Brand & Martínez for August 20, 2012

Cyclists, joggers and sled dogs? Urban mushing hits the trails in OC

Al Kamalizad

Urban musher Vickie McConathy (right) and her friend with siberian huskies Shadow, Nikki, Tundra and Diva at Talbert Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Al Kamalizad

A 1987 VW Westfalia Synchro owned by musher Rancy Reyes. The van is used to transport his dogs around Orange County to urban mush.

Al Kamalizad

KPCC producer Mary Plummer tries out urban mushing. Here she is with siberian huskies Obi (left) and Lyka (right).

Al Kamalizad

A husky at Talbert Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Calif. where a group of Southern Californians regularly run their dogs on scooters.

Al Kamalizad

Urban musher Rancy Reyes with his dogs in the back of his VW van.

Al Kamalizad

And they're off! KPCC producer Mary Plummer takes off from Fairview Park with a group of urban mushers in Costa Mesa, Calif.

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Judy Doo and her dog Tigger, who she adopted. Doo uses a bike instead of a scooter to urban mush, so her smaller dog can run without pulling any weight.

Al Kamalizad

Huskies enjoy a chicken treat after a six-mile run in Costa Mesa, Calif.

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Rancy Reyes with his dogs Obi (left) and Snert (right).

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KPCC producer Mary Plummer grew up dog mushing in Alaska. This summer, she tried urban mushing for the first time. Above, she's pictured with lead dogs Obi and Lyka in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Courtesy of The Plummer family

Mary Plummer races with her dogs Micky (left) and Willie (right) during the 1993 Jr. North American Championship in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Al Kamalizad

Urban mushers at Talbert Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Calif.

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Mike Willson prepares to head out on the trails at Talbert Nature Preserve in Costa Mesa, Calif.

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Bravo, a doberman, gets a drink from his owner on a break from urban mushing.

Al Kamalizad

Nina Hogue takes her dogs for walk before hitting the trails to go urban mushing.

Al Kamalizad

Obi, one of Rancy Reyes' dogs.


When you think of dog sledding you probably imagine a winter activity — one where a team of dogs pull a sled over a snow-covered course. We did too, until we heard about urban mushing. It's the snow-free version of traditional dog mushing and has an enthusiastic following here in Southern California.

Our Associate Producer Mary Plummer grew up dog mushing in Alaska. So we sent her out to see how the sport fares here in sunny SoCal.

What is Urban Mushing?
Urban mushing is similar to traditional dog sledding, which is done on snow. But instead of pulling a sled, urban mushing teams pull a scooter or dog cart over dry land courses. Teams range in size from one to ten or more dogs.

How do you steer?
Dog teams are navigated by verbal commands from the musher. Calling "Gee" instructs the dogs to turn right, and a "Haw" command tells the dogs to veer left. "Stop" can be a little trickier. If you're riding on a sled, try the foot brake until the dogs slow down enough for you to lodge your metal hook in the snow. If you're riding a scooter, hand brakes will help slow you down along with a calm sounding "whoa." To learn more about urban mushing commands click here.

When did dog mushing begin?
Traditionally, dogs pulled sleds to help their owners transport goods and hunt more easily. The first sled dog races in Alaska popped up after the Gold Rush in the early 1900s. By the 1940s and 50s organized races became popular in the state. The sport has continued to expand since then. By the 1980s dog sledding competitions took place throughout parts of Europe. Today, you can even find mushing in Australia and South Africa. For more information on the history of mushing, check out the audio extra below.

Further listening


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