Monday, June 16, 2014

In which I hold puppies, ride an ATV, and see a bear!

As you may have seen in my Facebook photos, Stephanie and I went dog mushing on Thursday! As with when Tess and I went horseback riding, we just called up Alaska Excursions in the morning and asked if they had any available spots on tours. It was a pretty cool day! The woman who drove the bus to Dyea was kind of strange and unpleasant and rude, which put a bit of a damper on the beginning and end of the trip, but the whole middle part was great! We rode in a streetcar-like mountain vehicle up to the place where the dogs mush (?), and loaded up onto 6-seat wheeled sled/carts amid a clamor of barks. When our musher released the brake, the dogs – probably about 20 harnessed to our sled – immediately took off! Steph and I had been worried about if this is nice for the dogs, but it was clear that they like their job. They love to run! Some of them even bounce up and down because they want to run faster. We went around the track three times, stopping a couple times for pictures, and then got off the sleds and met all the dogs, which was very fun!

On the way down, we stopped at the place with the campfire and the gift shop and the pen for the dogs who have the day off... and the puppies! (P.S. It was even more obvious here that these dogs love to run. The pens had big wooden hamster-type wheels in them, and one dog just ran and ran the whole time we were there! It seemed to be having a great time. It was very intent on running in the same place, viewing the wooden planks of the wheel!) Anyway, we had a very interesting fifteen minute lecture about the Iditarod, and then we got the best part, which was holding and petting the tiny three-week husky puppies. AUGH. I want to hold all the puppies forever!!!

Then I had a couple days of shows, and then we all had Sunday off! Mike, the owner of the Gold Rush Brewery, offered to take us ATV-ing in the Carcross Desert, and then to Whitehorse. So Meridith and Stephanie and I layered up and hopped in the truck!

I had never been on an ATV before, so it was a little scary and pretty exciting. Steph and I rode on the one that was in good shape, while Meridith and Mike rode the one that stalls out all the time. We took turns learning to drive, just tooling around on the dunes a bit, and then headed up the road to a trail up Montana Mountain. I rode behind Steph and then Meridith on the way up. It was both fun and beautiful, especially when we came out from the trees and beheld the valleys below! We gained a few thousand feet in total, which meant that while it was 65 and sunny where we started, it was pretty chilly when we got close to the top of the mountain, and there were still significant patches of snow on the ground. These required some serious ATV maneuvering. Generally we had to get off and let Mike figure out how to get the ATVs over the snow patches. But we got almost to the end of the trail before it became completely blocked in. At that point, we hung out and made snow angels for a while before turning around and heading down. After the hardest parts were over, I got my gumption up and drove the rest of the way down, with Steph riding behind me. Once I got less stressed about steering, it was really fun!

We were damp and muddy and sweaty when we got back to Mike's truck, but we loaded back in and headed to Whitehorse. We hit up Walmart, where I replenished some of my show makeup and picked up a muffin pan and other semi-essentials. Dinner was sushi at a place off the beaten path – delicious and basically affordable, which was awesome. We stopped for Starbucks and then headed home. On the way, we saw two porcupines and... three black bears! The first black bear was eating dandelions. The dandelions un-constipate the bears after their hibernation. This works because the flowers sit in the bears' stomachs, fermenting. Side effect: Drunk bears. We were able to pull up right alongside the bear and watch it eat many dandelions in a very focused way – it didn't even really notice us! The other two bears along the way saw us drive by and hightailed it away from the road, but we still got good looks!

The drive to and from Whitehorse is just stunning, of course. The last rays of sunshine along the mountain ridges reinvigorated my awe for Alaska.

I don't have any of the pics from today - Steph and Meridith took a bunch on their phones, but I wasn't carrying my camera - so you'll have to wait and see them on Facebook! It'll be worth the wait, because FYI I look like a freaking badass in my ATV helmet ;)

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