Wednesday April 16th 2014

Mush! Hike! Haw! Bridgton Mushers Bowl

By: Shannon Bryan

Mushers Bowl Winter Carnival

Jan 25-27 | $5 button | Bridgton
www.mainelakesmushersbowl.com

UPDATE: Races at Five Field Farms have been cancelled due to lack of snow. But all other events go on as scheduled.

Meetin’ the dogs at Musher’s Bowl. File phto: Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer

Not all dogs are sled dogs.

More than once — when I was younger and lighter — I tried to entice our good-natured family dog to pull me down the street while I sat inside a wagon or on a skateboard or disc sled, depending on the season.

To encourage Brandy, a German shepherd-yellow Lab mutt, I’d lay a long trail of treats down the sidewalk or throw a cookie out ahead of her. Then I’d brace for the jolt that was sure to follow as Brandy raced for the irresistible edibles.

But the jolt never came. Brandy wasn’t a runner, per se. She was more of a meanderer, a lounger, a cushion.

I had to resign myself to a simple truth: My dog-pulling-human hopes weren’t going to be realized. Not with Brandy in the lead, anyway.

A dog-pulling-human dream fulfilled.

But dreams — the good ones — never really die. And decades later I found myself gliding over the ice-corked surface of a Bridgton lake, a team of dogs pulling the way. And I reclined back in the trailing sled, squinting from the wind and sun and thought, “Yep, it’s as awesome as I thought it’d be.”

The dogsledding opportunity comes every year during the Mushers Bowl and Winter Carnival in Bridgton, which takes place this weekend. Dogsled rides are offered on Highland Lake throughout the weekend, while the competitive dogsled and skijoring races took place at nearby Five Fields Farm.

The dogsled-centric weekend includes two days of dogsled rides and races, skijoring (wherein people on skis are pulled by their canine friends), as well as winter hikes, guided snowshoeing, a polar dip, a Saturday-night dance, and snowmobile rides (full schedule: www.mainelakesmushersbowl.com).

Aspiring mushers can give the family dog a rest and get a first-hand dogsledding experience on either day as long as they sign up beforehand. Dogsledders who prefer to leave life to chance can hope a spot opens up when a scheduled rider fails to show, but reservations are recommended, and can be made by calling the chamber at 647-3472.

Two people can ride together — one tucked comfortably in the sled and one standing on the footboards in the back alongside a musher guide.

The dog teams don’t require much guidance in this environment, allowing novice mushers to relax and revel in the adventure.

And after the call of “whoa!” brings the dogs to a stop at the end of the ride, a well-deserved “thank you,” expressed through a hearty scratch behind the ears, is simply good courtesy.

For the dogs, I mean.

FMI: www.mainelakesmushersbowl.com