Going to the Dogs in Anchorage

We just spent a week in and around the Anchorage area as part of our Alaska summer fun. There’s a lot to do here! Besides haircuts for all of us, several trips to Costco, and some down time, we had some big fun.

We spent one weekend camping at the Alaska Raceway Park in Palmer. The racetrack is part of the Harvest Host program which allowed us to camp right in the pits so we could enjoy a full weekend of racing.

With our trackside campsite we were able to watch the cars line up to enter the oval, freely walk through the pits, and make friends along the way. On Sunday we watched the drag races from all angles. This was a unique experience — another great Harvest Host stay in a beautiful setting.

Nearby is a MuskOx Farm, a non-profit that is dedicated to the domestication of these arctic creatures and the production of qiviut, the extra warm, luxury wool that comes from the muskox. We enjoyed our tour where we met the muskox and learned about their lives. They’re cute, huh?

In Anchorage we biked the coastal trail, took in the scenery, and picked up our dear friend Sam up at the airport. Sam will be with us for the next six weeks as we explore Alaska’s coastal and mountain areas. 

The big excursion this week, however, was our glacier dog-sledding adventure outside of Girdwood. We boarded a four-seat helicopter and took a short but scenic flight to the Punchbowl Glacier.

Once we landed, we were introduced to Mitch Seavey’s kennel of champion sled dogs. The Seavey name is synonymous with the Iditarod, having won the legendary race numerous times. 

We learned about the race and the grueling conditions dogs and drivers endure to reach the finish line. In fact, one of the guides at Dog Camp raced this year but broke his ankle with just three days to go. He had some great stories about life on the trail!

Once our team of eight dogs were hooked up to the sled, we were off! The dogs were smaller than we expected at about 40-50 pounds each. It was incredible how much power these small but mighty animals could generate. We traveled at about eight miles per hour, which is about how fast the racers go as well. 

Sledding around on a massive glacier, well removed from civilization, with only dogs and their handlers to guide us, was a surreal experience. Occasionally we’d stop along the way and take in the views. We had a beautifully warm day with crystal clear skies, which just made the day even more special.

We finished our time at Dog Camp with the puppies! Three future sled dogs enthusiastically greeted us and were ready to play (and chew on whatever they could find!) We wondered if a puppy was included in our fare, but unfortunately they had to stay atop the glacier.

Before we knew it the helicopter returned, and it was time to fly back down the glacier to the Girdwood airport. Again, the scenic beauty was overwhelming. Needless to say we’d highly recommend this unique adventure.

Steve continues to snap shots of the beautiful flowers that have sprouted up everywhere in the past few weeks. Summer is certainly here, as evidenced by the very long daylight hours. With over 19 hours of light, and unseasonable warm days, everything is growing like crazy.

Another reason we were in Anchorage at this time was for Steve to rack up another marathon in another state. He completed the Anchorage Mayor’s Marathon in just over four hours and placed second in his age group. This race in Alaska is his 26th state in his quest to hit all 50. 

We finished our time in Anchorage with a wonderful dinner at the home of our friends TJ and Jon. It had been a few years since I’d seen them, and it was great to catch up! Thanks TJ and Jon (and Jon’s Mom Peggy) for an incredible evening!

As always, we are grateful for the opportunity to travel to these special places with special people and we love sharing it with you! Your comments are much appreciated.

Birdseye View of Wrangell-St. Elias

In our last post we reported on our hike on the Root Glacier. It was incredible to say the least. However, we seem to have topped it with a flightseeing excursion with Wrangell Mountain Air. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is a completely different world from the air.

We joined our pilot Oren in the little three seater plane for a fifty minute flight over the snow covered peaks surrounding McCarthy.

We flew over braided rivers like the Nizina and glaciers including the Regal, Kennicott, and Nizina. There are an estimated 150 glaciers throughout the Wrangells. One of them, Malaspina, is larger than Rhode Island.

With the massive Root Glacier’s Stairway Icefall as our finale, we were blown away by the vastness, the ruggedness, and the absolute beauty all around us. The photos don’t even come close to describing the incredible Wrangell Mountains.

The perspective you get from the air illustrates just how small we really are in a  landscape like this. Just Wow!

We were sad to leave the Wrangells, especially after a tour like this. However, there’s much more to Alaska and we plan to see as much as possible. Stay tuned for more adventures soon!

Hiking the Root Glacier

Hiking on a glacier is a once in a lifetime experience. The Root Glacier is as good as it gets. In all honesty, however, the Root was not our first. We ice trekked on Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina and have hiked up to the Mer de Glace in the French Alps. Still, we’d never experienced as much time and covered as much ground as we did on the incredible Root Glacier.

We joined our guided hike with Kennecott Wilderness Guides in the historic mining town of Kennecott. After being fitted for crampons we hiked through the ruins of the mine and onto the two mile trail that led to the tongue of the glacier.

Along the way we crossed rushing streams and had expansive views across the moraines.

Once we reached the glacier we put on our crampons and began our walk out onto the ice. I was a bit worried about the ice breaking apart but we were assured that the ice was solid, up to 600 feet deep.

We spent several hours walking on solid ice and learning about glacier features like mulans, ice falls, and crevasses. We got pretty good at traversing the glacier with the help of crampons, those sharp spikes that strapped to the bottom of our boots.

In all we covered about seven miles with about half of that using the crampons. We would have never seen or learned as much without the help of our guide, and the pictures don’t really capture the vastness or the incredible beauty found when standing in the middle of a glacier. While it was a cold and rainy day, we were prepared with warm clothes and rain gear. The cloudy conditions were actually welcomed as the blue hues of the ice were more vibrant without the glaring sun.

People say this is a highlight of an Alaskan vacation. We still have a lot of territory to cover but it’s going to be tough to top this one.