Juneau Dog Sled Adventure

During our cruise, one of the ports was Juneau, we booked a Dog Sled Adventure Tour, where we drove through the Tongass National Rainforest to get to a mushers camp, we were pulled on a summer sled by some excited Alaskan Huskies and Malamutes and learned about the sport of dog mushing by an experienced handler.

To fully enjoy this experience it is a good idea to learn a bit on how it all began with the Iditarod.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an annual long-distance sled dog race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome, entirely within the state of Alaska.

It is the worlds longest dogsled race, over 1000 miles from Anchorage to Nome. (Think Maine to Florida) Teams generally race through blizzards in whiteout conditions, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds. The trail is through a harsh landscape of tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across rivers. The Iditarod is regarded as a symbolic link to the early history of the state and is connected by many traditions commemorating the legacy of dog mushing.

It is considered the Last Great Race.

 

Training usually starts the summer prior to the race. More then 50 mushers enter each year. Some are amateurs who make their living hunting, fishing, trapping or with seasonal jobs, though lawyers, surgeons, airline pilots, veterinarians, biologists, and CEOs have competed. Per the rules only experienced mushers are allowed to compete in the Iditarod.

Every musher has a different tactic. Each one has a special menu for feeding and snacking the dogs. Each one has a different strategy — some run in the daylight, some run at night. Each one has a different training schedule and his own ideas on dog care, dog stamina and his own personal ability. Each one has their own reason for running.

The rules of the race lay out certain regulations which each musher must abide by. There are certain pieces of equipment each team must have — an arctic parka, a heavy sleeping bag, an ax, snowshoes, musher food, dog food and boots for each dog’s feet to protect against cutting ice and hard packed snow injuries.

I have to admit being a “Dog” person I wasn’t sure how I would feel about this. I have learned that dog care is strictly controlled in the race. The dogs have to be fed a snack every 4 hours, have harnesses replaced and booties on their feet. It is not unusual to go through hundreds, depending on snow conditions. The dogs are checked by a vet prior to the race and at every check point. Mistreatment is almost unheard of in the race. If it does happen the musher is disqualified and barred for life from the Iditarod and virtually all other races in North America. If a dog cannot continue it is flown back to Anchorage. You can imagine there are different opinions on this.


There are three mandatory rests that each team must take during the Iditarod: one 24-hour layover, to be taken at any checkpoint; one eight-hour layover, taken at any checkpoint on the Yukon River; and an eight-hour stop at White Mountain. Rest stops, layovers or not…in my opinion you simply have to be CRAZY! but what do I know.

I live in Florida.

There’s nothing that quite compares to the Iditarod. It is truly the call of the wild.

Visiting Alaska and want to learn more about the mushers and dog sled racing?

Here is the tour that we did… Juneau Dog Sled Adventure

Visiting a musher’s camp is a uniquely Alaskan experience that will undoubtedly warm your heart. This perfect look inside Alaska’s state sport will have you following next winter’s races and begging the decision makers back home to track down a husky of your own. After a pickup at pier, you will take a scenic drive deep into the Tongass National Rainforest on Douglas Island. After arriving at the camp, you will be greeted by your seasoned musher and a team of Alaskan huskies who will be thrilled to make some new friends.

Once you are done handing out some scratches behind the ears, you will board a custom designed, wheeled summertime sled for a chance to see the dogs in action. Dogs like this were born to run and they will lead you on a thrill ride down a one mile trail surrounded by giant spruce and hemlock trees. After the ride, you will meet up with a knowledgeable dog handler and a retired sled dog. Ask any questions you may have about the life of a musher and the fine-tuned care provided to these famous dogs. A rundown on the most important races and various equipment involved in dog sledding will provide even greater insight about the sporting world of dog mushing.

Free time at the end will allow you to walk along beautiful Fish Creek and play with the adorable husky puppies. Socializing these dogs is an important part of their future success, so consider yourself part of the team!