I try to do one thing on a cruise that I’ve never done before and have some reason to think I’ll never do again. This time it was riding on a dog sled.
We did this yesterday in Skagway. It was one of the excursions that Carnival offered, and once I saw it I just had to sign up. Greg loves all dogs all the time, so I knew it would be a bit of heaven for him. I’m a lazy girl who enjoys all means of transportation that don’t involve any exertion for me, so of course I was into it. (Well, maybe I’m not that bad, but I did enjoy letting dogs do my walking for me, however briefly.)
Our tour guide took about 40 of us in a bus up roads that turned from pavement to gravel fairly quickly. He pulled off at a remote spot in a meadow, and we walked the rest of the way in, guided in by the caterwauling of over 300 sled dogs.
We were given a short introduction by a woman that got involved in dog-sledding — actually, “mushing” is what they call it — just as a sort of hobby. It’s a very expensive hobby, requiring great amounts of capital, energy and time that you may never see again, but the people who take to it feel it’s worth it all. Our lady-musher (I’ve forgotten her name) said she started with just one or two dogs and just kept adding on. As she was talked a fenced-in yard full of dogs slept, paced, watched or occasionally howled.
But when it was time for a little mushing, we didn’t take those dogs out. The “musher’s camp” we were visiting is home to a number of mushers, all of whom keep and train their dogs. Since the sled-races require 14-16 dogs to a sled, that ends up being a lot of dogs. In summer, the training involves having them pull a wheeled cart that can hold seven people. So having the dogs pull tourists around for 15 minutes or so is a win-win situation. We tourists are happy to pay for the privilege, and the trainers are happy to give the dogs the exercise.
And the dogs may be the biggest winners of all, because it seems as if they just love doing it. Our group went up to where the wheeled cart was with the dogs all harnessed up and tied to a couple trees. We stepped in and buckled up as our musher Aaron did a last check on the dogs to straighten them out. And the dogs started to get excited, greeting him with jumps and howls. When he took his place on the end of the cart, they couldn’t stand the suspense any longer and some of them started leaping forward, trying to get going all by themselves (which would’ve worked better if there weren’t a brake on). Then Aaron untied the team, released the brake, gave them a “Hike! LET’S go,” and off we went.
And what a blast! The dogs are only going 15 mph or so, but it’s amazing to think they can do even that. When the cart is full it weighs about 2500 pounds. Some of the dogs seem almost to be running sideways because they’re bearing down so hard. And with all of that exuberant dog-power in front of you and the wind in your face, it’s hard to think of anything more fun to propel you down the forest path.
We went about a mile, and then it was time to get off and thank them for the lovely time. I had thought perhaps the dogs would be a little on the wild side, but apparently not. There’s no problem with being petted and fussed over and the more hands-on the better.
Going back to camp, we visited some up-and-comers — one-week-old Bertram (left)who just wanted to go back to sleep, and four-month-old Butters (right), who was already wanting to go see the world.
Glad to know we’d done our little bit to help the next potentially Iditarod-winning team, we climbed back on the bus, just taking a little break for Kodak moments when the scenery got too pretty to stand …
… and then back to our little home away from home.