SKIJORING

words JILL CARTER, president Maine Highlands Sled Dog Club

Skijoring with Hunter.
With Piper on Moosehead Lake
Skijoring with Piper.
With Scout in Lily Bay State Park.

I live in an area of Maine often referred to as the Highlands. This is central Maine, and if you’ve ever visited the coast of Maine, the Highlands are completely different. This huge expanse of geography is heavily forested and sparsely populated, which is what both attracts and discourages people from living here full time. I live near Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in the country contained in one state, and Katahdin, our highest mountain, and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

Winters are long. We are likely to have some snow cover for six months. The old-timers claim we used to get more snow years ago, and it is true that snowfall has become somewhat unpredictable. Some winters we get many feet of snow that lasts; other years it’s a mix of snow, sleet and rain. Climate change, the experts say. No matter what the precipitation, if you don’t embrace winter, you’ll probably become a snowbird, and fly south for this part. But it’s an ideal place for dog mushing.

I’ve always loved dogs, and I’ve had many over the years. I got a Siberian husky about 10 years ago, then another and another, but stopped at five. I’m a recreational musher, meaning I don’t run dogsled teams for money. My team is obviously small, and we generally do not go much farther than a few miles.

In my mid 50s (I’m 64 now), I discovered skijoring. This is cross-country skiing while tethered to a dog who is running about six to eight feet out front. It was a steep learning curve in the beginning, and I’m still no expert. It’s the perfect complement to winter—skiing with your favorite dog on a forest trail, and not a soul around. Initially, my dog is so excited to be out running that it’s all I can do just to hold on, but soon the dog settles into a nice pace, and we take our strides in unison. The great thing about skijoring is that you don’t need a large kennel of dogs or expensive equipment. You can ski backcountry and break your own trail, or you can run on groomed trails, which is the much easier way to go.

Winter in the woods is so different from the other seasons. The only sounds are the swishing of my skis, and footfalls and breathing from my dog companion. When we stop, it’s silent, and I feel like we’re the only living beings out there, but then I see many animal tracks in the snow reminding me that we’re far from alone.

mainesleddogclub.com

FAVORITE ...
Maine view? Katahdin. 
Drink? Seltzer water.
Maine restaurant? Street and Co in Portland.
Place you've traveled to as an adult? Alaska.
Shoes? Crocs.
Way to relax? Fishing.

Previous StoryNext Story