Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The Journey to Eagle Mountain

sled dogsI’ve always been happy to live in the Adirondacks and enjoy the four seasons that come with it. This year I learned to really love the month of November. Weird, right?

November is tan, gray, and bleak. ‘Brace yourself’ she says. ‘Winter is coming and I’m just the beginning.’

For my family, we are content when the temperatures dip and the clouds suggest snow. November is the introduction for the cooler months to come. My husband and I raise Alaskan Malamutes; sturdy and stubborn sled dogs, with a natural desire to pull, complete with thick undercoats. As their name suggests, they hail from Alaska and thrive in the cold.

For the past 15 years we have slowly but surely honed in on the art of sledding, scootering, and bike-joring with our dogs; past and present. When the temperatures are just right, we take off for a run. 

We live on a quiet part of Route 9, which is still not an ideal road to run with sled dogs and bikes. However, just across from our driveway is Trout Pond Road; a windy, curvy, rarely traveled road that meanders along the North Branch of the Boquet River. Also on this road is The Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Most times that we ride with our dogs, the goal is to get to the trailhead, have a rest and turn around. This gives us about 8 miles round trip and everyone sleeps well at night!

One November afternoon the temperatures were hovering around 35 [degrees] and the sun was bright. We decided it was a perfect chance to hit the road. We harnessed up the dogs and set out. There were a few random snow flurries catching us, mostly in short blasts between bright sunshine.

bald eagle on Trout Pond Rd.
About 2 miles from home, we accidentally “snuck up” on some rather large birds, suddenly flying up and overhead. Within seconds we saw their white heads and realized we had startled a pair of bald eagles. I fumbled for my cell phone trying to catch a few respectable photos as the pair flew up to the peak of an old pine tree.  We were so surprised! It was humbling. My husband and I, and the dogs, stood in the middle of the road fascinated at the pair of eagles, staring down at us. (Probably wishing we’d leave them to their carnivorous find!)

After a few minutes, we left them to their tree, and meal, and continued up the road where we did our normal turn around at the trailhead of Eagle Mountain preserve. 

Several times I thought of the irony in the name of our destination and to stumble upon a pair of eagles. We’ve ridden hundreds of miles up and down this road, but that experience was a first for all of us.

Fast forward a few more chilly months and we have loaded up our antique dogsled on the roof of our Subaru Outback, driving the 3.7 miles to the Eagle Mountain trailhead – for a different kind of adventure. 

In 2008 my husband and I had our first experience dogsledding. Ironically it was on the frozen surface of Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, long before we knew we would be living in the area. We were sold on sledding after our first lap, and decided to work with our malamutes in this way.

Our first three dogs gave us many years of incredible sledding experiences. We spent countless hours on trails near what was Marcy Dam, at the ADK Interpretive Center in Newcomb, Pack Forest in Warrensburg, and along the Hudson River in Lake Luzerne. dogsledding

Our current dogs, Yue (pronounced You-Eh) (1) and Apollo (3) are relatively unseasoned when it comes to pulling a sled through snow. Most of our time with them has been spent on wheels. However, pulling a sled is the most natural thing to a malamute. These dogs are the cargo movers in the canine world.

The trails to Eagle Mountain have been a fantastic training ground for us. Several days ago we were lucky to have some warmer temperatures, good for softer snow. Soft snow is easier to move a sled through with two mildly distracted dogs. But warm temperatures can cause exhaustion in beasts with fur coats. So we take everything in moderation. Patience and focus are not optional. Training and diligence are required. Constant (cheerful but firm) reminders to stay “out front” and not go sniffing the tracks of a rogue squirrel. You get it.

My husband and I rarely ride sled runners. Until Yue and Apollo are better versed in the snow, in front of a sled, and less distracted, it takes two of us to work with them. And it’s always useful to have another set of  hands nearby to help untangle lines.

Before these two dogs we had spent so much time each winter riding quiet trails with our past malamutes. When our oldest daughter was an infant, we would bring her along for the ride, fastening her carseat into the bed of the dogsled for a peaceful trek through the woods.

dogsledding

These adventures are invaluable to us ALL. Wheels or snow. Sometimes our daughters will ride their bikes with us down Trout Pond Road as well. At times when it’s just my husband and I, it’s almost like date night. We can talk, or just listen to the dogs breathing and the soft clanging of their lines.

Like so many things in life, the joy is in the journey.

Photos: 
Bike-joring and scooter with Apollo and Yue on Trout Pond Rd. – Lewis NY
Bald Eagle in a pine tree, Lewis NY
Untangling lines at Eagle Mountain Wilderness Preserve
My daughters sledding on a frozen lake

All photos provided by the author.

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Sarah lives in the northern ADK's with her husband, 2 daughters, sled dogs and 15+ chickens. She is an aspiring children's book author, and professional Tarot advisor. She wears many hats working with The Adirondack Explorer, and she loves them all.




3 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    “This year I learned to really love the month of November. Weird, right?”

    Not at all! This is when the woods really come alive as many animals are on the lookout for their mates, or sammering to find food for the winter. It’s the most exciting time to be in the woods IMHO!

  2. Nancy Keet says:

    Delightful read

  3. AG says:

    Wonderful sharing! Sounds very charming

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