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Comments & Curiosities: A 'cool' way to travel

February 12, 2011|By Peter Buffa

Are you a musher? I'm not.

No, mushers are not people who play with their food. Mushers are those hearty souls who stand on the back of a snow sled in strong wind at minus-yikes degrees and somehow convince a team of really buff dogs to pull a heavy sled through the snow for hours on end. It's an acquired skill.

Rancy Reyes is definitely a musher. As reported this week in this very publication, Rancy and his team of six Siberian huskies have been training hard, getting ready for the "American Dog Derby," an annual dog sledding race that's been run in Ashton, Idaho, since 1917. If you're not familiar with Ashton, it's about 20 miles north of Sugar City. But here's the twist. Rancy and the pups haven't been training in the frozen wilds of Alaska or the snow-covered foothills of the Rockies.

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They've been training in Fairview Park in Costa Mesa and Newport's Back Bay, which is just like the frozen wilds of Alaska only warmer and not as white. That's why Rancy is called an "urban musher" — he and the boys do their mushing in the big city, not the big tundra. But the amazing thing is it works like a charm.

Rancy's pooches were born to run, and he says he takes them to workout whenever he can in the honest-to-God white stuff in places like Mammoth Mountain. To say his team loves to run is an understatement.

"You try walking a husky, and your arm gets yanked out of the socket," Reyes said in the Pilot's story.

That sounds a little painful so I'm going to pass on that for now, but as any husky can tell you, except they can't because dogs don't actually talk, if you can pull a heavy sled up and down a dirt trail in Fairview Park, you can fly like the wind on packed snow in the Yukon. Whatever else dogsledding is, it isn't new.

Native people like the Inuit in the far north have been tooling around on dog sleds for centuries. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also known as Cops with the Coolest Outfits, were using dog sleds to patrol the frozen forever land since the 1870s. The first organized dog sled race was the All Alaska Sweepstakes in 1908, a run of 408 miles from Nome to Candle and back. If you're not familiar with Candle, it's about 600 miles north of nowhere.

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