Don’t let adversity force you to give up your dreams! Going for a dog sled ride had been on my “bucket list” since before I was injured. I tried to arrange a trip a few years ago, but it never came to fruition. This year I decided to try again and had been on cloud 9 since arranging a ride with Cupcake Mushing in Lacona, New York. The owners, Nancy and Ray Stark seemed as excited about the trip as I was.
The week leading to the ride had seen a furious lake effect storm bring sub-zero temperatures and dump over 6 feet of snow on the area in two days. The day before we were to go saw the temperature rise to 49 degrees and heavy rain. We had to postpone and because of circumstances were not able to reschedule until February 1.
Saturday was perfect, temperatures in the high 20s and slightly overcast. The process of getting me into the sled was interesting. I had my support crew of my son Mark, my nurse Rhonda and my good friend Steve. This was a new experience for Cupcake Mushing but they were committed to making it work. They had never taken out someone with quadriplegia before. Placing, securing and stabilizing a 6’5” 260 lbs. individual in a sled 6’ long and 18” wide was a challenge. After I was in Starks began hooking up the dogs. As can be seen in the video the dogs were going ballistic with anticipation. It was so cool. An 8 team hitch was being used and other mushers nearby came to help hitch the dogs up. I thought that was so cool that others wanted to be a part of this experience.
On command we bolted forward as the dogs converting energy into work. Their strength and enthusiasm was immediately evident as they all pulled. The ride was ethereal. The silence running of the dogs combined with the beauty of the environment was overwhelming. The team lined out in front of me their breath vaporizing as they joyfully did their job. On the way back it started to snow and that only intensified the experience.
There were some problems that need to be addressed and Nancy, Ray and I will begin to work them out because we are committed to another adventure. All in all what a wonderful experience returning to the environment I had spent so much time in prior to my accident. As individuals with disabilities, there remains so many experiences available to us, we must be very careful not to close the door.