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Dogsledding In New England: A day of adventure at Lake Elmore, Vermont

Updated on January 12, 2018
Running the trails at Lake Elmore, Vermont
Running the trails at Lake Elmore, Vermont | Source

A few years ago I added another outdoor adventure to my already lengthy Bucket List. If dogsledding is currently not on your bucket list, I highly recommend you add it and treat yourself to an exhilarating day (or night) winding thru snowy trails as you listen to the nearly silent pace of the pack dogs.

Ken mushing his sled at Peacepups
Ken mushing his sled at Peacepups | Source

Where To Find Sled Dog Adventures?

There are many dog sled tours offered in the New England area, as well as, nearby New York State. Because Vermont is our next door neighbor, we decided to venture up to Lake Elmore and take a tour with Peacepups.

Situated in the southeastern part of Lamoille county, Elmore is primarily forested and agricultural land. Driving north on highway 89, you'll pass through Montpelier, Vermont. Stop at any of the many cafes for a cappuccino before finishing your trek to Elmore (just be sure to use the facilities before leaving. Once you've arrived at camp there are no bathrooms).

N44° 32.616' W72° 31.765'


Ken, generally has two sleds each with a pack of dogs. He immediately begins to introduce his dogs by name and temperament. Each one has a unique personality and voice. Ken recognizes his dogs as if they were his children. It is during this time that the dogs are their loudest, barking and howling. A few of the veteran dogs rest conserving their energy. (the younger dogs have not yet learned to nap during each run). A few of the dogs are mischievous, but not for long. Neither Ken or the other dogs will allow it. The dogs excitement is palpable.

Ken, from Peacepups, sharing the love.
Ken, from Peacepups, sharing the love. | Source

We're then instructed on the style of sled we'll be riding in which fits two comfortably. The musher, Ken, will stand on the back of the sled.

When we are nestled into our sled and wrapped with a warm blanket, Ken begins to connect the dogs to the gangline. During this time, the dogs eagerness is uncontainable. Several of the dogs jump vertically into the air to show their readiness.

The dogs jump with anticipation. They are ready to pull.
The dogs jump with anticipation. They are ready to pull. | Source

Once the dogs are harnessed, the musher gives the command and the dogs are quick to react. From the moment we hit the trail there is quiet. A few moments ago, the dog's barks were echoing through the wooden countryside, but now, doing what they clearly love doing, they are focused and silent.

Hearing a dog howl in the night can leave you feeling eery, but watching them howl this day was rather peaceful and watching them communicate with each other was fascinating.
Hearing a dog howl in the night can leave you feeling eery, but watching them howl this day was rather peaceful and watching them communicate with each other was fascinating. | Source

Taking a ride with Ken from Peacepups

Like most exciting events, the time passed much too quickly. With one last windy turn we were back at camp and again surrounded by barking, howling Siberians.

Before you leave, you can make a hot cup of tea and stand by the fire in the Peacepup tent. There will be one more run for the dogs and the next fortunate couple were just arriving.

We bid our farewells and handed out a few treats to the dogs that weren't already getting some well deserved rest.


Mushing Terms:

Although dog team drivers are often referred to as "mushers", and "mush" is thought by many to be the standard word to get dogs moving, the word is, in fact, not often used as it is too soft for a distinctive command.

The word likely came from the early French explorers and their word "marche" (go, run) used as a command to a team to start pulling.

The most common commands for a dog team are:
• Hike!: Get moving ("Mush" and "All Right" are sometimes also used).
• Kissing sound: Speed up, faster.
• Gee!: Turn to the right.
• Haw!: Turn to the left.
• Easy!: Slow down.
• Whoa: Stop.
• On By!: Pass another team or other distraction.

Did you know.........

Mushers usually have no trouble getting sled dogs moving - often its harder to get them to stop - but it takes months of training to get dogs working together as a team.

Once trained, sled dogs can remain in top form for years - it's not unusual to see 10-year-old dogs in races like the Iditarod or the Yukon Quest.

To keep dogs in shape and at peak performance levels through the off-season, some mushers harness their teams to wheeled carts or four-wheeled all-terrain vehicles, and let the dogs pull the chariots along snowless dirt roads.


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