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It's not every day you get to cross two items off your bucket list, but on March 5, 2012, I experienced a duo of invigorating winter adventures for the first time: snowmobiling and dog sledding. At Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel in Jefferson, New Hampshire, rescued Alaskan Huskies, Siberians and Malamutes are trained to pull and guaranteed a job and a home for life. Tours give travelers the chance to experience the thrill of dog sledding... as well as to support the care of more than 100 abandoned and neglected dogs.
I was so startled when 130 dogs started barking all at once, I asked our musher if they'd perhaps heard a bear in the woods. "No," I was told. It was the sight of the dog sled that set them off: They all wanted to pull! This video captures the sounds and scenes of my New Hampshire dog sledding adventure.
More About Dog Sled Tours in New Hampshire
Muddy Paws Sled Dog Kennel and its non-profit NH Sled Dog Rescue, History & Education Center are based in Jefferson in New Hampshire's White Mountains. Winter dog sled tours are offered mid-December through mid-March, conditions permitting, and can be customized to suit couples, families and other groups. There have even been dog sledding marriage proposals! Standard day and evening tours for all ages range from a scenic 2-hour experience that includes a ride and an educational component to a half-day Drive Your Own Team experience to a full-day adventure.
And even after the snow melts, dog lovers can book a rolling dog sled experience. The energetic canines at Muddy Paws pull rolling carts from May 1 through November 30. They need to stay in shape, after all!
All tours are as hands-on as guests would like and include plenty of time to pet and interact with the dogs. If you find yourself smitten with a Siberian, you may just be able to adopt. Muddy Paw does offer adoptions of retired sled dogs, as placing them with forever families allows the kennel to rescue even more dogs.
Pups that have been badly neglected ease into the dog sled training program. Most take to it instantly. "They're born to pull; they love it. They catch on quickly," our musher, Justin, said. The kennel, which started with 15 dogs about 10 years ago, had 130 at the time of my visit. In January 2013, Gonzo--a blind sled dog who pulls with some assistance from his brother and wingman Poncho--gained national attention for Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel thanks to this moving Associated Press story.
My ride behind Dot, Vegas, Graham, Glory, River, Mona, Little Jill and Lady was an exhilarating introduction to the sport. Yes, it was chilly, even nestled under the provided blankets. And without a fresh accumulation of snow, it was a bumpier ride than it might have been earlier in the season. But I loved the dogs' enthusiasm, the speed, the scenery flying by, the lack of a sense of time. On my next visit, I definitely want to learn how to mush.
If you're going...
Be honest when asked your weight! The sleds do have weight limits, and the safety of dogs, passengers and mushers is paramount.
Recommended gear for winter dog sled trips includes: insulated boots, warm socks, waterproof gloves, goggles (I wore sunglasses), a scarf or face mask, a warm hat, nylon pants and jacket to keep the wind out, several layers for warmth (fleece and synthetics are best), helmets for children and a camera.
Directions to Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel: Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel is located at 32 Valley Road, Jefferson, New Hampshire. From Interstate 93 North, take exit 35 and follow the Daniel Webster Highway (US-3) North. In about 12 miles, turn right onto NH Route 115 North (Cherry Mountain Road). Continue just over 8 miles to a right on Valley Road. Muddy Paw Sled Dog Kennel will be on your right.
For reservations: Submit a request online at the Muddy Paws Sled Dog Kennel Web site or call 603-545-4533.
Video images and footage © 2012 Kim Knox Beckius.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary services for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest. Ethics Policy
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