When Carmen Rose moved to the Laurel Highlands more than three decades ago, the region reminded her of her homeland of Germany.
She was drawn in by its scenic beauty and the outdoor opportunities that abound here. Forbes State Forest and Laurel Summit State Park are only about five miles from her Boswell-area home, and you can find the 62-year-old on the mountain almost any day of the year.
“It’s my church. It’s where I can think clearly,” she said. “What I really like about the area is Forbes State Forest. I’m on any trail and every trail that there is. Every day I’m up here, especially since I’m not working anymore.”
When she saw a dogsled team bounding through the snow in the Laurel Highlands, it reminded her of a sport she had first become enamored with years earlier while living in Germany.
“I always had dogs. My very first dog team I saw running, I was 9 years old. It always stuck in my head,” she said. “When I moved here, I saw dog teams running. They ran the ski slope road. It rekindled that fire.”
At the time, Rose had five or six dogs – enough to make a team – that she walked every day. Then, in the middle of the night, she woke up with a clear vision: “I need to get a sled!” she recalled.
'We found each other'
She found one in Blair County and quickly discovered how much she and her dogs love their outings.
Over the years, she built up her stable. She currently has 18 dogs from all over the country – Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Michigan, and even Alaska. Rose has Siberian huskies, Alaskan huskies, German shepherds, and a tree and walker hound.
“More dogs found me as I went along. They just called me from the shelter, ‘Hey, we have this really cute husky. Do you want it?’ ‘Well, no I don’t …’ but I always took them. That’s how I acquired the dogs. They’re shelter dogs. They were just abandoned. We found each other.”
She can run as many as 10 at once, but on the trails in Forbes State Forest, she usually takes five or six dogs on an eight-mile run. She has raced her dogs in Warren County, Pa., as well as New Hampshire, New York, and Michigan, but Rose and her dogs are there to have fun, not win a prize.
“The mushers up north will tell you they run better when they are tied outside and you let them loose,” she said. “I just keep them as my friends most of all. They are my pets, and they work for me. They love to work.”
Rose’s husband, Les, said the dogs know that when the harness comes off the hook at their home it’s time to run, and they enthusiastically head for the door. The mountain seems to call to the dogs just as it does to Rose.
“There are times when I say I’m staying at home – knitting or reading or cleaning the house. And then I look outside and it’s like, ‘No. I can do that when I’m old,’ ” she said.
At home in the mountains
Rose’s proximity to trails makes it a natural destination for her and her dogs, no matter the season. They go hiking with her. Or she will hook two or three dogs to her mountain bike and go, maybe stopping to pick some blueberries or cranberries along the way. She even has a summer sled that looks like a big tricycle. She’ll go four or five miles with a team in the summer, return home and then load up another group of dogs for a run through Forbes State Forest.
“It’s beautiful any time of the year,” she said. “My favorite – I like what I’m doing with the dogs and the sled – but I love fall. When the seasons actually change, and it gets cold. Maybe a little bit of snow, freezing rain.”
Rose enjoys the solitude that she finds in the Laurel Highlands.
“It’s my home. I made it my home,” she said. “The area, what’s special about it is we can go out and get away from it all.”