When I was told by my parents that our family was taking a trip to Alaska that summer, I immediately pictured a cold and harsh wasteland, where we would be squinting through face masks and scarves in a vain attempt to see wildlife. Never did I think my experience there would be so incredible.
One of the clearest memories about that trip is, unbelievably, a ride in a golf cart in Seward, Alaska. Since my family and I went to Alaska in the summer, the twenty-four hour sunlight had melted most of the snow on the ground. However, snow or no snow, Iditarod sled drivers train their dogs all year round to be able to run the 1,150 mile race, which often consists of difficult and dangerous terrain. Mitch Seavey, winner of the 2004 Iditarod and 10th place finisher in last year’s Iditarod, utilizes tourism to his advantage and helps train his dogs by allowing people like us to ride in one of his golf carts while his Alaskan huskies pull. When the cart we were riding in pulled up to where the dogs lived, the dogs started to leap and bark in a frenzy, each demanding a turn to pull. The caretakers selected a choice few, and attached them to the cart, with the ones left behind howling woefully. I couldn’t see how a bunch of relatively small dogs (plus a family pet rottweiler mix that felt left out and wanted to join the other dogs in practice) could pull such a large golf cart with all those people in it. My skepticism quickly vanished when the dogs were released and the cart lurched foreword. To help train the huskies, an added impediment made the cart more difficult to pull: the brake. The musher, or sled driver, kept his foot on the brake so the dogs would literally have to drag the cart through gravel. For these powerful animals, however, it seemed like they were pulling nothing but air as they whipped around turns and up and down hills, quiet except for the musher’s occasional command. I was so overjoyed during the ride that I actually forgot about the hoards of mosquitoes that had been ever present during the trip. We stopped halfway through the trail to give the dogs a rest. They immediately plopped down on the ground, let their long tongues hang, and begged to be pet. We happily obliged.
When my family and I arrived back at Mitch Seavy’s place, I was sad that the trip had ended. The sled dogs were shuttled back to their posts, and we had to leave for the hotel with only pictures and memories to take back with us.
With traveling, one can experience new terrain and environments that you cannot in a book or your own backyard. My trip wasn’t perfect; we had expected to see the aurora borealis, but we learned that Alaska has twenty-four hour sunlight in July, and the aurora is hidden in daylight. Also, we had no idea about the mosquitoes, how many there were, or the multitude of birds and other creatures that migrate to Alaska just to eat them. But, we came away with new knowledge and had a great time anyway. I believe to truly experience the world, one must do so by traveling.
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