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Dog sledding, Skijoring, ME

Dogs add excitement to winter adventures in Maine. Once snowís on the ground, the Telemark Inn, Mason Township, ME, offers sled dog outings, mushing packages, snowshoe excursions and skijoring. The country lodge, located in Western Maine on the edge of the White Mountain National Forest, serves as the base for New England Dog Sledding.

Skijoring is exciting for animal lovers. Popular in Scandinavian countries, the sport involves being pulled along snowy trails by an animal. In Nordic countries thatís sometimes a horse. The Telemark Inn uses dogs; thatís why this version of the sport is often called ďdog-joring.Ē Basically, you strap on cross-country skis and use a tether that connects you to the dog. At your command, the dog pulls you through the snowy woods, both of you enjoying the adventure. As in dog sledding, a bond is built between the skier and the dogs.

To partake of this fun, you should be at least an intermediate level cross-country skier. Itís no fun for you or the dogs if you keep falling down. The Inn offers trained dogs that can take you on an outing or you can bring you own dog (minimum 30-pounds) and learn how to teach your loyal pet this sport.

If, like us, you donít think you can keep up with your four-paw partner, you can still enjoy the enthusiasm of the dogs on a sled outing. A one-hour ride gives you a taste of the adventure. On a two to three hour excursion through the White Mountains National Forest, guided by your musher, learn how to handle a team of 10-14 sled dogs.

Thereís something special about being pulled through the woods by dogs. As the sun glints off the snow, the only sounds are the crunch of the sled runners on the snow and the panting of the pups.

From the inn you can also head to the woods on your own via snowshoes. Downhill denizens can take to the slopes of Sunday River Ski Area, Bethel, ME, just 15 miles away. Afterward, warm up with cookies and hot chocolate back at the inn.

You wonít find crowds at the Telemark Inn. Although activities are open to a limited number of day guests, the inn, a comfortable, more plain than fancy lodge, has only five guest rooms. At night healthful dinners with homemade soups and breads are served in the pine paneled lodge. Sometimes, after dessert, you can bundle up for a moonlit dog sled ride.

Owner Steve Crone has an affinity for children, for animals and for the outdoors. In summer he runs llama treks and offers horseback riding. On these guided family excursions kids and adults lead the llamas who carry-in the equipment and gear. As a result, you and your kids can walk into the wilderness without a 50-lb pack on your back. Another bonus: you and your children fall in love with the llamas.

The Telemark Inn is situated about two hours from Portland.

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