On July 4, 2009, I had the privilege of traveling with my family to Alaska. My Alaskan adventure consisted of travelling across the country from Massachusetts to Vancouver, B.C and boarding the Princess Diamond Cruise ship for a seven day cruise visiting such ports as Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and College Fjord. I then had a four day land excursion to explore the truly magnificent, truly wild, Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley, the tallest mountain in North America with an elevation of 20,320 feet. If you just do the cruise and do not continue on and visit Denali National Park you are missing out on one of the most amazing places in America!
Words cannot adequately express the true beauty and majestic nature of Alaska. Each port I visited, offered me something beautiful, something amazing and something unique to experience. My whole trip to Alaska was amazing however, if I had to pick the top two experiences, they would have to be visiting Denali National Park and the Tundra Wilderness Tour as number two and Dog Mushing/Sledding in Juneau as number one.
The state sport of Alaska is dog mushing. In Juneau, I went dog sledding on the Norris Glacier! Typically, the weather in Juneau in July is in the 60°’s. On the day I was there, the temperature was in the 90°’s. I took a van to the helicopter pad. From there I had to put on glacier boots and a life jacket. I was then strapped into the back seat of a helicopter on the way to the glaciers and the front seat on the way back from the glaciers. It was absolutely amazing to fly over the glaciers and to see mountains and glaciers so close you could almost touch them. I felt so small and insignificant amongst these huge natural formations. I learned the blue coloring of the glaciers is because glaciers absorb every color of the spectrum except blue. Being able to see the glaciers from a bird’s eye view was stunning but it didn’t compare to the moment the helicopter touched down on the Norris glacier.
As soon as I got off the helicopter, I felt like I was in winter without the cold. When I landed on the Norris glacier, the temperature was 70°. There were massive amounts of snow as far as your eyes could see. I was told the snow was miles deep. After admiring all the snow, it was the dogs that got my attention. I heard them before I even saw them! They were barking excitedly. The smallness of the dogs took me by surprise. Hollywood always shows big husky type dogs when in reality; the best dogs for dog sledding are mutts who average between 35-45 pounds. I was quick to discover their small size was deceptive as these dogs were strong and very, very fast. I had thought these dogs would need a bribe to pull a sled but in truth, these dogs are born, bred and trained to run. I learned firsthand that the hardest part about dog sledding is getting the dogs to stop. Part of the excursion allowed me to control a dog sled team for a two mile run and then get them to stop. Holding on to the railings, maintaining your balance and then putting on the brake is an art in and of itself. Dog sledding on a glacier in Alaska, in July, was one of the most amazing things that I have ever done and I don’t think that I will ever forget it.
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