More on Walden and Birch Intervale
"The Tamworth Narrative," Marjory Gane Harkness, c 1958, Silver Mountain Press, Washington Depot, CT. Available from "The Other Store", Tamworth, NH 603-323-8872
"A Dog-Puncher on the Yukon," Arthur Treadwell Walden, c 1928, Houghton Mifflin Company, Riverside Press, Cambridge, MA.
"Leading a Dog's Life," Arthur Treadwell Walden, c.1931, Houghton Mifflin Company.
"Chinook and his Family, True Dog Stories," Eva Brunell Seeley and Martha A. L. Lane, c. 1930, Ginn and Company
"Guide to Wonalancet and the Sandwich Range of New Hampshire," (Replica of 1901 Edition), c. 2002, Bondcliff Books, ISBN 1-931271-04-6
"Walden had become interested in sled dogs while prospecting in Alaska and returned to Wonalancet Farm (which his wife ran as an inn) determined to establish a line of sled dogs based upon Chinook, his large yellow mixed-breed dog. Chinook was bred to a number of bitches, including a large German Shepherd named Erica. From these breedings, puppies that resembled Chinook were kept and bred until Walden virtually established a line of large, yellowish, lop-eared dogs that bred true to type. These dogs, which he called "Chinooks," became something of a tourist attraction at Wonalancet Farm, and visitors would come for the opportunity of riding behind a real dog team. Indeed, the team was so superbly trained, legend has it that one of Walden's favorite tricks was to send Chinook, his teammates, and a driverless sled out into an open field across from Wonalancet Farm and put them through their paces by issuing "Gee" and "Haw" commands by megaphone from the porch of his home."
From "The New Complete Siberian Husky", Michael Jennings (based on the original masterwork by Lorna B. Demidoff & Michael Jennings) 1992.
Birch Intervale, Wonalancet, NH
An "Intervale" is a term used in New England to describe the low-lying lands between hills and mountains. Birch Intervale was the original name for the New Hampshire town now called Wonalancet. When Katherine Sleeper became the first postmistress of Birch Intervale in 1893, the town's name was changed to Wonalancet to avoid any confusion with the resort town of Intervale, located several towns away next to North Conway in the Mount Washington Valley. Wonalancet was a great Penacook Indian chief, and son and successor to Passaconaway, an Indian chief who ruled a powerful federation of tribes in the early 1600's. The name change to Wonalancet was suggested by Lucy Larcom, a protege of John Greenleaf Whittier.
Birch Intervale, thought to be the bed of an ancient lake, was a settlement of a dozen farms, with half of the farms being owned as summer residences. Surrounded by the Sandwich Range of the White Mountains - with the imposing and picturesque mountains of Chocorua, Passaconnaway, Paugus, and Whiteface within its boundaries, Birch Intervale was made for dog sledding!
The Chinook Trail
The Walden's farm is located on Route 113A, now called The Chinook Trail, which runs through the heart of the Intervale. In the early 1900's, Birch Intervale and the Chinook Trail were the hub for dog sledding activities in New England. Along this road lived Julia Lombard of Wonalancet Hubbard Kennels - Julia took on the breeding of Chinook dogs from Arthur Walden, and sold Chinook stock to Perry Greene, who started his own special chapter on the history of the Chinook. Other noted Chinook Trail residents include Milton and Eva "Short" Seeley, who purchased Chinook Kennels from Walden. The Seeley's famous Chinook Kennels produced sled dogs for racing, showing, and exploration - Chinook Kennels exerted a profound influence on the development of the Siberian and the Malamute breeds, and the Seeleys advanced the concept of the dual purpose sled dog, a dog capable of winning in conformation rings as well as in sled dog races.
Largely due to the efforts of Short Seeley, both the Siberian and the Malamute breeds were recognized by the American Kennel Club - the Sibes in 1930, and the Mals in 1935. Short Seeley's Chinook Kennels produced many of the wonderful foundation dogs found in Malamute and Siberian show and racing kennels today.
Today, it's still a common sight to see teams of sled dogs training on the trails around the area once known as Birch Intervale. Just down the road on Chocorua Lake, the New England Sled Dog Club continues to hold their annual sprint races each winter. The challenging Sandwich Notch 60 mile mid-distance sled dog race runs through the Intervale, with a section of the race being run across from Wonalancet Farm and the Wonalancet Union Chapel. Teams race in the very field, where years before, Chinook guided his driverless team of Chinook dogs at Walden's call. The Sandwich Notch 60 and the shorter 30-mile distance race draws many top national racing teams, with Malamutes, Siberians, and sometimes even Chinooks running on the teams.
The Walden's Wonalancet Farm as seen today
Field across from the farmhouse
where Chinook and team once trained,
in the area called the intervale.
In addition to Arthur Walden, Julia Lombard, and Milton and Short Seeley, sledding icons Leonard Seppala, Lorna Demidoff, Dick Moulton, Jean Bryar, Ed Moody, Doc Lombard, and Norman Vaughn, are just a few of the great mushers who trained, raced, or visited Birch Intervale.
Memorabilia from Short Seeley's Chinook Kennels
Sandwich Notch racing team crossing "Chinook's Field", across from Wonalancet Union Chapel.
In 1948, Arthur Walden perished in a tragic fire at the couple's residence at the time, Brook Walden, formally Walden's father's summer home, which was located near the farm and next to the Wonalancet Union Chapel. All was lost in the fire, except for a suitcase containing a family photo album. Katherine survived Walden by just a few years, and both are buried in a courtyard grove together, next to the Wonalancet Union Chapel, and near to their homestead on the Chinook Trail.
The Waldens were active in community life: Katherine was an innkeeper, a noted White Mountain conservationist, and a trail builder responsible for founding the Wonalancet Outdoor Club in 1892. The WODC is a Sandwich Range trail maintenance and hiking club still in operation today. Recent WODC projects include the restoration of the Walden Trail, named for the Waldens. Referred to as the "Matriarch of Wonalancet and the WODC," Katherine had the Sandwich Range features of Mt. Katherine, the Sleeper Ridge, and the Kate Sleeper Trail named in her honor.
While living at Wonalancet Farm, Walden honed his interest in the breeding and racing of sled dogs, and is known for developing the Chinook breed, and for both bringing sled dog racing to New England, and for the founding of the New England Sled Dog Club in 1924. The NESDC is the oldest continuous U.S. sled dog club and has held sled dog races since 1924, except for a brief span during World War II.
Katherine's husband Arthur was a writer, an explorer, a dog driver, sled dog racer and breeder, who had adventures in Alaska during the gold rush days, and in the Antarctic with Admiral Richard Byrd's first expedition to the South Pole. Both Katherine and Arthur were well known and well liked community figures at Birch Intervale.
In 1890, Katherine Sleeper bought the Lowell Brown farm and in June 1891, she opened the farm for visitors, calling her place the Wonalancet Farm. The Intervale and Wonalancet Farm became a favorite tourist retreat, and one favored by members of the Appalachian Mountain Club. In 1902 Arthur and Katherine were married at Wonalancet Farm. It was here on their farm that a large yellow mixed breed dog was born in 1917. This dog was named Chinook. Chinook, Walden's faithful companion and lead dog, has been described as being smooth and tawny, with a black muzzle. Chinook towered above others, and was a genius among dogs! Chinook was to become the foundation dog for the Chinook dogs of today.
The Birthplace of the Chinook Breed
How Intervale Chinooks got its Kennel Name
Arthur Walden with Leonard Seppala