Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Trail Ettiquite

I am a big proponant of multi-use trails. We all can gain a little something from each other (especially mushers from snowmobiles breaking trail!). With multi-use comes the necessary trail ettiquite, of which I'm an even bigger proponant. On Sunday, I took my team up Skalkaho to train. Hook up was a bit hectic and the dogs were extra excited, especially Tensaw who gets a bit bouncy. Tensaw was in lead (mistake number one) with Flier, Isis in swing and Paluk and Tank in wheel.

I popped the quick release and immediately POP went the tie on the back of Tank's harness, luckily he had a neckline so he didn't take off up the trail.  I dug in the snowhooks and went to jerry-rig a connection for the tug line to his harness.  When I got off the sled I noticed some cross-country skiiers up the trail a bit with a couple dogs.  Here was mistake number two, I should have waved them down the trail while I had the team hooked down but instead I was busy trying to calm Tensaw and fix Tank's harness.  It took quite a while as I then had trouble getting the snowhooks out because the team had dug them in deep while lunging in their harnesses. So they had PLENTY of time to gather their dogs, which I had assumed they'd done.

My team, even Tensaw, can run by a controlled dog.  They can even run by a uncontrolled dog that is staying out of their way.  But as soon as we took off one of the dogs came charging up to my team, growling, and then turned back to his humans and dove between their legs.  With Tensaw and Flier, new to the lead position, there was no hope and straight into the skiiers we dove. Fortunately, even though growls were heard, things were easily straightened out and we were on our way.  I was rather frustrated about the situation and it showed on my face. I should have been a bit less angry about it and for that I am sorry.

Proper ettiquite would be to gather your free running dogs whether a team is coming, a skijorer, a dogless skiier or a snowmobiler (especially for your dog's safety).  Where I went wrong, is a lack of communication.  Dog teams are not common in these areas and these people didn't know. I should have asked them if their dogs were gathered or waved them by.

Other trail manners include: mushers need to listen for snowmobilers, especially on the turns, because they can't hear you, and plan appropriately (i.e. hold the team back so you don't meet on the turn, gee or haw over the team, etc). If you come upon skiiers/snowshoers/etc from behind, call trail to inform them of the team approaching. Snowmobilers need to slow down and give space when passing skiiers and dogs teams.  Some snowmobilers pull off the trail and turn off their engines, while very kind, this is not necessary.  Most dog teams have and/or need to experience running by running snowmobiles.

We all recreate in different ways, which in the end benefits us all. So share the trails, properly!

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