You can hear the sled dogs barking before you reach the kennel. The sled dogs run circles frantically around their dog houses; some bark, while others wait patiently with eager anticipation.
“Pick me! Pick me!” the sled dogs say with their piercing blue eyes, bushy wagging tails and excited sled dog howls.
Once the sled dog selection process has been made, the sled dogs of Chena Hot Springs kennel are clipped into their harnesses and ready to go to work.
Typically, Iditarod sled dogs are not the furry white pure bred Siberian huskies that Disney has marketed to us in movies. In fact, the best athletic sled dog is a mixed bag of energy and stamina, has a thick fur coat and a desire to race.
While the sled dog ride at Chena Hot Springs Resort is only 15-20 minutes in total ($60), the excitement and energy from the sled dogs is contagious as soon as we slide into the sled. The Chena Hot Springs sled holds four people and a sled dog musher. Once the sled dog musher gives the command, the sled dogs are off and running. Our ride is a scenic loop around the property, crossing alongside a beaver den.
There are many places to go for sled dog rides in Alaska.
Iditarod Sled Dog Racer Dallas Seavey and the Seavey family run Ididaride Sled Dog Tours in Seward.
Four-time Iditarod Champion Jeff King offers a chance to hold sled dog puppies during a Husky Homestead Tour at his Goose Lake Kennel in Denali Park.
In Fairbanks, the Riverboat Discovery stops at Trailbreaker Kennels, home to Dave Monson and the late four-time Iditarod Sled Dog Champion Susan Butcher.
If you have a chance to take a sled dog ride in Alaska, make sure you read “How to Pack for an Alaska Winter Vacation.” On my March 2010 visit to the Chena Hot Springs Resort, it was 20 degrees below zero. If I hadn’t been wearing an Apocalypse Design Parka, Icebreaker murino wool socks or Steger mitts and mukluks, I wouldn’t have been dressed properly for the cold weather conditions.
Have you been on a sled dog ride? What are your favorite things to do in Fairbanks, Alaska?
YouTube video and Chena dog sled photo by Nancy D. Brown