I knew it was going to be a good morning when the day started with a tall iced latte and reindeer pockets. Picture a warm, doughy calzone, stuffed with scrambled eggs, parsley, melting cheese, and reindeer sausage. And my latte was FREE—I’m calling that the icing on my reindeer pocket.
We were bundled up to our noses and must’ve looked quite ridiculous to our downstairs neighbor, who had walked out that morning in a jacket, bare legs, and flip flops. Meanwhile, Drew and I had doubled up on the leggings/long underwear, tucked ears under hats, and pulled on giant scarves (okay, that part was just me). She and we were definitely on two sides of the extreme for the day’s 10-degree forecast. Today was the day. Drew, Lukas, and I were heading north to go dog mushing.
Dog mushing is your traditional, Fairbanks activity that I wasn’t sure we’d be able to experience. But Sven, the owner and dog musher, had assured us that a 10-month-old baby could come along for the ride. I had no idea what to expect.
We pulled into Sven’s property and saw several yurts planted in the snow, facing a stunning view of woods and distant mountains. It was like being on top of a ski slope: crisp, cold, and gorgeous. Sven explained the ins and outs of the dog mushing business as he walked us down to the dog field, where there were about thirty dogs waiting. Each had a small wooden house, stuffed with hay, and was on a leash. Some of the dogs eyed us interestedly, while a few lay on top of their small houses, basking in the sun.
Alaskan huskies love the cold. Sven told us that when it hits 20 degrees, the dogs require additional water so they don’t get dehydrated. I think my mouth fell open. 20 degrees and they’re already HOT? He explained that in the summer, he has to hose the dogs down so they don’t overheat. A favorite summer pastime of theirs is running down the mountain to a nearby lake and going for a swim. Moral of the story: we probably shouldn’t bring an Alaskan husky home with us to hot, muggy Durham.
Sven hooked up seven dogs to the sled and we piled in. Drew sat on a small step at the middle of the sled, I was in front of him, and Lukas sat snug on my lap, a giant blanket wrapped around us. At this point, all thirty dogs were barking wildly: the twenty-three unattached dogs were wildly jealous of the seven who got to set off on a mushing adventure.
When the dogs surged forward, my first thought was literally, oh my God, someone stuck me on a roller coaster ride. The sled zipped quickly down a narrow, carved trail and I could feel the icy air slap my cheeks. I happen to HATE roller coaster rides: the sinking feeling in my stomach, the speed, and the drop, there’s always the dreaded drop. Luckily for me, the dogs' frenzied pace settled into a steady rhythm of 9mph. We spent forty minutes sliding down trails. A few times, we’d spot another dog mushing team and Sven would take turns ducking off to the side so the other team could zoom by. The dogs were ecstatic to be running, giving each other the occasional friendly nip, grabbing a mouthful of snow, and enjoying the exercise. Lukas didn’t make a peep. He sat in my lap, blue eyes gazing out at the dogs and the snowy landscape around us.
After the ride was over, Sven unharnessed the dogs while Drew, Lukas, and I made our way up to a yurt to warm up. I poured myself a cup of hot water, dunked in a tea bag, and wrapped my fingers around the cup. Forty minutes outside with a decent breeze, generated from the moving sled, had left my feet frozen (yep, a second pair of socks would’ve been a good idea), cheeks windblown, and fingers icy. Lukas took ten minutes to defrost before he graced everyone in the yurt with big smiles.
If you find yourself in Alaska and want to experience something completely and totally different, get thee to a dog mushing team. It’s an incredible ride.