Our first experience with Alaska Culture was on the final approach to the Alaska boarder. We met people from the sled dog community, when I got the moving truck stuck on in the rest area sheet of ice. Two Dog mushers came to the rescue .
They were the dog team handlers for Iditarod musher Trent Herbst. The names of the handlers were Josh and Greg. The team had stopped in the same rest area to feed and exercise the dogs. The girls and I learned the team was traveling the highway from Idaho to participate in the Iditarod sled dog race. They explained this particular husky breed was known for running for long distances. They ran the dogs for training an average run of 50 to 60 miles a day to prepare to for the race. The closer we came to Fairbanks the more dog teams we noticed pulled over by the side of the road. Our arrival in Fairbanks coincided with the Iditarod Sled dog Race.
Alaska State is the starting point for two famous sled dog races, the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod. The Iditarod sled dog race was started in the early 1970 to preserve the sled dog culture and honor how sled dogs played in the development of the Alaska interior. Part of the race still runs along a original sled dog delivery routes. This race now is recognized by the internationally and a favorite tourist stop during the winter months.
Upon further research on Trent Herb-st web sight I learned that he is also an educator. He first became interested in Sled Dogs while teaching in Switzerland. His students wanted to learn more about Sled Dogs and the Idtiterrod race. In order to learn more about dog mushing he and his family moved to Michigan. While living in Michigan he started learning about, practicing and embracing the musher life while teaching in the local schools.
He now brings the subject into the classroom. He has his students build sleds and snow shoes with different materials. The students learn math, engineering concepts, and applied science concepts while participating in the construction of the different items. Currently he is a 4th grade teacher in Idaho.
Do to global climate change conditions and the little snow accumulations in the Anchorage area this years race started in Fairbanks. Needless to say my new co workers were very excited for the race… However my late arrival from this trip and the time girls missed we opted out of the race festivities.
Our next interaction with the sled dog community was with an organization called Noble Paws. There was a fly-er posted at work for an event held at mushers hall offering free sled dog rides. The purpose of the the day was about educating the community on this new non profit. The sun was out and the temperature was in the negative numbers. The snow crunched beneath our feet as we exited our car. We entered the hall to have the girls sign the wavier forms to have this unique experience. The excitement of individuals waiting was palatable. We had a chance to walk around and interact with some of the dogs in training.
What I learned was they are a non profit that exclusively seeks to help people with disabilities learn to run there own sled dog teams. The owner explains that this was a labor of love started with in the last two years.
The Goal Statement Reads
To help people experiencing disabilities discover new forms of mobility and independence, while engaging with the natural world, through the use of a team of sled dogs.
The organization goes through a great deal of time and fundraising efforts to custom design and purchase adaptive equipment. The dogs are leased for Trail Breaker kennel. This resulting efforts gives individuals with certain disability a freedom to connect to the natural world for the first time and on a more frequent basis.. As part of active fundraising efforts they offer private sled dog lessons during the winter months.