FAQs

WINTER DOGSLEDDING TRIPS

Why do you do this?

Polly: I love being outdoors, and I love being with my dogs. I enjoy meeting new people and introducing them to the wilderness. I like seeing people have a good time on our trips and for them to experience new things and to feel a comfort in a sometimes foreign environment. I like to be outdoors in all kinds of weather all times of the year. My dogs are like my children, and I feel proud of them and what they do and like to share them with others.

Kevin: Winter is my favorite season. I really enjoy being out on the trail in the “bush” with my sled dogs. In this fast paced, high tech age, I feel it’s increasingly important to provide people with the opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. Faith in equipment and technology has replaced skills and confidence in oneself in the outdoors.  We provide opportunities for people to learn new skills and demonstrate that traditional travel and camping techniques are still valid even in this computer age.

“As I grow older, it has become important to me that what I do each day contributes in a positive manner to the people I encounter and the world around me. In case you ever think about this or wonder if all the work you put into these trips is worth it, the answer is a resounding yes! Your trips ground people who may often find themselves caught up in the material world. Your trips are relaxing because they bring people closer to the earth. And your trips are therapeutic, simply because it feels good to be in the company of animals who give so much and are happy to receive affection in return. It is easy for me to see why you, Polly and Kevin, have built your life around guiding and these magnificent dogs.” Lynn MacFarlane – New Hampshire

 Where are you located? How do I get there?

We are in the Western mountains of Maine. Driving times are 2 hours from Portland, Maine, 4 hours from Boston, MA. The nearest airport is Portland, Maine. Shuttle and car rental services are available from Portland. A map is included in your sign-up packet. Return flights should be made for 6:30 p.m. or later on the last day of your trip. We are happy to help co-ordinate car pooling from Portland, ME, for people coming on the same trip.

What equipment do I need to bring?

We provide all the specialized winter clothing and equipment you need: insulated winter parkas, boots or mukluks, skis, snowshoes, winter double sleeping bags and sleeping pads. You only need to bring warm winter clothing (wool or synthetic), and a clothing list is included in your sign-up packet. There are no other equipment rental fees. If you are coming from a southern climate, we can loan you some of the items (mittens, gloves, etc.) on the clothing list so you won’t need to purchase them just for the trip.

How experienced and physically fit do I need to be?

Most people that join us for a weekend trip have never mushed or camped in the winter. On longer (4 days or more) and Canadian trips, previous experience in winter conditions is helpful. People of average physical fitness can enjoy our trips. Since we are usually avoiding snowmobile trails, conditions can vary greatly. The deeper and softer the snow the more active the mushing will be, steering and keeping the sled on the old trail. For our weekend trips that are a combination of dog sledding and cross country skiing, you will need to ski one way to camp, which is about five miles, carrying your own clothes and sleeping bag either on your back or on a small toboggan behind you. The terrain is fairly flat, and the pace is not fast but steady.

“One is never too old to go mushing with Polly and Kevin who are so kind to their dogs and their clients. I was 65 when I first discovered the thrill of standing on the runners of a sled being pulled along a snow covered lake. Each year the experience gets better and better and at 70 (on my 5th visit) the best trip yet has been running my own team through the woods, over the lakes and in the muskeg in northern Quebec with the Cree.” Evelyn McNichol – Scotland – UK

 What are Maine winters like?

We normally have adequate snow cover for mushing from December through late March. Average snowfall for our area is 120″ (that’s 10 feet!), and because we are in the mountains we are usually north of the rain/snow line if it’s a mixed precipitation storm. In December and January normal highs run around 20 degrees Fahrenheit and lows around 0 degrees Fahrenheit. End of February and March temperatures are somewhat milder. Cold snaps of -20 to -30 Fahrenheit can occur in any of these months.

What breed of dogs do you have?

Our dogs are Yukon Huskies, named for the geographic area they originated in. You won’t find Yukon Huskies in the AKC breed listing! They are the aboriginal breed of sled dog of Gwi’chin Native people of the Alaska/Yukon border area. They are large freighting dogs bred to pull heavy loads in soft snow conditions. They tend to be larger, longer legged, and less high-strung than racing-type sled dogs. Their lineage in recent times can be traced back to the last Royal Canadian Mounted Police dog team used in the late 1970s. They are all well socialized and non-aggressive. Sizes range from 60 to 95 lbs. We use males and females, and they both make good leaders. We raise all of our dogs from puppies with our careful breeding program that has been developed over 20 years. The puppies learn from their parents and relatives and naturally want to go with them.

