7-dog & 3-dog Loops at Fort Custer

Looking for another opportunity to run more than ten miles we headed to Fort Custer Saturday afternoon.  My goal was to run the 7-dog trail (~6.5 miles) twice and then try for either the 3-dog or 5-dog loop.  Never having once seen a snowmobile at Fort Custer I figured we'd have the place pretty much to ourselves  Wrong...I could hear the whine of snowmobiles flying through the woods the minute I stepped out of my car at the campground trailhead.

We still had some light so I hit the trail.   I was testing out a new bridle I'd put on my sled a well as the short pulka ManMat harnesses I'd just gotten from Howling Dog.  We ended up just doing the 7-dog loop once and then the 3-dog loop once (total GPS mileage of 10.6 miles).  We could hear snowmobiles the whole time, but we only crossed paths with one group of riders, taking a break at the intersection of where the 5 and 7 dog loops dump into the 3-dog loop.  We weaved through them and their sleds easily and continued on our way.

We had a great run. The new bridle system worked awesome and I absolutely love the pulka harnesses.  The heavy snow on the trees along the 7-dog trail made for a beautiful run.


First 10mile+ run sled run

We've gotten a lot of snow over the past few days and in a effort to go on a longer than normal (4-6mile) run I loaded the dogs in blizzard conditions and headed to the White Pine Trail. This is an old state managed rail-trail that runs from near Grand Rapids to Cadillac. Never having really been on this trail my thought was to try to run from Rockford to Cedar Springs ~ 14 miles round trip. The trail in Rockford looked sketchy as it had been plowed earlier in the day, so I headed a few miles north to my plan B access spot - the Russell Street parking area. I found the parking area despite near whiteout conditions. As I turned into the lot my headlights hit the kiosk at the trailhead and a sign reading "SNOWMOBILES ALLOWED NORTH OF RUSSELL STREET" Oh man...I had though much of this trail was closed to snowmobiles. Oh well, the weather was deteriorating quickly and I've found most Michigan snowmobile riders don't like to come out when things are this bad. I was right...in our ten and a half mile run from Russell Street to just north of 19 mile and back we only encountered about half a dozen snowmobilers. 99% of snowmobile riders I've run across while on a dog sled are real courteous slow down to a near idle when they pass us. This was exactly what we encountered on this run except for one group of two riders who got within about 10 feet of us (hooked down and pulled off the trail) and the gunned it passing us at near 30-40 mph and about a foot from where we were pulled off the trail.

Another use for my steel snowhook comes to mind in situations like that.

In any case the dogs did really good... after they slowdown from their initial 15+mph sprint pace for the first couple miles and settle into a 9-12 mph lope I feel like they could go on forever at that pace.


MiDD Cart Training Run

Brigid and I took the dogs out on a ~ 4mile cart run on Friday.  We were able to use a cart that was donated to the MiDD group.  The resources and trail system that Rick and Linda Lange and the MiDD group have up here in awesome...and it's just over an hour from our house!


New Dog Houses

Put together a couple of new dog houses using the 1 house from 1 sheet of plywood design on John Little's website (http://kasilofkennel.bravehost.com/doghouse/doghouse.html ).  Worked out really well...I made a couple of small mods and found a thing or two I'll change for next time.


Porcupine Mountains

We  parked at the Government Peak Trailhead, road walked to the Lake Superior Trail and took that to just past the Big Carp River Trail for day one. ~14 miles
We made camp on the “beach” as every campsite was taken.
We found a 6′x’6 area of gravel that was almost sand on the beach and set up there.
Made the decision that due to the injuries on the dogs feet that we needed to take the quickest route back.  So we took the Big Carp River trail to the Lake of the Clouds visitor center and then I caught a ride from some nice folks back to our car. ~10 miles
Lessons Learned:
Always Bring Dog Booties!

The Lake Superior Trail kicked our butts and our dogs had some injuries on their feet as a result of the rocky trail.
So we bailed out early and headed home.
We did have a great time, but I was feeling really irresponsible for putting our dogs in a position to get hurt like that.


Mackinaw Mush

Last weekend Brigid and I had the opportunity to handle (help out) for Rex and Krista Jones at the Mackinaw Mush, a sprint race in Mackinaw City, MI.

Rex and Krista just moved back to Michigan from Alaska, where they lived for a number of years. Rex has established a real high quality sled dog kennel, focusing on European sprint and skijor lines.

His dogs are awesome, he brought mostly "scandinavian" hounds with him many of which where out of Egil Ellis's famous dog "Mike". He let me run my dogs with a couple of these guys after the race events wrapped up on Saturday - great experience.

However, for me the highlight was getting to mess around with his "Vorstehs", which are essentially German Short haired Pointers (GSP) out of European sled dog lines. These dogs are bigger than the more typical sprint dogs used in N. America. These big dogs are solid muscle, much different than my lean and lanky huskies. Getting to work with these guys over the weekend, has been a real eye opening experience.

I'm really thinking that I'd want to try out a couple of these GSP's. These are the type of dogs most people who are competing successfully in 1-2 dog events are using (i.e. skijor and bikejor).

You can't really tell from the video, but I'm doing all I can to hold these two guys back with out falling over. One of these dogs easily has the strength of two of my guys...