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Aurora Borealis

“An outstanding establishment.”
—James, Virginia Beach VA

Mary's Stories

Dog Mushing
Published April 2009 in the Fairbanks Daily News Miner.

With the exception of the uncharacteristic wind, Ice Festival was perfect this year. My guests were awed and inspired by the beauty of the ice and the monumental efforts of those who make the festival happened. Good job everyone.

Walt and Jan stayed at the Inn during Ice Festival last year and were back again this year for a repeat performance. They are very nice people and have interesting stories to share. Walt teaches archeology in Pennsylvania has been involved in digs all over the world.

His wife Jan is an Olympic Skating coach. Last year they taught an all day skating class at the Big Dipper. For her second trip to Fairbanks Jan again brought her skates. This time she told me how much she enjoyed doing a few turns on the ice in front of Sampson’s Hardware. They had watched the rink being built on the News Miner’s web cam. She thought the sponsor names carved in ice was a nice touch.

Back home in Bethlehem, Walt and Jan own a skating school and just love everything to do with traditional Alaska winter activities like dog mushing and ice carving. Ice Festival in Fairbanks certainly matches their interest. In fact, they know more about many of our local activities than I do and are actually a wonderful source of entertainment for my other guests.

This year their travel agent booked another set of guests with us for the same period, Marilyn (the mom) and her son Jason and his wife Melissa. They too were extremely nice folks. The five of them were booked on an overnight winter camping trip and sled dog trek with Leslie from Paw for Adventure.

For those of you who may not be familiar with Leslie, she offers a variety of dog sled adventures that include anything from a thirty minute ride, a Mushing 101 class, night aurora viewing from a dog sled and overnight camping-mushing trips. My guests just rave about Leslie, her dogs, her helpers, and her adventures. After a half day dog mushing lesson they were all considered ready to drive a team, all except maybe Marilyn.

When asked, Walt and Jan said their favorite part of the dog sled trip was the quiet, the scenery along the trail and the wilderness. They, compared to others, took to the experience like the amateur dog mushing pros they are. For the past two years they actually won the bid to ride with Lance Mackey and his dog team at the opening of the Iditarod. This year they rode with Harry Alexie and had another great experience. Because of their involvement with the Iditarod, they have ridden, mushed, and worked with some of the best drivers and dog teams in the business.

Marilyn, Jason, and Melissa on the other hand were fun to be with, had a great sense of adventure but no experience. As Floridians, snow and cold were definitely new for them. None the less, their lack of hands-on did not deter them from they desire to run with the dogs. Marilyn said she had worked with a personal trainer every day for six weeks prior to coming to Alaska so she would be in good physical shape.

During their initial mushing lesson, Leslie’s instructions were that if they fell off the sled to hold on and stand up. Marilyn’s eyebrows rose almost to her hair line as she told me it was pretty darn hard to stand up when you are on your belly with four dogs dragging you down the trail. She said her personal trainer in Florida had not covered dragging in her exercise program. She was, however, a good student and followed directions by refusing to let go of the sled even though she frequently found herself on the ground. The idea of being left behind was apparently scarier than belly and toe skidding.

Melissa and Marilyn agreed with Walt and Jan that the trail was beautiful and quiet with the exception of Jason’s continuous calling to them to keep up, go this way, put on the brake, and stand up, stand up!

One morning at breakfast, the girls asked Walt and Jan two frequently asked dog and human comfort questions. “What do I do if the dogs need to go potty?” “What do I do if I need to go potty?” Walt and Jan’s explanation was that some dogs are streamers, some are hoppers, and some are stoppers. When in harness and moving some dogs just keep going, some dogs just hop and keep going, and some dogs must stop.

After putting off the misery as long as possible, Melissa had to stop for a potty break. She made Marilyn go into the woods with her. No one told them during their lessons to take a shovel and dig a hole. Melissa realized only too late that her checks were in the snow and she could not stand up. So the stopper became a hopper. She figured out the only way to stand up was to fall forward and have Marilyn help her hop away. Marilyn was afraid she was going to become a streamer from laughing so hard at Melissa.

Needless to say, a good time was had by all and I fully expect to see them again at All Seasons next year. It seems that most people who go on dog mushing adventures have dogs at home. So, perhaps a thanks and a treat for the dogs is in order.

Doggie Treats

  • 3.5 cups whole wheat flour
  • .50 cups powered milk
  • 2 teaspoons Cod Liver Oil
  • 1.5 cups beef or chicken bouillon or meat water
  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • .50 cups soft bacon grease
  • 2 eggs

Combine all ingredients into a sticky dough. Drop by the tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Cool on rack and store in plastic bags. Makes about 36 medium or 60 small doggie cookies.

TIP: This recipe can be cut with bone or fire hydrant shaped cookie cutters if you roll the dough onto a floured surface and gradually kneed the dough while adding a little flour until the dough is not longer sticky. Roll the dough about half inch thick and cut into shapes. The treats make a great gift for your doggie friends or your friends with dogs.

763 7th Avenue,
Fairbanks, Alaska 99701

(907) 451-6649
Toll Free 1-888-451-6649
Fax (907) 474-8448
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