The anticipation in the air was palpable as the dogs began to jump around excitedly, howling and barking. When they heard their command, all of the dogs in the team leapt into action, jumping and pulling on their harnesses. The dog sled began to glide against the wet snow, gaining momentum as the pack became eager to dig their feet in the snow, kicking it up into the air behind them.
Everything suddenly became very peaceful as the dogs found their pace and all I could hear was the swooshing sound of the sled along the quiet trail. The flurries of snow came and went as our journey through the forest continued. At times, I could feel the cold flakes landing on my cheeks and I became thankful that I had worn my goggles. As I gazed at the snow-covered trees lining the trail, I became aware of the natural beauty that surrounded me. I felt a sense of serenity as I watched the white landscape seemingly fly past us at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour.
I have lived in Bend for over 11 years and have visited Mt. Bachelor numerous times to go snowboarding. Every year, I’ve heard the dogs barking wildly with excitement, but I’ve never ventured over to see what all the commotion was about. I was thrilled when I was asked to do a story on the very dogs I have always heard barking. Now I finally get to see, first hand, what all the ruckus is about.
After speaking with Jerry Scdoris, the owner of Oregon Trail of Dreams Inc. (and the barking dogs) over the phone to arrange our outing, I knew I was going to be in good hands. I soon realized that Jerry is a very accommodating, upbeat and high-spirited person.
On the day of my dog sledding trip the weather was, to say at the least, challenging. When Brandi, a friend accompanying me that day and I left town, it was pouring down rain. As we got closer to Mt Bachelor, there were big heavy flakes of wet snow coming down and a light breeze. At that point I knew this was going to be a ride to remember.
When we arrived at Mt. Bachelor, I finally had the chance to meet Jerry and his daughter Rachael in person. Rachael Scdoris is a professional sled dog racer from Bend, Oregon. She was born with a condition known as Congenital Achromatopsia, an uncorrectable visual disorder that has left her color blind as well as with 20/200 vision.
After a brief introduction we talked for a few minutes and then I took out my camera and started taking pictures of the dogs used for sled rides. It was at that point, Jerry looked at me and said, “Over the years, we have had a number of photographers come on days like this and say, ‘There is no way I can shoot in this weather.” Then he asked, “Are you going to be alright?” I replied, “This is home for me. I love the snow and I am very excited to see what these dogs can do!”
Jerry continued to tell us about the dogs and proudly tell me little facts about his daughter who began racing at the age of 11 and in 2006 she became the first legally blind athlete to finish the famed Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. He also told me that Rachael had her race dogs out that day to get them warmed up for their trip to Norway, where Rachael will soon lead the U.S dog sledding team. While I was talking with Rachael and Jerry, Rachael proceeded to get a five gallon bucket and fill it with about four gallons of water and a bunch of meat. Rachael told me that it was feeding time for the dogs and evenly divided the lunch between our sled dog team. With close to around 30 dogs, the operating crew was quick to tell me a little about each dog I met, like their name, temperament, age, etc.
One dog in particular really got my attention. A show dog amongst the pack named Ned, who’s famous for loving to climb up people from their feet, all the way up to their shoulders. Rachael wanted to demonstrate this skill, so she patted her leg and Ned started his ascent up the front of Rachael. I could barley take pictures because I was so amazed. I’ve seen a dog scale a six-foot fence, but never a person. After Ned’s decent down from Rachael’s shoulders, they informed us it was time to attach the dogs to the sled for our ride on the trail of dreams.
If you would like to participate in a Winter Dog Sled Ride, they are available at Mt. Bachelor, through Oregon Trail of Dreams Inc. They offer Sled Ride packages for one-hour trips or for full day adventures. The standard one-hour trips have four departure times beginning at 9:30-12:30. The standard dog sled ride includes an orientation, travel time, and an option to participate in the care of the animals by giving them food and water. The cost of the one hour Standard Dog Sled Ride is $75.
The second option is the full day “Marathon Trip” which begins at 8:30 am at the Sunrise Lodge at Mt. Bachelor in Bend, Oregon. Then, participants ride the sleds to Elk Lake and back, a five-hour and 26-mile long journey that is powered solely by the strength of the dog sled team. The Marathon Trips are $450 per couple and includes lunch. For more information about dog sledding with the Oregon Trail of Dreams Inc. team, visit www.mtbachelor.com or www.rachaelscdoris.com.