Ten years ago Caleb Hathaway got a job as a sled dog guide in Winter Park, Colorado where he instantly fell in love with the profession. Wanting to learn more about the sport, he moved to British Columbia then on to Alaska where he began to acquire his own team of dogs. With family in Colorado, he returned and started Monarch Dog Sled Rides right here in Chaffee County. Four years later he has grown the operation to include 30 dogs with the goal of giving his guests a hands on experience where they can learn the history of dog sledding and see how much the dogs love to pull.
The sled dogs all have individual personalities which suit the different roles needed to be cohesive on the team. Caleb explains “It’s like a big classroom of elementary kids, sometimes they bully each other a little bit, but with good leadership they all get along”. Some of the dogs are the “brains” or leaders who are good at listening to commands. They direct the other dogs to follow along. Other dogs have great strength and are positioned towards the back to control the sled with their power. The rest of the team are mixed together depending on who’s getting along that day.
A typical trip with Monarch Sled Dog Rides starts with introducing the guests to the dog team and spending some time getting to know each other. Guides explain the names of the dogs, their ancestory, and how the harnesses are secured, then tethered to the sled. A few minutes are then spent on learning about the history of dog mushing going back to the days of the Gold Rush in Alaska.
After the dogs are secured the trip begins. A romp through Monarch Park includes stops to let the dogs rest and picture taking opportunities. The trails wind through stands of spruce, pine, and fir trees with views of thirteen thousand foot peaks and the Monarch Ski Area. The tour passes through the historic townsite of Monarch and it’s cemetery which is the only thing left from the mining era. If guests are up for it, they may even get a chance to drive the sled. No experience is necessary for enjoying a sled dog ride, but it helps to have a good attitude and a love of animals..