Mushing School: A Dog Sledding Adventure

I’m not even sure where to start today. I feel like spouting adjectives…awesome, amazing, crazy cool. Dog sledding has left me a little tongue tied. Even after we got home Lucas and I were still beaming, something like runner’s high. We would be talking about something else and then suddenly look at one another and say, “That was SO cool,” already knowing what the other person was talking about. Our conversations included Oak and Dudley and Mia and Mayhem, some of the dogs we mushed with. We talked about them like old friends. But let me back up and do my best to explain.

On Sunday, we attended Mushing School with Paws for Adventure. This was a three plus hour “course” on dog sledding. Arriving at Paws was enough to get me excited. The kennel is positioned on the side of a hill looking out over a valley and the mountains. The yard is filled with dogs, around 50. Each dog has a little wooden house and a chain that lets them run in wild circle within their designated space on the property. These dogs were happy and excited. At the top of the lot sits a heated yurt where we met our guides/instructors and got a brief outline of what to expect. They also had winter gear. Lucas changed into bunny boots right away. Halfway through the day, I changed into them too.

Let me side step a minute and explain bunny boots. Bunny boots are military grade arctic boots. They are made of thick plastic with wool insulation and are rated to -60 degrees. People here swear by them and after wearing them I can see why. They are warm, and I am told will keep your feet from freezing even if water comes in over the top. For winter conditions in Alaska, this is an important feature. Being wet here could mean lose of limbs or death. These boots are also hilarious looking. Picture people walking around in shoes like the Mario brothers from Nintendo. But I was glad we had them.

Okay, back to school. After introductions, we went outside to learn about the sled and the gear used to hook up the dogs. The gang line is the main rope that the dogs are hooked to. She also showed us the break, snow hook (used to anchor the sled before you leave), and the rubber tire tread at the base that you can use to slow down or straighten out the sled. Interestingly, each sled and kennel will do things a little differently so there are variations to everything we learned.

After our brief equipment orientation, we learned how to put the harnesses on the dogs. At Paws, they use two kinds of harnesses depending on the dog’s size. After seeing the guides harness a dog, it was our turn. To harness the dogs we stood over the top of them with our legs holding them in place as we slipped the collar over their heads and down under their chests where each front paw is fitted through. Most of the dogs were good about this but some of them were a little rambunctious.

After they were outfitted, we walked them back down to the sled and hooked them into position. Wheel dogs are in the back, then team dogs, then swing dogs, then leaders up front. This will all change depending on how many dogs you are using. Our first sleds had seven dogs.

I love that our experience included all the step up. It gave us a much better understanding of what running dogs really means. It also made us feel more apart of things, like I could put a stamp on it that said, prepared with love by Krista. I must admit, I was also really happy to get so many doggy kisses πŸ™‚

For our first run, we had two sleds. Lucas and I both started out riding in the basket with the guides driving. This was a great introduction. We got to see a little bit of the trail and how the dogs worked as a team with the driver. A few miles in we switched, and I got to drive. This is when I started to fall in love with mushing. Standing up at the back of the sled you feel so connected to the dog team, and you have this amazing view of the land around you. It was also nice to start out with a guide in the basket to offer tips and suggestions as you figured out how to maneuver the sled behind the dogs. We finished the loop and went back to the yurt to warm up.

For our second run, Lucas and I each got to drive smaller teams by ourselves. The whole process was ours. We hooked up each of the four dogs on our team. And then followed our guide out onto the trail. She went first, then my team, then Lucas and his team. I was now officially smitten with dog sledding. I loved the cool silence of the trail, the rhythm of the dogs in front of me, the snow covered spruce trees that lined the sides of the trail, the pale yellow and gold light of the sun as it flickered through the trees and across the snow in open fields. Every now and then the dogs would turn back to look at me, pink tongues hanging out, snow frozen to their whiskers and the hair around their face. I would call, “Good dogs,” and they would pick up the pace just a little. On the turns, I would lean in, kicking out my heels on the runners, and the sled would snap back into place behind the dogs. It was like we were gliding through air.

There were funny things too. The dogs eat snow as they run, leaving long streaks at the sides of the trail. They poop on the move. They fight like brothers and sisters. On my team Mia would snap at Oak until I called her name. Other dogs bumped and pushed. Little personalities coming to life.

At the end of the run, we pulled into the lot, greeted by all the other dogs barking. We feed our teams huge, frozen, chunks of salmon as a snack. Petted them. Took pictures.

It was an Alaskan kind of day, and I was all smiles.

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118 Comments on “Mushing School: A Dog Sledding Adventure”

  1. Nancy says:

    What an experience! Absolutely exciting! My kids–mushers–who would’ve thought?