“What a wonderful weekend!! We talked all the way home about the trip. And even if our bodies returned to our jobs, our minds are off skiing down the lake, patting the dogs, and sitting on boughs in the cook tent. Seeing your dogs, the affection you have for each other, and the way you work together brought back vivid memories of a Malamute/Husky mixed breed dog that I owned many years ago. Those dogs are real special creatures. They express their love in so many ways that it’s wonderful to just watch the interactions. And I have this wonderfully vivid mental picture of the sleds coming down the lake, with the mushers kicking, and all the dogs just happy to be working. In my mind, they’re all smiling those doggy smiles.” Bill Clark – Massachusetts

 Is it cruel or hard on the dogs pulling sleds?

The dogs “want” to pull. They have been bred for thousands of years to pull. In addition, the care of the dogs is paramount. They are part of the family, as well as our employees. They receive full health (vet) care, summer vacations and retirement benefits. We make a life-long commitment to take care of our dogs from puppyhood to the last trip down the trail. Currently, we have seven retirees living with us in the house.

Will I get to work with the dogs much?

You can have as much contact with them as you want. Our trips are a very hands-on experience. After thorough instruction, you will help hitching up the 4-5 dog team you are working with. Our freight sleds are custom built by Kevin and very stable. In camp you can help with the feeding and care of the dogs or just hang out and visit them. One of the favorite jobs for people (and dogs!) is bedding them down. That’s right – each dog gets a fir-bough or hay bed. We’ve found this greatly delays the inevitable onset of arthritis, and the dogs love getting their beds!

” You have such a gift for making everyone comfortable. I will always remember your gentle, quiet way of asking me to please get my foot out of the harness that was lying on the ground.” Joan Brazier – Maine

 Who comes on your trips?

A variety of people from 5 to 81, single, couples, families. One thing they all have in common is a love of the outdoors and of dogs. Our enrollment is a pretty even mix of men and women. Average group size on weekend trips is 8 participants and 2 guides. Depending on the trip, group size can be from 4 to 10. Trips coded 1 person per dog team are smaller group size. Many of our participants keep in touch after their trip, so be prepared to make some new friends

How many staff are there and how experienced are they?

The owners, Polly and/or Kevin, personally guide each trip. All guides are Registered Maine Guides, and all have wilderness emergency medicine training. Depending on the trip, there are always a minimum of two guides and as many as four. All are very experienced and willing to share their knowledge on winter ecology, tracking, campcraft, the history of the area, and stories of their travels in the north.

“I can not think of any time in my life when I was working or learning that there was as much fun, laughter, or just plain hilarity. And your trip was great, fantastic, stupendous, extraordinary, nothing more, nothing less.” Anna Sysko – Maine – age 13

 What type of food do you serve?

Homemade, wholesome food. We don’t serve any freeze dried or dehydrated food. Most of our food comes from the grocery store or natural foods wholesaler. A sample dinner might include stir fry chicken with vegetables and rice pilaf and homemade cookies with warmed canned fruit; for breakfast: homemade blueberry pancakes with real Maine maple syrup and bacon. We often have vegetarians on trips and can easily accommodate them; just let us know.

What are the accommodations like at the winter camp?

You will be staying in the traditional northwoods camp – white canvas wall tents with soft Balsam fir bough floors. Each tent is heated with a sheet metal woodstove. There are three tents in our base camps for our weekend trips. There is one larger one for everyone to gather in for cooking and eating, and some sleep in it. There are two others for sleeping. Having a woodstove in the wall tents affords the luxury of drying clothes and a readily available source of hot water for washing up. Most camps are located along the shore of a lake or river. Bathroom facilities consist of an outdoor privy with a nice view of the northwoods. They are a comfortable distance from camp to provide privacy from the group.

“A week later I find I am still filled with images and memories of our trip – one stands out in particular… I stepped out of the big tent one night and walked towards the lake – as I turned back I saw the soft yellow glow of the tent against the dark night – I could hear the babbling brook of women’s voices coming from the tent against the deep silence and I could just make out the forms of the dogs curled into their nests – As I turned my headlamp towards them, I was met with pairs of glowing eyes – watching me. I am very grateful to all that you have done with your life which allowed me to experience those few days – so thank you and in hopes that our trails cross again.” Patricia Reis – Maine

 What are day trips like?

