My Own Mushing History and Activities
I wasn't born in Alaska, but I
got here as quickly as I could, arriving in October of 1992. I have been casually interested
in the sport of dog mushing throughout the 16-plus years that I've lived in
Alaska but active participation was limited to training my own pet dog
to pull a toboggan during historical reenactments and winter camping trips.
Following the death of my beloved wife,
Shiloh, I had free time on my hands and needed an activity that would
keep me mentally and physically active during winter. Dog mushing
seemed the ideal solution. I have many good friends in
Two Rivers who encouraged me to pursue the sport, and have served as
teachers and mentors.
From the very beginning I have
wanted to combine mushing with historical reenactment. My mushing
goal is to be able to accurately recreate eighteenth and 19th century mushing
techniques while exploring the back country, hunting, camping and
sight-seeing. Focusing on a limited number of large, historically
authentic freight dogs allows me to do all of these things within the
financial constraints that are a fact of my life and lifestyle. I
feel I am making good progress toward that goal, but don't expect to
achieve it for another 3 to five years.
The first step in the project was to
learn the mechanics of driving a team and dog sled. During the 2005/06 season I handled
for local sprint mushers Edie Forrest and her nephew Randy Dunbar. Edie
races the 6 dog class and Randy is currently running the 8 dog class
with an eye toward advancing into the unlimited. I
also ran dogs with my good friend Mike Green. Last year (2006/07)
I trained with Lynn Orbison as well as working with my own
team. Lynn specializes in fostering, rehabilitating and re-homing
rescued sled dogs, and many of the dogs I handle for her are DWIs (dogs
Being a handler and training assistant offers some great advantages to a
new musher. It allows one to learn the craft under the supervision of a
mentor before investing considerable time and money in dogs, sleds and
equipment. It also allows one to decide what style of mushing is most
appealing, establish personal mushing goals and create a plan to achieve
Over the summer of 2006 I was able to
acquire two good sleds and all the necessary lines and harness needed to
run a small team. In a tremendous stroke of good luck I was also able to
adopt two excellent experienced sled dogs from the Fairbanks North Star
Borough animal shelter to compliment my two pet dogs. In the
spring of 2007 I was given a pair of
Hedlund husky pups that are
proving to be excellent sled dogs. Recent additions to the team
include a truly brilliant leader retired from long distance racing teams,
another big trap-line leader, a hard working team dog who can run lead
and Amazing Grace, a young female with tons of
talent I am training for a friend.
As a result
I currently have a strong team of 12 hard playing dogs. When
compared to the huge kennels of other mushers my kennel is very small,
yet we are able to follow any trail a larger team can negotiate.
Sometimes we just do it a lot more slowly.
frequently post information about our current training progress on my
Old School Alaskan blog.