Going dog sledding was pretty high on my Alaska bucket list and this weekend I was able to check it off. I was so excited as we pulled down the driveway to the sled dog tour company. We were about to go dog sledding! And on the heels of the Yukon Quest?!? It doesn't get much better than that.
It was a perfect dog sledding day (I say as if I know what that looks like. Haha). The weather was pretty nice, around 5*F (-15*C). The sun was shining. Our musher was a German named Olaf. Olaf has lived in Alaska for about 30 years. He lives in a cabin he built himself on land about 200 hundred miles from us, and 50 miles from the nearest road. He comes into town a couple times a year to buy supplies, including enough dog food to feed 18 dogs for months. Then he transports it by dog sled back to his cabin. He was in the area for a couple months, running dog sled tours to earn money to buy window for his cabin, since he can't make the glass himself. As he told us his story, a part of me couldn't help but admire him. What a wonderful way to live in Alaska, just a man and his dogs on his own land, in a home he built with his own hands. Another part of me thought he was completely crazy. Who would want to live like that in this barren, frozen wasteland of a state? I came to the conclusion that I would like to try it for a month or two, but not for much longer than that.
The dog sled ride itself was so much fun. We went for 7 miles on a beautiful trail. We got to ride the runners, meaning that we stood on the back of the sled, balanced on one runner (Olaf needed to be on the other one to drive the team). It took a few minutes to become steady but once that happened, oh man!! What an experience to ride behind a sled being pulled by dogs. The trail was a bit bumpy at times and the dogs got up to a speed of 12 miles an hour at one point, which added to the adventure. Neither Husband nor I ended up in a snowbank so I call that a success.
Before and after the ride, we were able to pet the dogs that weren't being used for tours. Turns out that the dogs LOVED Husband. He has a way with them apparently (too bad we just found out he is allergic). I was surprised to learn that sled dogs are pretty much mutts. They are not all the same type of dog like you see in movies and TV shows. Most of the dogs we saw, both at the dog sled place and during the Yukon Quest, looked nothing like the traditional husky we envision pulling sleds. The only thing they all have in common is they have some part of husky in them.
This was an amazing experience. We are already talking about doing it again next winter. If you find yourself in Alaska, I highly recommend a dog sled tour. It is an experience you won't regret!