One musher who calls the snowcapped mountains of Siskiyou County his office is working to educate the community about snow dog sports.
Pat Campbell owns Dogsled Express in Mount Shasta. His goal is to teach people about the activity for leisure and competition.
Born in Minnesota, Campbell is a 56 year-old timber faller firefighter who made the decision 25 years ago to follow his passion of dog sledding.
During the winter months, Campbell spends his time giving dog sled tours, coordinating local races and educating the community about his sport. Campbell and his 12 sled dogs are often compared to Santa Claus and his reindeer, because they bring joy to everyone who encounters them.
Campbell says he considers the dogs his family. He is a proud parent who feels privileged to take people dashing through the snow with his team.
The dogs average about nine to ten miles an hour on tours, reaching up to 18 miles an hour at their fastest pace. As long as the dogs are moving they are happy, because it is what they’re bred for and live for.
Campbell breeds and raises the sled dogs. He starts teaching them at a young age to get them use to lines and commands. The sled dogs begin their training around eight months of age. By the time they are three years-old, they are in their prime and have the experience to pace themselves for long distances.
These dogs typically use 30% of their energy to pull the sled. When the weather warms up they need to use more energy to lower their body temperature. The dogs eat snow to cool the back of their throat since their heads heat up the fastest.
Campbell says it is a huge responsibility to care for his team, and it takes work year-around to keep them healthy and in top shape.
Mushing is something Campbell is proud to say is his life, because these sled dogs are like his children. After 25 years, Campbell says the dogs are still amazing him, and giving him some unexpected gifts.
“It’s focus, patience, the main one is patience, they do teach you a lot of valuable lessons in life,” says Campbell.
Campbell hopes to one day compete in and complete the Iditarod.
For information on Pat Campbell's dog sledding business visit his website: http://dogsledexpress.net/