    Like

  2. Cayla says:

    this is something that’s on my bucket list to do. this looks like an incredible adventure! i’m sure you made so many memories too! thanks so much for sharing!!!!!

    Like

  3. Wow–just wow! And congrats on Freshly Pressed. That will be one hell of RIDE!
    Kathy

    Like

  4. Bobby Jones says:

    Awesome post – my wife and I have attended the “sprints” up in Mackinaw City in Michigan in the past and it’s quite thrilling to be near those wonderful dogs!

    Like

  5. Sounds and looks amazing and great fun. You’ve got me grinning from ear to ear with your enthusiasm and enjoyment. Very infectious (or do I mean contagious?) πŸ˜‰

    Like

  6. The Hook says:

    Wow! Freshly Pressed AND a great adventure. You rock!

    Like

  7. Wow, this was an incredible adventure. I like reading about things like this and never really thought about all that went into dog sledding and all the preparation you need. This was amazing stuff.

    Like

  8. ….add “learn to mush” to Bucket list……

    Like

  9. That must have been amazing!! When I was a kid, we had friends who were mushers – as pretty much EVERYONE in Canada will tell you… πŸ˜‰ – and they let me get on the sled once. They didn’t let the dogs run too quickly but it was a lot of fun!

    Very interesting post and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! πŸ™‚

    Like

  10. valentinedee says:

    That must have been the best experience ever. Your pics are amazing and as I was reading this, I was truly smiling. Great post.

    http://valentinedefrancis.wordpress.com/

    Like

  11. Marie says:

    wow, it looks like you had a great time! i was able to experience dog sledding for the first time at Crystal Mountain in upper Michigan last winter and it was absolutely a blast. ever since, I have tried to get my parents to buy me a team of dogs to train but so far i haven’t gotten them to agree πŸ˜€

    Like

  12. I finally realized my dream of going dog-sledding last March in Banff, Alberta while on vacation. Best adventure in years! I loved seeing how the dogs interacted and how differently you experience the landscape from a sled. I really sympathized with the pioneers! I wasn’t able to run so had to sit on the sled the whole time; word of warning — it gets very, very cold when you sit still with bitter wind in your face. A frostbitten face seemed like a possibility.

    Like

  13. afrankangle says:

    What a surprise because when I got up in the morning, reading about mushing school was not on my list of things to do.

    Like

  14. Northern Narratives says:

    Hello from northern Minnesota where we also have sled dogs and cold days. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed πŸ™‚

    Like

  15. J.C.V. says:

    Wow! Great blog and beautiful pictures.

    Like

  16. karolis7 says:

    I have a malmute myself. they are fantastic dogs, mega friendly and loyal.
    Great photos! Happy sledging!!!
    Karolis

    Like

  17. Wow! This article was utterly amazing! It looks so beautiful as to where you had the dog sledding adventure. If I may ask, what was the average speed you attained? I always wondered if they go fast, as in they do in the movies.

    Like

    • I will have to make a guess on this because I am not really sure, but I imagine we were going between 8-10 miles an hour. I think it would vary depending on experience level, the landscape, and the weather conditions. Hope that helps a little! And thanks for checking out my blog πŸ™‚

      Like

  18. Looks coooold. How can you stand that coooold? Thanks for sharing.
    Connie
    http://7thandvine.wordpress.com/

    Like

  19. Dounia says:

    This seems like such a fantastic experience and the way you describe it all gives such a vivid image! The pictures you included are really great too. Thanks for sharing what appears to have been a wonderful experience, and congrats on being freshly pressed!

    Like

  20. Stef says:

    Wow! I’m certainly adding this to the “to do” list =D

    Like

  21. Great story and pictures! I had similar experience as a child in Siberia where our family had a Siberian husky..

    Like

  22. Chris says:

    Mushing: Definitely on my bucket list. Nice entry! =)

    Like

  23. Anita Mac says:

    So amazing – I can’t even express how excited I am for you! Like many, it is totally on my bucket list. I am hoping to do it this winter! What a wonderful experience – I was so excited when I opened word press and saw your post! Count down is on! Mushing in 2012 – woohooo!!!!

    Like

  24. Ran across your blog from freshly pressed — so glad I did. I love this story. I actually got to go dog sledding when I visited Alaska in 2002 — it is such an amazing experience and was a check off my bucket list. Looking forward to reading more on your blog!

