While we were at Fairbanks, we had hoped to go on a sled dog ride. After coming all this way from the equator, we thought riding on a dog sled would be an experience very few Singaporeans would have done. Thus, we were disappointed when told at Chena that there was not enough snow for mushing – another term for dog sledding. To tell us that when there was all this snow around at -30deg was unbelievable but there was nothing we could do. A fellow traveler from Prague we met told us that she had done mushing at Anchorage and that it was very expensive. So expensive or not, it looked like we could only do it when we arrived at Anchorage.
Our mushing tour costs US$169 per person for a total of four hours, including an hour of mushing and another half hour of snows shoeing. The rest were travelling time to the bush.
Our guide told us that we would be mushing with the winner of 2012 Iditarod Race. We had heard of the Iditarod from a friend the night before during dinner. With a name we couldn’t even pronounce on first try, it took a while before she realized we didn’t know what she was talking about. The Iditarod is a big event in Anchorage. The 1000 mile mushing race from Anchorage to Nome attracts competitors from all over the world. We had heard about the Yukon Quest in Fairbanks, also a 1000 mile race from Fairbanks to Whitehorse as the headquarters of the Yukon Quest was just opposite our hotel, but not the Iditarod before that night.
So when our guide told us about meeting the winner, we were excited. Dallas Seavey not only won the 2012 Iditarod, he also won the Yukon Quest as well. He made history also by being the youngest winner.
We arrived at the site to find dogs howling and barking away. They were huskies, but did not look like the long-haired breed my neighbor own. The dogs were excited and raring to go. We were introduced to Dallas, the man himself, and his assistant Christine. Dallas is a third generation musher and conducts these tours for tourists.
There were two sleds and all they had to do was to tie the dogs, seven to each sled, and we were off. Dallas was Mike’s mushers and Christine was mine. As the dogs ran off, Christine was behind the sled, helping to push the sled along. I guess we were too heavy. Soon, she was panting as hard as the dogs.
Unlike what I had expected, the sled ride wasn’t smooth, but quite a bumpy one. Christine called out ‘Whoa’ to slow the dogs, and clicked her tongue with a ‘Come on boys’ to drive them on. Most of the time, the dogs just ran like they were after something in front, but one dog in particular would look back whenever he felt the sled slowing, as if to say, ‘Now what?’ There were many times we had to slow down and even disembarked as the sled negotiated sharp corners. During the ride, we held on tight, even though Christine assured us we won’t topple.
The ride took us uphill to a spectacular view of the city of Anchorage, before making around back to the starting point. During the race, the musher stands most the way. For us sitting down, it was fairly uncomfortable so I was glad when it ended.
Still, a wonderful experience nonetheless.