Today I was primarily interested in giving the dogs a longer and tougher physical workout but with a bit less gee/haw work to give them a mental break.
One team of 6 dogs. 8.5 miles. Home to Two Rivers Rd trail, north to the Wood Cutting Road, continuing north to the intersection with the Little Chena Rd. Extension trail. West and Southwest down the ridge to the Swamp Trail. East and Southeast back to the Two Rivers Rd. trail, and return home. Here's a map topographical map showing the route and elevation changes:
Max speed 13.3 mph, average speed 7.2 mph. Elevation gain of 630 feet between my house and highest point on the trail. Trail conditions were mixed, with a skiff of powder on packed trails except for the Wood Cutting Trail, which was very icy and fast - very difficult to keep the sled from sliding off to the sides.
Just & Rose (lead)
Orion & Cassiopeia (swing / team)
Seamus and Beau (wheel)
Hook up behavior gets and better and better with each repetition, which is good as I was a little over-dressed for the work. Out the yard without mishap but had to drag the break as well as use the drag mat to keep their speed down one our feeder trail, and was hard on the drag mat over most of the power-line right of way. Once on the main "Two Rivers Rd." trail I let them set their own pace, and they chose slightly more than 13 mph, which is a good yet safe pace for this team.
Just did a nice job following his gee/haw cues today, and Rose was content to go along with him, though didn't show any initiative to following the cues herself. I noticed a couple of home-made signs at the intersection of the north/south trail and the swamp trail, stating the trail crosses private land and to respect private property. Actually, the trail is a granted right-of-way by the borough that was in place before the borough sold those lots, so there is no trespass issue.
More than half-way between the trial head turn off and the wood cutting road Cassie floundered into soft snow in a deep rut, which the sled followed. Basically the leaders pulled her out of the soft stuff by her neckline, and the whole team worked hard to free the sled. The trail hasn't been seeing as much use as I'm accustomed to seeing on that stretch.
No significant problem getting up the steep embankment to the wood cutting road. There seems to be quite a bit of logging debris next to the trail in that area, and someone has erected a brush barrier on the shorter, steeper "straight ahead" trail up the embankment. I didn't stop to determine why.
The wood cutting road has been plowed, and is very icy and fast. My sled was side-slipping a lot, in spite of my best efforts. In part the issue is that it is an old beater of the training sled that is very stiff and hard to drive, but mostly it's just that the road is so DAMNED hardpacked and icy from logging trucks.
We had a head-on pass with one of those trucks. Just often freaks out when he encounters machines on the trail, but today he simply followed my "gee by" cue to pass the truck on our right, and never hesitated. No signs of stress that I could see at all. GOOD BOY, Just.
It's a hard left turn onto the Little Chena Rd. extension trail, but the team took it without difficulty. I considered stopping to give them a blow before climbing up the steep hill there, but they were acting fresh and happy so I just let them trot on without stopping. It was a bit slow, but we made it up without any major difficulty. The team picked a fast trot / slow lope for the downhill run, which they maintained very steadily all the way into the swamp.
Shortly after entering the swamp Orion tried to bury his head in the soft, deep snowbank beside the trail. He ended up falling onto his side and was dragged two or three feet before I could stomp the brake. He jumped right up and slammed against his tugline, ready to run so we did little more than 'hesitate' there before moving on. I noticed he was no longer interested in trying to drag his head through the snow afterward.
I was impressed that the team gave me a nice sprint down the powerline trail to return to the yard in right smart fashion.