In honor of the amazing teams who competed in the epic Iditarod, I thought I would share with you the story of our own very un-Iditarod-like dog sledding adventure in Alaska…
It is a perfect June day in Seward, Alaska. The sky is cerulean blue, with hardly a cloud to be seen. It’s warm and the wind has died down. Exactly what we need to enjoy our helicopter ride to Godwin Glacier. Rafael, Rachel and I strap into the small helicopter seats, with Rachel riding shotgun. There is a thrill to taking off in a helicopter that you just don’t get in a plane. I imagine it’s like riding a bumble bee; up, down and sideways without effort. I love it!
We race over to the mountains, enjoying the breathtaking views of the Kenai Peninsula. Snowy peaks, rocky ledges and the startling blue of melted glacial ice pools surrounds us. We see mountain goats, bald eagles, flowing rivers, grassy fields and waterfalls. The view is spectacular in every direction! Godwin Glacier appears before us and we see some small dark specks on the snow in the distance. As we near, we realize it’s the dogsledding camp. The mountains and glacier are so immense, the camp looks like a home for fairies or elves (think Leprechauns, not Legolas.) We land with a soft thump and disembark into the almost blinding light of snow and sun.
Rachel runs over to the dogs, who greet her enthusiastically, tails wagging and tongues hanging out. We are introduced to their trainer and learn the basics of dog sledding. After hooking the dogs to the harnesses we are off. The dogs race over the snow, pulling the sleds so easily. The dogs left behind bark and jump, wishing they were with the team. Running is in their blood. They love it and it shows. We take turns piloting the sled, but I don’t kid myself that I’m doing much. The big arching turns are easy to manage and the dogs do all the work. It’s exhilarating and so much fun!
These dogs and the mushing team will spend the whole summer on the glacier preparing for competitions, including the Iditarod. They go where the snow is, and in summer that means high in the glacier, where it is normal to get 100 feet of snow a year!
We hate to leave when our time is up, but we board the helicopter all the same. Our pilot is amazing. When we reach the highest point of the mountain we are crossing, he touches the skids of the helicopter onto the snow as though we are balancing on the top of a pyramid. So thrilling! If you’re ever in Seward, this is a bucket list item that cannot be beat!
Can I do this adventure?
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the most difficult.
Courage Level: 2 – I think the most nerve-wracking part for most people would be the helicopter ride!
Fitness Level: 1 – This is an adventure that anyone who is reasonably mobile can do.
Do I need special gear? Wear layers, as the temperature could be just about anything up there. Sunglasses, or at least a hat, are an absolute must!
More info? We used Seward Helicopter Tours for our trip. They were great. http://sewardhelicopters.com/seward-dog-sled-tours
In Seward, we stayed at the Treehouse Bed and Breakfast. We loved it. It’s a beautiful home, with comfortable rooms, delicious breakfasts and very nice innkeepers. http://www.seward.net/~treehouse/