About Team Walkabout

Team Walkabout 2013Team Walkabout is a recreational dog sledding team based in the Colorado Front Range. We run for the enjoyment of working as a team, the sense of adventure and exploring new trail systems but most importantly of all, for the dog's own enjoyment. To allow them to ...
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Lessons from Alaska

The northern lights.

Another first for this musher, the Northern Lights.

I’m sat at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska, waiting for a red eye back to Colorado. This trip to 49th state has been everything and more that I expected and needed. A chance to talk and listen to friends, meet new people and to be involved, as a handler, with “The Last Great Race”, the Iditarod. It was an incredible experience to witness and listen to these professional mushers work and interact with their dog teams. I’m very thankful for such amazing friends who were able to put that together for me.

Running dog teams in alaska

Running a dog team across a frozen swamp.

Despite the unseasonably warm weather and low snow pack, I was able to get out for a few runs and oh boy, was that an eye opener! Not only was running more seasoned and trained teams an insight to how dogs work, but the mushing style and trail conditions were completely foreign to me, for starters, we weren’t constantly going either up or down a mountain!

Alaska is a place of contrasts and compliments. The contrast of stark beauty and treacherous conditions and colorful, hardened souls that compliment the landscape. The Iditarod this year is a testament to the toughness of it’s mushers. In the few, short years I’ve followed the race, I’ve haven’t seen so many busted up sleds and people. My thoughts are with those who’ve had their dreams and hard work end (for now) in some bad trail conditions, the outcome of the decision to keep the route through barren, snow-free portions of trail will be something I watch closely.

I feel I leave Alaska a little wiser and humbler than when I arrived, seeing so many experts handle their teams with professionalism makes you realize how little you know and that there’s not a chance I would run a race like the Iditarod. However, I’ve also seen unfortunate conditions of neglect caused through circumstance that makes me realize how much I love and miss my dogs. It was an eye opener to the inevitable fate we will all face.

Till next time Alaska, I’m sure it won’t be long.

Cool Weather, Happy Dogs and Seasonal Beer

Originally this post began it’s existence as a welcoming of the cooler weather and the seasonal shift into the Fall. Work, family, dogs and life in general delayed the creative process, and so this commentary on the coming North Wind became more a celebration and reflection of what was.

A number things start to happen in the Rockies around September of each year – aside from the annual pilgrimage of people traveling to the high country to witness the changing of the Aspen’s. The winter gear is pulled from storage and the truck is packed with the typical cargo of tire chains, water containers, spare cold weather clothing,  harnesses and gang-lines. Deer meat, to help the dogs through the coming months, that is generously donated by friends, is processed, bagged and stashed into the freezers. And finally, the dog houses are filled with warm straw and the electric freeze proof water bucket are plugged in.

We can proudly say the one thing we don’t have to prepare this Fall is our firewood, early season cutting and stacking has the house ready for the coming months. My own indicator the seasons have truly changed is marked by the lighting of the first fire, which this year came in mid September.

Solitary Runs on the Pass

Rainy and Dusty

A very muddy Fall run with Dusty Doobie and Rain Rain

The most obvious change around the property is the uncontained excitement and energy of the dogs and this year our training started in earnest on September 1st. With more consistently paced, slightly slower but longer runs than in years before, the dogs quickly found their groove and settled into their stride for the longer runs. Although the sled runners didn’t hit the ground until mid-November, snow at higher elevations made the longer runs on the ATV easier on the dogs feet.

Dogs on Rollins Pass

Early season run on Rollins Pass

Rollin Pass, while being conveniently close to the kennel and an easy grade for the dogs run up, has had a double dose of fortune this year. Road graders went up in the summer, wiping out the “Rock Garden”; dodging neck breaking, head-ache inducing  ”boulders”  on the ATV was a dreaded inevitability in the past, so THANK YOU Gilpen County. Also for the first time in my experiences with the pass, the snow has been runnable on sled earlier in the season. The fortunate combination of heavy snow showers, cold weather and forgiving winds have kept the snow base.

Dog McMansion

The dogs new house

Work in progress on the new dog house

Work continues converting the old Lama stable into an oversized, luxury dog house. After digging out half a foot of 7 year old Lama poop that had began to represent a concrete foundation, the wall along one side of the structure was removed, opening up the view to forest and meadow below. The floor has been leveled, tiled and sides water sealed (dog pee proof!), and with the help of friend, on a cold wintery day, the old workbench was converted into the framework for the new dog houses. When the ground thaws in the spring, the heavy lifting work of filling, leveling, tiling and finally fencing the barn’s surrounding day run area begins.

I post this reflection about a season, a hope, a shifting of gears at the start of a new season, one where miles start to pass by under the runners of a sled. We here at Team Walkabout wish everyone the best of travels and happiness for the season. May the trails be smooth, the wind at your backs and your fridge stocked with the warmest wintery ales.

Summers End – Start of a New Season

Rainy and Aloo-ki out on a very wet, summer hike.

Rainy and Aloo-ki out on a very wet, summer hike.

The Summer and it’s heat are holding their grip on the mountains, day temperatures are still in mid 70′s and the dogs are in desperate need of respite. However, the hints of Fall are creeping in, in corners of the forest the early signs of grass going to seed, the lower leafs on bushes turning hints of red, and here and there, the occasional yellow leaf on an Aspen.

Gilpen County Fair

Representing CMM at the Gilpen County Fair.

The summer of 2013 has been a quite one for the dogs and in general for the whole house. That’s not to say we haven’t gotten out for a few forest hikes or a run around the neighborhood on foot to break the tedium of the warmer weather. We made a dog sledding out reach appearance with a fellow musher and her team at this years Gilpen County fair, on behalf of the Colorado Mountain Mushers. It’s greatly encouraging to meet and talk with people who have a genuine interest in the sport and life style and to hear their own dog adventure stories.

The Great Northland – Mushing Ground Zero

Cold Canyon

Lining out for a training run with Cold Canyon Sled Dogs in Willow, AK

The start of the coming training season for the dogs was highlighted with a quick trip to Willow, Alaska, a town with the unofficial designation of mushing capital of the world. Speaking with so many people who live and breathe dog mushing, has fired up my drive to get training started and get out on the trails with the team. Not to mention the invaluable ideas I got for our own setup by seeing more seasoned musher’s dog yards, between now and the first snow, I have big ideas to act on.

Dusty at lake

Team Walkabouts newest team member – Dusty

Team Walkabout would also like to welcome our latest team member, Dusty, who comes to us from Cold Canyon Sled Dogs in Willow, AK. Already, within two days of being at her new home, she has stunned us with the way she has settled into the team. When the warm weather finally abates and the teams paws hit the trail, I believe we are going to realize a sledding season full of adventure.

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