Mammoth Dog Teams

Mammoth Dog Teams History


Mammoth Dog Teams History 


1927 - 1943 Tex Couchane - The First
Mammoth Lakes Musher

Ruth Couchane looked out the window. The way the little cabin shook told her exactly what was happening outside, but still she had to look.  She knew the storm had held Tex on the trail.  She figured he was probably dug in down in Red’s Meadow or perhaps at the old Starkweather cabin.  He had gone out four days before with a heavy load of supplies and mail for the Minaret Mine.  It was probably a tough go but he most likely made it to the mine and dropped off the goods.  Bet those guys were happy with those extra bottles of whisky.  Yes, she was convinced he was on his way back before he had to dig in for the storm.  She knew the dogs would take care of him.  They always did.

She was more worried about the man laying sick in bed in the neighbor’s cabin.  He was not well.  Perhaps even dying.  He needed a doctor desperately.  Ruth knew Tex and the dogs were the only way this man would get to the doctor down in Bishop through this storm. 

The snow showed no sign of letting up.  The trail had blown over the day before and was deep powder, difficult traveling.  She sighed and went back to the stove adding more wood to the flames.

Ruth was staring at the flames when the door swung open.  Tex stumbled in with the heaviness of the cold on his back.  He left the door open long enough to let his lead dog in and shake all the snow off.  The door was then quickly slammed, pushing cold back out.  The other dogs could be seen out the window curling up for the night.  Without much thought other than a smile of his safety she handed him a warm bowl of stew.  

She hesitated.  She knew how tired he must be, but then caught him before he began peeling off his icy layers.

“There’s a man down at the Zischank house.  He’s in bad shape.  Might not live if he doesn’t see a doctor.”

Tex took a deep breath.  “It was a tough push to get back... no trail.  Had to snowshoe, in front of the dogs the whole way from Red’s.”  He thought long.  His thoughts seemed to play over the conditions of each dog individually.  Did they have another forty mile push in them?  Did he? 

He stood up.  “Well, it’s going to be a long night.”

Ruth got her jacket.  “I’ll help you harness them up again.”


The New Era of Mammoth Dog Teams 

Paul Marvelly's - Dog Sled AdventuresIn 1984, Paul Marvelly took his hobby of recreational mushing and turned it into a commercial freight service under the name Dog Sled Adventures. The first kennels were Paul’s house. The ten foot freight sleds were built in the living room. The 10-12 dogs lived in the backyard. Paul was working on building a stronger and bigger team gathering any dogs he could find, at times even neighborhood mutts.

Five years later, Paul moved the kennels to the Mammoth Lakes Industrial Park to save his neighbors from all the barking. Jim Ouimet, a Mammoth Lakes native, joined Paul in mushing after returning from the US Marines.

In 1992 the Kennels had to be moved to Sierra Meadow and then to the gravel pit across from Hot Creek road the following year. In 1996, Jim went up to Bend, OR to run a sprint and freight Kennel. Jim ran teams in Bend for two years. One day he received a call from Paul in Mammoth. Paul was getting ready to sell Dog Sled Adventures and head back home to New Zealand. Jim returned at the end of the season to buy the dogs and sleds.

Before leaving Paul helped Jim design and build two 12 foot freight sleds which were more comfortable for riders and safer due to the wider runners. Paul left in 1999. Jim, in honor of the local history, contacted the Couchane family and received permission to use the Mammoth Dog Teams name which originally sat above Tex’s dog teams.

In 2003, Jim faced a heart breaking thought, Mammoth Dog Teams needed a new kennel location and it appeared that there was no place for the dogs to go. After breeding, training, and mushing dog teams for thirteen years, Jim was two days away from having to find homes for all of his dogs.

It was Mono County that saved Mammoth Dog Teams and they cannot be thanked enough! The current kennel location is the old Mono County Sheriff Substation and it has become the best location the dogs have ever known. The building had been abandoned for about ten years and took endless hours to clean up the Hantavirus and make repairs. The dogs now have a mushing museum and an art gallery. There is a sled workshop and even a classroom where we do lessons on dog care and health, team dynamics and history of mushing.

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