After planning a week in advance with two of my coworkers, we decided to take this hour-long dog sled adventure over at Cotter’s Sled Dog Rides and Tours. They are located in Nenana Alaska which is about an hour drive from Fairbanks. The roads have been nice and clear since the weather has been warming up. It is still amazing to think that 10 degrees Fahrenheit feels almost warm vs the temperatures I experienced here about 5 weeks ago.
We arrived at Cotter’s over 30 minutes early, ensuring we were going to be early. With this tour company, they request you to be at least 15 minutes early to prepare for the tour. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the sound of the sled dogs barking. It’s awesome to see them all excited.
We met the owner Bill Cotter, who has devoted his life to mushing and dog sled racing. In 1987 he became the Yukon Quest Champion and in 1995 he came in third in the Iditarod. He has entered and finished 25 races (each being 1,000 miles in distance). Simply incredible.
Once the dogs were harnessed and a quick intro was given to me by Bill on applying brakes on the cargo bed sled (so I don’t run into him), we were off on the trail. Here is a link to dog sled terminology.
So what does the pulling force of 9 sled dogs feel like? Pretty amazing – honestly quicker than I was expecting. The sled easily glided along the trail with ease. The wind was pretty cold, so the gear I had on did well minus a lack of a face covering (not smart). The Tour did provide some beaver mitts (a first for me) and they were very warm.
As we were moving along the trail I couldn’t help but smile as this landscape was so beautiful. All I heard was the sound of the sled against the snow and occasionally the dogs communicating. The view from the very end of the convoy was limited until we were taking a bend in the trail.
A Moose Encounter
As I was enjoying the scenery and watching Mr Cotter’s foot work in when I should also be applying the brake, I heard the dogs barking wildly. I tried to look as far ahead as I could to see what they were going on about: they were barking at two moose crossing the trail. One was a calf about two years old and behind was the momma moose. I barely was able to see the momma moose but never did see the calf. The calf was probably around 1000 lbs and the momma moose was at least 1700 lbs. Luckily we didn’t cause a defensive panic and they ran off into the woods.
This was certainly the most excitement that was unexpected on the Tour, adding to the already awesome adventure.