This is a good introduction to dogsledding and a great opportunity for someone wanting to be with the dogs but not experience camping out at night.
People meet at our house in North Newry at 9 a.m., and we make sure everyone is dressed warmly for the day. We have boots and parkas that you can borrow. Then we go out and meet the dogs, load them into the truck, and drive to our starting point (about 10 miles away). We have a lesson about dogsledding then hook the dogs up to the sleds. There are usually 5 dogs per sled and 2 people per sled. One person stands on the runners on the back and one person sits inside the sled. The person riding in the sled has a sleeping bag to sit on, get under or into depending on the weather. When all the dogs are hooked up, we release our knots and head out to our lunch spot. There we stop, tie out the dogs, make a fire and heat up soup and serve lunch (this is provided). After lunch we mush back to our vehicles, load the dogs in the truck, and come back to Mahoosuc headquarters. We are finished around 4 p.m. These trips are often on Umbagog Lake, but we also have some forested trails that we use depending on trail conditions.

How long have you been dogsledding and in business?

Mahoosuc Guide Service was founded in 1990. Polly has been dogsledding since 1980 and was featured with her dogs in the movie Never Cry Wolf. She used her dogs as part of her lifestyle, living in the bush in the Yukon Territory in Canada for 9 years. She met Kevin working for the Outward Bound School in Newry, Maine. Kevin began mushing in the winter of ’82 in interior Alaska.

How do I make reservations?

Please see our reservation form for the specifics. We ask that you read and sign the form after reading the cancellation policy. We do not accept credit cards; however, we will hold a phone reservation long enough to mail a deposit check.

“I never thought I would become so attached to a team of dogs in such a short period of time. As I walked away from the pen and headed towards the barn, I felt lonely – I very rarely feel lonely – I felt something was missing. I felt as if I was being left alone, and some part of me was afraid of being left alone for the first time in my life. As I entered the barn, the valley filled with their singing. I turned and stood in the doorway smiling with a few tears falling from my eyes. I’ll be back. Thank you!” Jhan Graether – Wisconsin

Mushing Magazine (online at www.mushing.comis an excellent source of information for mushers and those interested in dogsledding. We have listed Mushing‘s questions to ask before booking a tour. We suggest you ask these questions of any mushing outfitter you are considering traveling with (reprinted with permission from the July/August issue of Mushing Magazine, copywrite Stellar Communications, Inc.).

Who actually conducts the trip? What are their qualifications and experience? What medical training have they had?

Since all Mahoosuc trips are owner guided, you are getting the most experienced guides possible. Polly is a Registered Maine Guide with 30 years of guiding experience. Kevin is a Master Maine Guide with 37 years of guiding experience. Polly has Wilderness First Responder training, and Kevin has Wilderness EMT training.

How many teams will be going? How many dogs per sled? How many people per sled?

Depending on the trip and number of people, there are three to six dog teams with five dogs per sled. Refer to our trip schedule, which is coded, to see if the trip you are interested in is a one or two person per sled trip. There are 2 to 4 guides per trip depending on group size and remoteness. For example, our Canadian trips have a 1:1 guide-client ratio, and there are always two Native guides on Canadian trips.

How much are guests involved in handling, harnessing and mushing the dogs?

Our trips are very hands on. In general, the longer the trip, the more you will learn about dogsledding and the more responsible you can become for your team. After thorough instruction and training, you will be running a team of Yukon huskies.

What is included in the price? What equipment is provided?

All food and equipment is provided; there are no “additional rental fees.” We provide sleeping bags, pads, boots, parkas, gaiters, duffel bags or backpacks and all gear. You only need to bring what is on the clothing list, which is included in your joining packet. Most people stay in our lodge, a nearby motel, or a B & B the night before the trip. Lodging is not included in the trip price, but special rates are available for our guests.

What kind of accommodations?

Cabin to Cabin trips: participants stay in log cabins heated by wood stoves.

All other trips: canvas wall tents. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all are equipped with a soft, scented fir bough floor and a wood stove.

The toilet facilities for all trips are outdoor privies.

