Dog sledding vicariously

8 August 2014

My dear friends and readers,

As you may know from my previous posts, I am currently having an Alaskan Adventure with my friends, Paprika and Oregano. I learned yesterday that we are approximately 16,860 km away from Cape Town, which is where I was just a few weeks ago! It feels almost unreal that I have traveled this far in so short a time.

My friends go dog-sledding on the glacier - thrilling stuff!
My friends go dog-sledding on the glacier – thrilling stuff!

Paprika and Oregano had an exciting morning, but I wasn’t allowed to share the experience with them. They planned to take a helicopter up onto a glacier to ride a dog sled. They had me all ready to go and even packed a rain coat for me, but then the pilot said it wasn’t safe to bring a backpack on the helicopter. They were only allowed to bring their cameras. I was a bit disappointed, but I understood because safety is important. I waited patiently in the car for them while they had their adventure.

Once they got back, they shared their excitement with me. I felt like I had been there. Paprika told me it was really much safer for me not to have come along with them. It was chilly and rainy on top of the glacier. Paprika had packed a rain coat for me, but it was quite misty on top of the glacier. Oregano and Paprika had on rain coats and rain pants, and both of those were absolutely soaked. Thankfully, only the clothes were wet, Paprika and Oregano remained dry under all those layers. My small rain coat would not have offered the proper protection needed to keep my delicate complexion from becoming most disastrously damaged.

Over lunch of hot soup and sourdough buns, Paprika and Oregano shared their pictures and stories. They said it was a very exciting experience. They learned all about the culture and history of dog sledding, the characteristics of good race dogs and how grueling these sled dog races are for the human and the dogs. The famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome.

After they learned all of these new things, the mushers (that’s what sled dog drivers are called) harnessed 16 dogs to the sled. It was the first run of the day and the dogs were VERY eager to run. Paprika sat in the front of the sled and Oregano stood at the back. Once they were settled, the dogs took off at about 30 mph. So fast!

Paprika told me that she was surprised how fast and how bumpy the ride was. She said it was exhilarating! I could tell it must have been because she and Oregano had huge smiles in all of their pictures. The musher stopped the sled and Oregano and Paprika changed places. Once Paprika was standing on the back of the sled, they took off again for a closer look at the glacier. I asked Paprika if it was hard to stand up while the dogs were running so fast. She told me that the rails at the back of the sled are very narrow and that she had to keep shifting her weight to maintain her balance. She was really glad she wasn’t in charge of braking or steering the sled.

These two gorgeous puppies in Paprika and Oregano's arms may well be the future Iditarod champions
These two gorgeous puppies in Paprika and Oregano’s arms may well be the future Iditarod champions

When they got back to the camp, she and Oregano were allowed to hold 20-day-old puppies who will be future sled dogs. They were adorable!

The weather is expected to turn quite nasty up here overnight. Our boat trip on Prince William Sound has been cancelled because it will be too dangerous. Paprika said we’ll try to go to a museum in Anchorage to learn more about the fascinating culture of this beautiful place.

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