    Like

  25. I have always, always wanted to go dog sledding! Love the pics…and the dogs. :o) You are so lucky!

    Like

  26. vicki.hong says:

    Wow! So cool! What an awesome thing to experience. I dream of traveling and doing things like this… One of my dreams in life is to try dog sledding. It might be really cold but there’s nothing better than nature covered in peaceful white and beautiful dogs. I’d prolly fall in love with it and never want to come back… lol. πŸ™‚ Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog. I’m just a random visitor! Good luck on all your travels and adventure!

    Like

  27. Sounds like an excellent adventure! I’ll have to add this one to my list!

    Best,
    Hilary
    NomadGrad.com

    Like

  28. dancingbeastie says:

    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed – and even more on your spirit of adventure! I’m happy to have discovered your blog as I’ve always been intrigued by the far north, by deep winter and starlight, by arctic animals and the northern lights. Your past few posts are so interesting. Minus 40 already! I can’t get my head round that really, though I have to say that we, too, woke up to ice on the inside of the bedroom windows and all over the inside of the car last winter, when it was ‘only’ minus 15 or so for a couple of weeks here in highland Scotland. (A heatwave for you!) I wish you well in your Alaskan chapter of life.

    Like

  29. klstoner says:

    This is something that has always been on my list. You make it sound just as wonderful as I had always imagined!

    Like

  30. OOhhh awesome, this has been on my list of things to do for a long time. Wonderful post.

    Like

  31. Wow. Thank you for all the great comments. And thanks for checking out my blog!

    Like

  32. That looks fun πŸ˜€
    I would love to try it πŸ™‚

    Like

  33. Hey mate! This looks pretty good! Ive recently bought myself a husky (He’s 21Wks old now) and plan on taking him to the snow next winter!

    What are some good ways to get him sled trained? Do you have any good links for me?

    Looks like you had a ball!!

    -Trent B.

    Like

  34. wow! entertaining!! i wish that someday i can experience that… =)

    http://travellersdiningdepot.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/the-green-house/

    Like

  35. Cave Story says:

    Nice closeup pic of our canine friend πŸ™‚

    Like

  36. Andrea Thomson Viner @ Iowa Dog Blog says:

    What an amazing adventure! And the sled dogs are beautiful. I like how you highlight the dogs’ individual personalities.

    Have you read Gary Paulsen’s book on dog-sledding? You might like it.

    Like

  37. The dog is really a man’s best friend… that’s an absolute fun!!! nice post!!!

    Like

  38. ederlyf says:

    exciting! I wish we have winter season here.. I wanna try it also..

    Like

  39. angelique523 says:

    I now most people are going to comment about your dogs. I personally just want a pair of boots like the ones you are wearing in that photo with your blue gloves on. I once had an awesome pair of mucklucks but can’t find them anymore. The lining is always the first to go. Thanks for the wonderful photo share. Great blogging!

    Like

  40. Tomiko says:

    this is so on my bucket list.

    Like

  41. binnotes says:

    Wow – amazing post! Truly unique. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  42. tanitmkpr says:

    How cool it must be indeed… if it werenΒ΄t for the cold part (the very-very-extreme cold part).

    If you are a dog lover, twice the great experience!

    Like

  43. mcbarlow5 says:

    Wow, looks really cool. Great pics!

    Like

  44. Great blog, and wonderful experience. Huskies are so cool…

    Like

  45. Brandy Unruh says:

    Great story, I’ve always wanted to do this (on the bucket list!!!)

    Like

  46. What an incredible experience. I would love to do something like this, but I think my hatred of the cold would prevent it. Great to live vicariously through you, though!

    ~Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One

    Like

  47. Scott B. says:

    Your post left me filled with envy. I love being around dogs soooo much.

    Like

  48. That looks fantastic!! A friend of mine went dog sledging in the North of Norway last february. It looked to be such an incredible experience!! He saw so much beauty in a week and I’m sure the pictures couldn’t define the feeling.

    Do you have a lot of northern lights in Alaska? Can you see them at this time of the year? My friend saw fantastic lights in Norway. It’s one of my dream to see that!

    Like

  49. Jason Alan Business Broker says:

    Looks amazing I’ve always wanted to do this. Looks like a national geographic adventure.

    Like

  50. Utube says:

    What a great adventure! How about posting your Dog sledding videos. πŸ™‚ Paws for Adventure dogs are cute and kind!

    Like

  51. Nice story and wauw…. what a beautiful country! Be careful and enjoy!

    Like

  52. lexy3587 says:

    Wow, amazing! I’m hoping to try skijoring with my dog this winter (if we ever actually get snow), but mushing… that would be so much better!

