Arthur Walden, Dogsledding Pioneer

December 5, 2013

In December 1942, Appalachia published an article extolling the virtues of sled dogs—their strength, intelligence, and loyalty. The writer described a dog repeatedly nudging him awake as he lay exhausted in the snow near his sputtering fire while the sun slipped below the horizon. “I have learned to trust some dogs absolutely,” the author wrote. That writer, Arthur Walden, was a prospector, Antarctic explorer, and dog breeder credited with bringing the sport of dogsled racing to New England.

In 1896, Walden left behind his farm in New Hampshire, lured by the Klondike gold rush. There he learned to drive a dog team, and his passion for breeding dogs was sparked. Walden eventually returned to New Hampshire, married, and began breeding dogs. He mated a mastiff with a husky, who gave birth to a litter of three. His favorite of the squirming pups he named Chinook. Walden’s beloved companion for 12 years, Chinook would lend his name to the breed for which Walden became famous.

Walden introduced this new breed of sled dogs at the Gorham, N.H., winter carnival in 1920. In 1926, in gale force winds, he became the first to summit Mount Washington with a team of dogs. A year later, he secured a post in Admiral Richard E. Byrd’s Antarctic expedition. With Chinook as his lead dog, he moved 3,500 pounds of supplies 16 miles in two trips. “Had it not been for the dogs, our attempts to conquer the Antarctic…must have ended in failure,” Byrd wrote. On his 12th birthday, Chinook wandered off into the Antarctic snow and was not seen again. Walden was devastated.

When Walden retired from dog breeding, he began writing books and articles, among them the piece in Appalachia.

The June 1947 edition of Appalachia contained a brief obituary: Walden had died rescuing his wife from a fire, brave and resolute to the last. He would leave, the obituary said, “a gap in the figures of those famous in the White Mountain annals.”

LEARN MORE

For more about dogsledding, read “One of the Team” and watch “Dogsledding in the Maine Woods.”

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Susan Kieffer

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