Is the trip self-supported or will a snowmobile transport some of the gear?

Most trips in Maine are self-supported; we avoid snowmobiles and their trails whenever possible. Canadian trips have a snowmobile for support and safety reasons.

How much of the advertised time is used for transport, preparation, and training? How much time is spent on the trail? How many miles do you cover in a day?

We can provide a daily itinerary for the trip(s) you are interested in.

Is experience required? What level of physical ability is needed?

For weekend or day trips, no experience is necessary. For trips 4 days and longer, it’s helpful to have some general outdoor experience, but no experience mushing is necessary. Most people who do our Canadian trips have some prior experience with Mahoosuc or another outfitter. As far as fitness, the better shape you are in, the more you will enjoy your trip. Trail conditions and amount of physical exertion required vary greatly depending on weather and snow fall.

Will there be a pre-trip training or information available?

Upon receiving a deposit, we will send you an enrollment packet that will help you get ready for your trip.

Are the dogs well socialized to people? to children? Do you have dog fights often?

Polly and Kevin have personally raised and trained all the huskies in the Mahoosuc dog yard. Even though they are big and strong, they are very gentle towards people. All are well socialized; a few are shy, but with a little time you will win their trust. Our Yukon Huskies are not generally aggressive to each other so dog fights are not an issue.

What are the cancellation policies?

See our reservation form. We ask that you sign it after reading it and before sending it in so we both know you understand the cancellation policy.

References?

We would be happy to provide names and phone numbers of satisfied customers.

“What a fun weekend that was! I could hardly get the grin off of my face for days. The dogs are amazing!” Colleen Pitcher – California

SUMMER CANOE TRIPS

How many staff are there and how experienced are they?

The owners, Polly and/or Kevin, personally guide each trip. All guides are Registered Maine Guides, and all have wilderness emergency medicine training. Depending on the trip, there are always a minimum of two guides and sometimes an apprentice. All are very experienced and willing to share their knowledge on campcraft, the history of the area, and stories of their travels in the woods and on the water.

What type of food do you serve?

Homemade, wholesome food. We don’t serve any freeze dried or dehydrated food. Most of our food comes from the grocery store or natural foods wholesaler. A sample dinner might include stir fry chicken with vegetables and rice pilaf; for lunch cold cuts and cheese with vegetables sandwiches with fruit and cookies; for breakfast: homemade blueberry pancakes with real Maine maple syrup and bacon. We often have vegetarians or gluten free dietary needs on trips and can easily accommodate them; just let us know. We bake most every evening meal with a dutch oven or reflector oven and produce some very yummy desserts.

Do you see wildlife?

We often see wildlife on our trips varying in species and areas and how quiet or loud a group is on the water. Some animals we may be lucky to see are: moose, white tail deer, beaver, river otter, muskrat, bald eagles, osprey, black bear, red fox, coyote.

Can we bring our dog on the canoe trip?

We always bring one of our 35 Yukon husky sled dogs on a trip. We ask people not to bring their dogs along as we don’t know how our dogs will interact with each other, behave in a canoe, etc.

What happens if it rains on the trip?

We recommend for people to bring good rain gear, both top and bottom. While in camp we set up a large dining fly for our groups to get underneath. In the spring and fall we often bring a canvas wall tent with a portable woodstove so we can be warm and dry while in camp.

What do you provide? What do we need to bring?

We provide all the food and gear including sleeping bags, sleeping pads, dry bags, life jackets, paddles, tents. Once you sign up for a trip we give you a very detailed clothing list of what we recommend you bring on the trip.

How do we get to the starting point?

We will provide transport to the put in of the canoe trip in our van with a canoe trailer. Our groups meet either at Mahoosuc Guide Service headquarters in Newry or another pre determined location depending on where the trip is going.

What if there is an emergency while on the trip?

We carry a satellite phone in case of an emergency and we need to call out for help. We also call home to Mahoosuc’s office almost every day so a message can get relayed on to us in the field if necessary. All of our guides, including Polly and Kevin, have wilderness first aid training and we, of course, carry a first aid kit.

How do I make reservations?

Please see our reservation form for the specifics. We ask that you read and sign the form after reading the cancellation policy. We do not accept credit cards; however, we will hold a phone reservation long enough to mail a deposit check.

 

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