    Like

  53. […] love winter, so when I came across this blog about dog sledding it caught my attention.Β  I have always been really big into snowboarding, and i think that dog […]

    Like

  54. thewienertakesitall says:

    So jealous! it’s my dream to do something like this

    Like

  55. Mel says:

    Amazing! I really hope I’ll be able to do that this winter. It sounds so great!!!

    Like

  56. Symbiotic survival of man and dog ~ loyal pairs until forever. Can feel the crisp snow, smell the pine amber and hear the soft crunch of snow ~

    Like

  57. Thanks again for all the great comments!

    Like

  58. MissLauraC says:

    Wow, this sounds amazing! What an inspiring blog.

    Like

  59. Kelly says:

    This looks so incredible! I have been a big fan of dogs and dog sledding since I was a little girl, and am more than a little jealous. What a great opportunity!

    Like

  60. travelingmad says:

    Cool post and photos. I have always wanted to go mushing in Alaska! It is at the top of my travel to-do list. Merci for sharing.
    Congrats on being freshly pressed.

    Like

  61. barcncpt44 says:

    Great Pictures! This is something I would love to do some day!

    Like

  62. l0ve0utl0ud says:

    Wow sounds awesome. It’s my dream to do that, since I’ve recently fallen crazily in love with huskies!

    Like

  63. Awesome story! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  64. Shannon says:

    Your pictures are lovely! Your post reminded me how much I want to explore Alaska.

    Like

  65. nomadruss says:

    I was able to do a dog-sledding staff training with the old Voyageur Outward Bound School some years ago. That trip stands up there as one of the finest outdoor adventures I’ve been a a part of. Yours looks to have been a great learning experience and lots of fun!

    Like

  66. dawnhbrady says:

    What a great adventure! It reminded me that I have always wanted to try dogsledding. I might have to go do a google search for dog sledding in Colorado and see what I find!

    Like

  67. 434gt45t3 says:

    Great post. Definitely an interesting read.
    Here’s something that you may find interesting…

    NHL 12 tips, strategies and team reviews….

    http://nhl-tips.com/

    Like

  68. Stefan Teplan says:

    Great story, great pictures, great experience. I especially loved it having enjoyed Scandinavia’s pure nature all my life (think I know Sweden and Norway better than my home-country Germany by now) and always remembering my mushing tour through Northern Norway and Sweden with BjΓΆrn Klauer (a very well-known musher in Europe). I wrote one reportage about that mushing tour and published it in a German magazine in 1999. Unfortunately I didn’t translate it in Englisch up to now but maybe you also like to enjoy the pictures included. Here’s the link: http://reisereportagen.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/der-schlittenhundkonig-von-lappland/ Once again thanks for your interesting story, looking forward to reading some other stories by you on mushing in this blog soon!

    Like

  69. weatherrely says:

    Would love to do this one day. Great post!

    Like

  70. This is one of the great things about the WordPress community–getting to experience all kinds of new things through others. This was a fun post–I really enjoyed it and congrats on the Fresh!

    Like

  71. littlesundog says:

    Congratulations on achieving Freshly Pressed! What an impressive story and great photos!

    Like

  72. Huskys are special, not necessarily in a good way. Ours is a Northern Inuit, he’s blind and diabetic but very frisky. His name is Bear because he’s white and looks like a polar bear. People either love him or are terrified of him, both reactions can be fun for us. He’s good in a crowd, the crowd parts like the Red Sea! He eats anything, I mean anything…

    Like

  73. leksani says:

    wow this is great article. I liked your article. very beneficial for us. Thank you.

    Like

  74. Renee Rowell says:

    I love your story! Love the pictures! What a unique and exciting adventure. Until I read this, I was not aware that dog sledding was offered as a vacation-type experience. I will definitely be looking into this as a future vacation destination.

    Thank you so much for sharing, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    Like

  75. Sarah D. says:

    That looks and sounds like the best thing ever ever ever. Wow! Thanks for the great ride!

    Like

  76. What cute huskies, but ohhh it looks so cold! :O i still have ‘mushing’ on my bucket list though πŸ˜›

    Like

  77. Dwight D. says:

    There’s no snow in the Philippines so I can’t go dog sledding. I wish we have snow, though. Great post anyway. I can feel the spirit of happiness. I saw this on Freshly Pressed.

    Like

  78. Gerard says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve never been around anything like that.

    Like

  79. morrighu says:

    Having recently broken both my legs, I seriously considered getting the giant wuppie a goat cart he could pull me around in. He certainly likes pushing my wheel chair around – he gets a big giant grin and wags his tail so fast, it nearly flies off… Then I realized that I’d be at his mercy as soon as a cat walked past…. Bad visions of clinging desperately to said goat cart as Mr. Wuppie tears off after a cat…

    Like

  80. energizeyourlifetime says:

    Top post. I look forward to reading more. Cheers from:
    http://energizeyourlifetime.com/

    Like

  81. Mudmap says:

    Really love that first photo with the sunrise!

