Sunday, February 27, 2011

2011 New Thing 3. Go Dog Sledding

This last weekend was a landmark of sorts for Siham, Leah and I.  It was a year ago this weekend that we headed up to Bar Harbor, Maine to see the earliest sunrise on the East Coast from Cadillac Mountain. We also finalized our lists of goals for 2010 and burned our lists of bad things from 2009.  In celebration of the anniversary, we decided to pick another winter new thing, this one a bit closer to home--dog sledding.  When I announced this idea to friends a month or so ago a number of people sent me links to articles about the abuse of dogs within the dog sledding and racing industry.  So we wanted to try to find a dog sledding outfit that we could feel good about, and I think we found exactly that in Eden Dog Sledding.

February 2011 has been the second snowiest in recent history here in Vermont, and Friday's snow showers threatened to keep Leah and Siham from making the weekend trip.  But Saturday was clear, so they made the trek to Burlington in the morning, and then we headed to Eden, a town in the area of Vermont known as the Northeast Kingdom. 

Eden Dog Sledding refers to its 36 Alaskan Huskies as "the un-chained gang", and we got a taste of what that meant when we arrived and headed into a large barn-style house to meet the drivers (Nate and Maria) the owner Jim and his sister, and many of the dogs who were relaxing inside.

One of the best surprises of the dog sledding experience was having so much opportunity before and after the sledding to get to know the dogs.  Gretel was my favorite.

Leah making friends with Phyllis, one of the lead dogs of our team.

Siham saying hi to Phyllis and Blueberry
After some quality time getting to know the dogs, learning about the team that would be carrying us, and getting a chance to help harness the dogs, we headed out to put the dogs on the line and load into the sled.  The sleds can only carry roughly two adults and the driver, so Leah was the anchor, with Siham and I switching as passengers halfway through. We had eight dogs pulling our sled and learned the names of all the positions. In the front (lead) were Bear and Phyllis.  In the second row (known as point or swing) were Rose and Amos, followed by the "team dogs" Gretel and Polly in the third row.  Finally the last row (the "wheel dogs"), Hosta and Blueberry, have the toughest pulling job, especially every time the sled needs to start moving from a stop. We also learned from Maria that we start not by saying "mush" but "hike", and directions are "gee" and "haw" instead of left and right.
We got to help harness the dogs -- here I am learning how to put the harness on my buddy Gretel.

Siham, Leah and our driver, Maria, getting ready for the second leg of the trip.

Here's what the team looks like when it's pulling.  They were just starting off again, and that's the Eden Dog Sled owner, Jim, standing near the starting point.
At the end of the sledding, the dogs had some beef broth and we were given the chance to give them some treats before they were unchained from the line and joined us back inside the building we started in for more hanging out together, questions and answers about the dogs and dog sledding before we started the drive back to Burlington.
After the ride was over while the dogs were waiting for their treats, Rose decided to borrow Amos' shoulder for a nice little rest.
Our dog sledding adventure was a major part of the weekend  But we also wanted to carry on another tradition that we began last year.  This other tradition is about beginnings and endings, and for us, the last weekend in February has become the appropriate time for both.  Just like last year, we each made an inventory of bad things from the year before that we ceremonially burned, and of goals for the upcoming year (last year it was new things, this year it is challenges -- with some new things thrown in as well) that we read to one another.  This year's updated list will be the subject of a separate post later this week, so for now I'll just note that it's a great exercise.  There's nothing like spending a little time inventorying where we've been and where we're going, and committing once again to the journey.  Thanks to Leah and Siham, and here's to another year of change and growth and challenge.


  1. That looks like so much fun! Glad you guys had a good weekend.

  2. Ah, my two loves- Trish Siplon and puppies. This may be one of my fave blogs posts yet!

  3. Kate, what about me as a third love?
    Fun adventure, and the dogs are soo wonderful and loved. Thank you Trish!