alaska: dog sledding

“Something else I’ve always wondered,” Kate pursued, “why is it that when Rick Swenson mushes into a blizzard to win the Iditarod he’s fearless and heroic, but when Libby Riddles does the same thing she’s reckless and foolhardy?” – Dana Stabenow, A Cold-Blooded Business

The one thing Trav wanted to do on our trip – besides see the Storm play in Seattle, which we did, but it was also the one place I couldn’t take a camera, so please just imagine the majesty of a Intentionally Missed Free Throw Clock Malfunction Game End – was pet sled dogs. So our Skagway excursion was with, well, sled dogs.

“You make up your mind to run in the Beargrease next month?” Mandy shook her head. “I’m saving them up for the Iditarod in March.” Kate grinned. “Butcher’s going to love to hear that.” Mandy grinned back. “Ah, she’s not greedy, she’s won four times. She’ll figure it’s my turn. Swensen might be a little annoyed, though. You know how he feels about women mushers.” – Dana Stabenow, A Cold Day for Murder

It was just chance, though, that the excursion I picked was the one to the Sled Dog Summer Camp, as one of our guides called it, that was the one affiliated with Ryan Redington and Matt Rossi – two great mushers whose names I already knew. Ryan, of course, is the grandson of Joe Redington, the man who started the Iditarod, and has run the Iditarod 13 times himself.

I was obsessed with Alaska long before I was obsessed with mushing, but both those obsessions were well fed on this trip.

Because I am also a member of #uglydogs, so Ryan Redington is also the guy from whom Blair Braverman bought Jenga, beloved retired grand dame of Blair’s team and Internet favorite. And I got to meet and pet some of Jenga’s siblings! And nieces! And talk nerdy mushing talk with people who cared about nerdy mushing talk! (I also got to meet Libby Riddles on the boat, and I did not explode into a million pieces. She was absolutely lovely.)

The very distinguished lady above is Checkers! I don’t have good pictures of Battleship, much to my dismay, and I didn’t even get to meet Blowhole, though he was also at camp. No brake lines were eaten that I saw. And below is my very good looking husband, petting both Checkers and Vera, one of Checkers’ daughters. Vera would climb on you for pets if you stopped and I tried to put her in my backpack and steal her.

And Trav got to hold puppies, and it was good.

#uglydogs, if you haven’t read Dana Stabenow’s Kate Shugak novels, and you dig mysteries, I recommend them. They’re set in the Alaska Bush, and Kate is a fabulous protagonist. One of Kate’s fictional BFF’s is Mandy Baker, the 4th woman to win the Iditarod and the 3rd to win the Yukon Quest, and especially in the early books there is, as evidenced above, some good mushing talk. (The early books also date to the 80s and thus are … as you might expect books of that era, as good a writer as Stabenow is.) Mandy appears less as the series goes on, but I’m still holding out for Dana to write a book about Mandy’s early years in Alaska and her first Iditarod win.

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