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Dogsledding is Better than Snowmobiles

This year has been a wonderful collection of experiences involving snowmobiles to reinforce our conviction to run sled dogs.
The first snowmobile adventure was way back in early January when we needed to break trail for a busy week. Until recently we had always broken trail with big teams of dogs, then a few years ago Peter bought a snowmobile, and Doug, our resident snowmobile jockey, would use that to break trail. So with Doug’s passing this summer one of the many jobs that needed to be filled now was riding the snowmobile. Well it turns out when you have a bunch of employees that love cruising around the woods in the peace and quiet a dogsled offers it is hard to find volunteers to sit on a noisy snow machine. So I was volunteered to take it out to break trail, not realizing that the spare belt no longer existed. Things we going fairly well, I had broken open about 25 miles of trail, and was getting the hang of running the noisy thing, when all of the sudden shards of black rubber came flying out of the cowling around the engine, and forward momentum ceased rather suddenly. I popped the hood and realized instantly that the belt was toast, and there was no replacement for it. So I began my twelve mile hike to the highway, the whole time going over in my head all the reasons dogsledding is better than snowmobiling, i.e. dogs might get tired and hungry but they don’t really break down and leave you stranded. When I finally made it to the road, at 9pm, a very late hour for there to be any traffic in our neck of the woods here, I was picked up by a very kind elderly lady who immediately began chastising me for snowmobiling alone. The criticisms ended when we got to the bar in town, from where I could call a friend to pick me up. A few days later, with a new belt in hand we ran in with dogs to rescue the machine. It wasn’t running great on the way out, so we decided to take it to town and get it looked at.
The next adventure began early one blizzardy morning when Christine was snowed into her driveway and was forced to hitchhike to town to pick the snowmobile up from the shop. Amazingly she was passed by two cars (did I mention it was a blizzard) before someone stopped, so much for Minnesota nice, eh. She finally got to town, and drove the snow machine out to the kennel where she used it to shuttle guests in from the road, the weather was so bad they couldn’t drive in, which is literally unheard of. After everyone was here and the guides were giving their morning “how to drive a dog sled” talks, Peter took the snow mobile out to break trail, he made it about a mile and the engine died, and wouldn’t start. Lucky for him, his walk home was short. A few days later we again took a team of dogs out to rescue the snowmachine, this time we pulled it home with the dogs, and sent it right back to the shop in town.
The final adventure for the snowmobile this winter (and the third time it was used), occurred when we went in to take the yurt out. Taking the yurt out is always a race. We have to wait long enough that the snow and ice built up along the walls has melted, but not too long that the ice on the lake is bad (or we just have to resign ourselves to the fact that it will be coming out in a boat). This year the ice was going out quickly because the way the winter was the ice built in a strange layered way that was not as strong as normal. So we ran in with a dogsled and a snowmobile to pack out the yurt, the ice was covered in water from rain and melt, and we knew we were cutting it close, however the first two loads went great, and the end was in sight, so far it had been one of the smoothest yurt take downs yet. Then the dog team left and the snowmobile was to follow as soon as we finished loading the sled. Who knows if the last load was heavier than the others, or the ice was just weakened every time we ran over it, something happened so the last run never made it out, the snowmachine hit a soft spot and the track dug right through the ice and began to sink. Luckily it didn’t sink very deep, the track went in, but the front of the machine stayed out, keeping the engine dry, and preventing any gas or oil from leaking into the lake. The sled carrying the yurt however was not so lucky, and it sank into four feet of water. Once again we had a long walk out to contemplate the superiority of dog sledding, which was emphasized when Peter returned with the team he was running to see what was keeping us. So we again returned with dogs, and we tied a team of 10 to the snowmobile and they pulled the machine right out onto good ice, when they got it out it seemed to me they all looked back it at with what can only be described as contempt on their faces. Then we finished hauling the yurt out with the dogs.
So the moral of the story is if you want to have a great dog sledding adventure come with us, our dogs are strong, and they will be as long as we own a snowmobile. If you want to have a snowmobiling adventure, unless you really want it to be an adventure, don’t invite any of us to go with you.

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