    Like

  82. terii says:

    Looks like an amazing experience! Certain more fun than just sitting on the sled while someone else drives it.

    Like

  83. If we had snow in Hawaii (we do but not on Oahu where I live) I would so try this. I have a husky/malamute and every time I watch her run, I wish I was behind her in a sled. It would be amazing-great blog!

    Like

  84. What an amazing experience- looks like you had a wonderful time! I love the pictures, too. Such beauty in nature! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  85. This is the reason I love reading blogs. I never knew there was such a thing as Mushing School. Thank you so much for sharing. I would love to go to Alaska someday!

    Like

  86. imagineer100 says:

    Exciting! Can’t see my dog doing this even though he loves snow.

    My blog:
    http://imagineer100blog.wordpress.com/

    Like

  87. mohanmohan says:

    I’ve never understood why it’s called “mushing”. Is that some Native American term?

    Like

  88. Joe Labriola says:

    Wow that looks exhausting but fun!

    Like

  89. This sounds like something my sister would love. I’m sending her a link to your post πŸ™‚ It sounds like you guys had a great time.

    Like

  90. Congratulations on making freshly pressed! Beautiful doggie photos! Check out our Mammoth donkey, mini donkey, horse and dog photos. Fun to share :}

    Like

  91. arunashouse says:

    As I see.. my dog is a lazy guy…!!!

    Awsome… nice writer too.

    Like

  92. Ken says:

    Very nice post about dogsledding. I have Siberians in Vermont and dogsled throughout the winter and fall. You did a very nice job of capturing the experience!

    Like

  93. What an adventure! Thanks for sharing it with others. Congrats on being freshly-pressed!

    Like

  94. hipcoulture says:

    wow. I love this post! I didn’t even know that dog-sledding was a possibility for non-Eskimos! πŸ™‚ I felt like I was watching a movie as I read your post. In love.

    Like

  95. Fototype says:

    Cool post! Thanks for describing your experience in such detail. I have a breed of dog that was apparently used for dog-sledding. He’s a high-energy dog & definitely a puller, so your post reminds me that I should think about signing him up for this sort of thing!

    Like

  96. trialsinfood says:

    what an experience! i can see why you were so excited and had no words!

    Like

  97. Amazing!!!!!!! I totally like the title though… I thought I was one, because actually didnΒ΄t stablish anywhere until a year ago… I was traveling around the world, actually thatΒ΄s what my blog is about. please join me so we can share adventure of nomad people in some ways, hahhaha… cheers!!!!!

    Like

  98. Audrey Cary says:

    This is awesome. I just discovered your blog, and I’m really enjoying it. I’m from Texas but I came to Bush Alaska (Newtok, on the Bering Sea) where I’ve just recently met a few huskies, seen a fox, saw the Northern Lights, saw seal and whale butchering by Eskimos, and all kinds of other cool stuff, but Newtok doesn’t have the land or the dogs for mushing, so this was a really cool read!

    Like

  99. Blue LIne says:

    thats great adventure, i like snow, dogs sleding and i wish to experience one…merry Christmas to you in advance, i will be new blogger to follow your blog

    Like

  100. vincentcorso says:

    Wow, that sounds like quite the adventure. Would love to try it.

    Like

  101. missjlw says:

    I Love this – such an adventure. This is definatly one for my very first bucket list. Would be grateful of any ideas you have that i could add to it – looks like youve done some amazing things πŸ™‚ x

    Like

    • Thanks, Jade! Hmm, other suggestions. My husband and I went kayaking in Kauai (Hawaii) along the Napali Coast, which was amazing. It is like going back in time. This is where part of Jurassic Park was filmed. The whole state of Alaska is worth exploring, especially Denali National Park. I have a special place in my heart for Pictured Rocks National Park in the upper peninsula of Michigan. It’s beautiful. And driving along highway one in California is impressive. I guess I could go on and on put those are a few of my favorites. Thanks for checking out my blog!

      Like

  102. taylorsized says:

    Loved this post! I’m going at the end of January, albeit in Norway and not in alaska, but I cannot WAIT! Your account has made me even more excited! One more thing to cross off on the bucket list for me, too.

    Charlie x

    Like

  103. asad says:

    coold hoffffffffffffffffffffffff
    http://www.omnibazar.com/

    Like

  104. […] Mushing School: A Dog Sledding Adventure […]

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