing the Season

The dogs and I hit Brendan T. Byrne this past weekend to finish out the mushing season. I had a three day weekend thanks to the holiday, but Friday was a wash with 70 degree temperatures and rain. We made the most of Saturday and Sunday, though!

Saturday morning we arrived early and got a quick five miles in before it got too warm. Then I spent the afternoon reading Wild and cooking on my new camp stove while the dogs lounged around.

We were up before the sun the next morning and started our run directly from the campsite, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. It was a struggle to pull myself out of a toasty sleeping bag into below freezing temperatures, but it was worth it. All I had to do was throw clothes on myself, harness the dogs, and roll out.

We finished the season with our longest run of the year at almost 10 miles. There were a few points where it was slow-going, but overall, I’m very happy and proud of the pups. Especially Dexter, who has shown he can still keep up with the youngins’… at least after their initial burst of speed. I’m working on controlling their pacing, which will work out better for all three of them.

Cheers to the 2014/2015 mushing season coming to an end, and here’s to the beginning of 2015 hiking season!

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

Home Again

Looks like the Icelandic weather followed me home! I expected the trails in the Pine Barrens to be clear this morning, but there was still a decent amount of snow. Probably should’ve brought the sled instead, but we made it through!

Looks like the Icelandic weather followed me home! I expected the trails in the Pine Barrens to be clear this morning, but there was still a decent amount of snow. Probably should’ve brought the sled instead, but we made it through!

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

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!

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

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!

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

Camping

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

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.

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

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!

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.

Summer Camping

I took Denali and Knox camping in the Pine Barrens this weekend. I wanted to bring Dexter, but the campsite had a two dog limit and I didn’t want to bend any rules this time around. After spending the weekend there, I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be an issue for the future.

We weren’t too far from our go-to dryland mushing trail, so I’m glad we scoped this spot out. Dex has also camped before, so this trip was to teach the huskies how to behave.

The first night, they were a little wound up. Two high prey drive huskies in a small tent does not make for a peaceful sleep when the area is full of noisy critters. But they eventually settled down.

It was cool enough in the morning to take them for a quick bike ride around our usual trail. I didn’t push it, though. They’re out of practice and the flies were swarming, so we did less than a mile.

After that, they were much more behaved. We returned to camp for breakfast, a nap, and lunch. We did a quick hike around Pakim Pond, then drove around some more trails to plan for the fall season.

The Pine Barrens offer miles and miles of flat, soft trail which is perfect for dryland dog mushing. I’m looking forward to getting back down there when it’s cooler and without all the flies.

The pups slept soundly the second night, after a day of adventures. We packed up early Sunday morning after an intense rain storm. Can’t wait to head out again!

Full album on Flickr.

For exclusive content, subscribe to our Patreon.