Hi, my name is Michele Forto. I was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley in California surrounded by fields of cotton and orchards of almond trees, my father raised beef cattle and pigs and I enjoyed riding my horses. I had the same dreams most little girls have that I’d grow up to become a veterinarian and spend my days amongst the animals I so adored. But life got in the way and as we’re all aware dreams and paths change. I married my high school sweetheart and we started a family in the 90’s. In 1999, my little life would change again, my husband of 11 years would succumb to a motorcycle accident and my young children and I would be set on an adventure none of us could have dreamed.
In 1994, I purchased my first nordic breed, an Alaskan Malamute, that we would later discover was actually 1/2 wolf. Toby was a fantastic dog taking care of the boys and protecting little Nicole. In the autumn of 1999 I was drawn to learning as much as I could about weight pulling with Toby and now Tasha, a full blooded Maly. This is when my path crossed Robert’s and he introduced me to a world I thought only existed in Disney movies that my kids’ watched. I thought he was crazy, adventurous and definitely passionate about sled dogs, they were/are everything to him the one constant thing in his adult life that has never judged or turned away from him.
Robert quickly took to the kids that were 2, 5, & 7 and the adventures began! Robert taught me how to care for a kennel of 40 Siberian Huskies, how to give basic dog care and minor first aid as well as what exactly is a gang line! I learned that dogs can do more than pull my kids in their wagon or on their little hill sleds. Robert at that time was a mid-distance musher by lower 48 standards. He switched to sprint mushing with the kids and I in Colorado so we could participate in races as a family.
Training teams on our Risdon-style dog cart we got from a musher named Frank Hall on the dirt roads in the mountains of Colorado in the fall and then in the ski resort town of Winter Park, Colorado in the winter. We participated in races all over Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota.
Eventually, the dream would bring us to Alaska. Our kennel is young and our kids are now adults. We have big plans in the works including a expedition that will combine mushing, snow machining and fat tire biking with some of Alaska’s emerging outdoor leaders.
I am looking forward to training my WaG Crew for mushing this coming winter.