Friday, December 16, 2016

Day Two: Am I Ready for the Iditarod Yet?

Moose Count: 9
Caribou Count: 20

Today was a great day. Because half of the people who elected to go dog mushing had to be at Healy at noon (or around that time). Surprise: I was in this group (which really shouldn't surprise anyone). After having breakfast at our hotel in Wasilla, we turned north toward Denali at about 8am. Because it's winter, the sun doesn't come up until around 10am, so we drove in the dark for quite some time. Last night, it started snowing and when we walked out to the cars, it still hadn't stopped. This made for some interesting road conditions; they weren't particularly bad but the semi trucks heading south really added some fun to the visibility. 

I had the shotgun seat, so it was my job to keep a watch out for moose near the roadway. Along the way, we saw 6 moose, including a mom and her calf. We also wanted to keep watch for other assorted wildlife, like caribou and bald eagles. As luck would have it, any time the cars even started to slow, the moose would run away. 

I feel a bit like a Yeti hunter posting a picture like this but like I said, the moose was running away. One thing that was easy to take pictures of were the mountains and neat patterns of snow on the road. 

 Our trip stopped for a break in Kantwell and we managed to have some fun in the snow that is too dry for snowballs and snowmen but is perfect for snow angels.

After a quick stop, we made our way into Denali National Park. Breathtaking views, some sunshine, and dog sledding were on the docket. 

The rest of this trip has a lot to live up to after my dog mushing expedition. The dogs are just great, and I loved learning about everything that goes into keeping up with a team of working dogs. Fun fact for the day: a husky will never get cold, as long as you feed him/her enough food. The guide at this kennel does three day expeditions in extremely cold conditions; the dogs get several pounds of pure lard every day. They aren't able to metabolize glucose fast enough to stay warm, so fat is a must. I guess you could say that being able to tie what I know about biochemistry to my trip is a plus. 

The guides made sure that we were warm enough on the sleds, obviously. It isn't that cold out up here, but it does get a bit breezy on the trails, and I'm a Florida born and bred kind of person, so having some extra gear was helpful. I didn't even need my parka in the sled with me. Right as we were heading out, we hit a bump on an uneven part of the road and I ended up outside the sled, but I didn't get hurt so that's fun!

I also got to drive today which was the most incredible experience, and was above and beyond anything I could have wished for. 
After our (15.8 mile) trip, we also got to pet some of the newest additions to the kennel. The pup I'm hanging out with is Ganymede; he was the runt of the litter so they named him after Jupiter's largest moon. What better way to end the day than puppy kisses? This made me miss my own puppy so very much. 

I could not have asked for a better first full day in Alaska, now we just need to see some auroras! We have one more full day in Denali, then we move on to Fairbanks.  

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