We decided to visit Alaska for a weekend. Yes, I know…a weekend?! Bryan flies for the airlines, so we’re able to take these quick trips when we have free time at home. I wanted to do two things: See the northern lights and dog sled. The weather wasn’t cooperating to see the northern lights, but we were able to dog sled, and boy was it a great experience!
We stayed in Anchorage, so the closest dog sledding tour was just over an hour drive away. The drive was not only beautiful, but super easy to do in the winter. The company we used is called Alaska Mushing School, and it is held at Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake, Alaska. It is owned by Martin Buser, a four time Iditarod champion! So, you can go into this tour knowing you’re not only in good hands, but that the dogs are well taken care of too.
When you arrive at Happy Trails Kennel, you’ll begin with filling out a quick waiver. You’ll then head into the theater to watch a 20 minute film. I’m thankful they started with the film, because I feel like you have a greater understanding of dog sledding, the actual dogs themselves, the training involved, and the Iditarod race before heading out. Once the film wraps up, you’ll head to the lobby to get dressed. I LOVED that they offered this, because it saves SO much room in your suitcase and you don’t have to worry about purchasing this gear if you don’t live in a cold climate. You’ll get snow bibs, a large warm coat, a neck/face cover, a hat, gloves and mittens, and then they size you for snow boots. The ONLY thing I recommend you wear, is a good pair of warm wool socks. My toes were the only part of me that got cold. If you want, hand warmers might be nice to bring too.
Alright, you’re dressed out now, so it’s time to go outside and meet the dogs who will be pulling you. It’s going to be loud, because they’re excited to get going. The other pups who are staying behind are rowdy, because it’s not their turn to work. Once your tour guide harnesses the dogs and connects them to the sled, you will either sit in the sled or you will be standing behind the sled…right behind the driver. He called it “the lazy man’s skiing”, because you literally just stand and hold on. (…and you better hold on! There are stories of folks being thrown off because they let go.) The dogs do the rest.
This is where that magical feeling kicks in. You’re in Alaska. You’re surrounded by nature and wildlife (folks have seen moose on this tour). You’re on a sled being pulled by the same dogs who run the Iditarod race! Unbelievable. Once you get going, you’re on a trail for five to six miles and that’s about an hour or so. The dogs will take breaks, but no longer than five minutes at a time. The breaks are fun, because you can watch the pups roll around in the snow to cool off. However, after they’ve cooled off, they’re standing in position, ready to go again! During these breaks, you can take turns switching who is sitting and standing. Our tour guide, James, took photos of us and answered our 100 questions. He was patient with us, the dogs, and very informative. If you’re lucky like we were, you’ll be able to see Denali from the trails! To me, an hour was a good amount of time to be out. You’ll leave with an entirely new appreciation for the folks to participate in the dog sledding races. Especially, the Iditarod.
After your sledding experience is over, you can enter the puppy area! This could’ve been my favorite part! I mean, puppy breath and puppy cuddles from future sled dogs?! Yes, please. Once you’re worn out from all the puppy love, you’ll head inside to turn in your clothes. They have cookies, coffee, hot chocolate, and tea in the lobby to help warm you up before you leave.
Overall, I can not recommend this enough. You’ll leave with the largest smile on your face, because you just experienced a HUGE bucket list item that so many will never have the opportunity to do. I left giddy, in awe, and fulfilled. There’s nothing like creating memories of a lifetime.