Alaska is somewhere that I’ve always wanted to visit but was sort of saving for when I’m older. It’s certainly not your typical backpacker destination as most visitors arrive by cruise ship. For this reason, it tends to draw a more senior crowd and I was perfectly content to wait for my golden years. But, when my parents suggested Alaska for a family vacation I was more than happy to oblige. After all, who knows how many of its glaciers will still be there in thirty or forty years? The sad truth is that the time to see Alaska could be right now.
Our first stop of the cruise was the capital city of Juneau. The town is on the small side and while it has its charm, I was more intrigued by the more extreme sights. So we promptly ditched the shopping scene for glacier boots and loaded into a helicopter. That’s right you heard me. My first ever helicopter ride took me 3000 ft above sea level to land on the expansive Mendenhall Glacier.
The helicopter ride could have easily been enough excitement in itself but it was actually just a means to an end. We landed at the only remaining dog camp in Alaska where 250-300 sled dogs are trained for racing. We were divided into small groups where we were allowed to take turns mushing our own sled as we raced across the snowy trails. How cool is that?
All of the dogs are Alaskian huskies and purposely bred for racing. Our dogs were very energetic and friendly but the cutest moment of all came at the end when we got to meet the camp’s current litter of puppies all named after metal bands. I got in some snuggles with the adorable Motorhead and promptly started negotiating how I could take him home with me. Apparently they are not for sale.
The dog trainers spend four months from May to September living up on the glacier in several not-so-insulated tents with no running water. They return to Juneau once a week to shower and do laundry. They do have a gourmet chef at camp, which definitely enhances the experience but even still, I don’t think I could spend more than one night up there. It may be beautiful but even in summer, it’s too cold for this sun worshipper.
After returning to Juneau once again by helicopter we all agreed that our first Alaskan adventure had been one for the books. It’s going to be hard to top but I’m always up for the challenge.