I think I have a new favourite form of transportation.
Eight dogs running at about 12 mph up and down hills and through the woods and down by the river. It was bliss.
The musher was Mr. Jim Stanford. I think I met him at the Mountain Market. He invited me multiple times to come out sledding with him and finally, in my last week in Haines, I made it.
The night before, I drove out the road to "the Farm" with Marlys, a wonderful coworker and friend.
In Haines, we have "in town" and "out the road" or "up the highway" meaning that someone lives at least some 15 miles from town. Since I don't drive, getting up the highway, for me, is a special treat. If you keep going up the highway far enough, about 40 miles, you reach this place called Canada where they talk reallllll funny.
I got on my warmest layers but, when I got to Jim's after a night at Marlys' home, I learned it would be enough for the -16 C weather we had. He handed me a pair of the legendary "bunny boots" that I had heard much about.
If you look up bunny boots on Wikipedia, they're filed away under "Military Footwear." "Bunny Boots is the widely-used nickname for the Extreme Cold Vapor Barrier Boots (Type II) used by the United States armed forces." They're giant and effective.
He also handed me a down coat and giant mittens that got him through the The Yukon Quest 1,000-mile International Sled Dog Race, if I remember correct - at least below 40 weather.
When we got outside, it was easy to see how eager the dogs were. They howled away with anticipation and I got giddy with their excitement. He put them in a truck - each with their own box with a hole to stick their heads out of. As we drove down the road, their yowling and barking continued. They knew exactly what was coming and were just as stoked as I was.
Bliss. It was bliss.
I'm not sure that there's a finer way to travel. For miles and miles we traveled in the magnificent splendor that is Alaska. We sailed between the pristine perfection collection of trees, coated with snow, and then down by the Kelsall River.
He checked frequently to make sure I was warm enough because there was no warming up after a chill came. Eventually, I did get cold, but it wasn't worth thinking about because, for me, this seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity (until I come back to Alaska in the winter...).
Jim made for delightful travel company. The conversation was refreshing, but he also allowed long lengths of time of silence for me to just attempt to take it all in.
I began to feel oh-so-settled in Alaska and drawn to its raw, unadulterated healing beauty.
How will I ever leave?
OH YEAH! And these dogs can POOP while they run! Imagine POOPING at negative degree temperatures while sprinting and pulling over 300 lbs worth of weight?!