Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Trail Legend of 2007

Sled Dog Warning Photos

At about 6'5" and 275 pounds, "Sled Dog" made an immediate impression on us when we returned to Hot Springs, NC after our weekend at Trail Days. Before we'd even known him for two minutes, he informed in his southern drawl that he's from Alaska, his wife died in a terrible auto accident, he spent the last 12 years with the Special Forces in Iraq and that he rode his dog sled from Alaska to Montana to get to the trail.

When you're out on the trail your radar for people is pretty sharp, but it didn't take much to realize that "Sled Dog" was someone who didn't quite add up. He carried a small day pack full of Moon Pies, wore combat boots up to his knees, and had two memorable tattoos on his left shoulder - "Sexy" and "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy."

At this point "J.D." (as he introduced himself to us) had only been out on the trail for a few days, claiming he began his journey south at "Newfound'ers Gap" in the Smokies.

We ended up having several interactions with him on the trail north of Hot Springs. After a few times of him asking "How far we goin' today?" and "Where's the next water source?" I asked him why he chose not to carry a map or data book. After several sketchy interactions we sped up and finally lost him in Erwin, TN where he passed us and has been north of us ever since.

In that short time we gathered far too many funny things that he said to post here, but I've included some highlights.

  • He'd lost 180 pounds since he started (Meaning he weighed around 450 pounds when he started approx. 80 miles back!)
  • They were out of whale blubber in Alaska to feed his 11 dog team, so he had to go out of his way to Washington to buy 2 tons of blubber.
  • Ten years prior he hiked the whole trail with his now deceased wife. They averaged 30 miles per day and finished in "only 8 months... pretty good, huh?"
  • He had a "Christian" wedding ring and a "Satanic" wedding ring that he carried in memory of his deceased wife. A few days later he left the cubic zirconium ring as payment for staying at Uncle Johnny's hostel.
  • He hopes it's snowing when he reaches Maine so he can ride his sled home to Alaska.

When we knew Sled Dog, he was just someone we knew to steer clear of, but we lost him before he caused any serious trouble. Since then he has allegedly taken money from several hostels, outfitted himself with possibly stolen gear and has taking advantage of people's good will.

In Boiling Springs, PA Todd Ramaley with the A.T.C. informed us that he was looking for Sled Dog and to call him if we saw him. Apparently Sled Dog has a criminal record in Tennessee. By the time we reached Duncannon, PA Sled Dog / Iditerod's picture was hanging in the Doyle Hotel with a warning to hikers.

It looks like the overwhelmingly popular and immensely speculative Sled Dog discussion at was removed from their forums. Here's another thread where other hikers were discussing him.

It is a shame when one hiker creates such a negative stir, but overwhelmingly the people we meet on and around the trail are some of the finest folks imaginable.

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