Skimming across the white landscape behind a team of enthusiastic sled dogs is an unforgettable White Mountain experience.
Sled dogs have been part of New Hampshire’s winter tradition for generations – Arthur Walden, who was lead driver and dog trainer for Admiral Byrd’s 1929 Antarctic Expedition, raised Chinooks in Tamworth, and is credited with bringing dogsled racing to New Hampshire. He founded the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924, and the World Championship Sled Dog Derby took place in Laconia last weekend.
More than watching the dog sled races
But there is more to this sport than just watching the races. In Jefferson, the people -- and dogs, who are considered part of the staff -- at Muddy Paw introduce adults and children to the sport. Here guests can do more than just go for a ride through the beautiful mountain scenery – although that’s fun in itself. They can interact with the dogs, harness them to the sled, even take a turn mushing the team with the help of a staff member.
And for those who want to do more, Muddy Paw offers half-day dog sledding clinics, drive-your-own trips and even overnight adventures. A dogsled ride at Muddy Paw begins with an introduction to the dogs. Each has its own personality and -- just like people -- must be treated individually. The relationship between driver and dogs is very personal.
Meet and greet the dog team
Before the ride, guests meet the dogs and help attach them to the harness that allows them to pull the sled. Part of the fun is watching how excited the dogs get ain anticipation – each seems to be barking “choose me, choose me!” as they jump and vie for attention. Once in harness, they are clearly anxious to be off and running through the snow.
After the dogs are harnessed, riders are tucked under warm blankets on the bent-wood sled, and the dogs can at last run. This is a good family experience, and the highlight for an 11-year-old – along with harnessing the dogs herself -- was getting a chance to share the driving from the back of the sled.
Planning your own dog sledding experience
Several options of varying length are offered, from 1.5 hours ($265 for up to two persons whose combined weight is under 325 pounds) to longer trips, dog sledding clinics, drive-your-own trips (Monday-Wednesday, $170 per person, minimum of four) and overnight trips.
To reach Muddy Paw from the Manchester area, take I-93 north and at the top of Franconia Notch, take Route 3 to Twin Mountain. Follow Route 115 to Jefferson, following Valley Road for about 1.5 miles. Full directions are on their website