Thursday, May 31, 2007

Juneau the capitol of Alaska?

Let's just say this was an amazing day.


Disembarked and went to our Juneau hotel (where the cruise line had booked us all) right across the street. 

At 10:00, we were picked up by a van to take us to the dog-sled thing, which they were able to reschedule us for. 

Van takes us to a helicopter place.  We're outfitted with safety jackets (not "under our seats" like on most planes, but actually on our persons) and given rubber snow booties to wear over our shoes.  Then (after publicly telling them exactly how much we weigh) seated in a helicopter.

I've never been in a helicopter.  There were six of us wedged into this thing, all wearing our life jackets and listening to the pilot through them headset things.  Five different helicopters alight and, in more or less of a line, just head on out over the Juneau ice fields.  Glaciers all over the place.  Impressive.  I was seated in the center of the back, though, so didn't get many pictures.  (We were to be rotated into the front seat on the way back, so I'd get the pics then.) 

We eventually circle around -- and land at -- a dog sled camp.  There will, of course, be photos.  In words, this is what a dog sled camp looks like:  a few tents, and maybe sixty little dog-sized plastic shelters, all in rows.  And, of course, some dog sleds.

Our group of six (from the 'copter) is further broken down into groups of three -- which is convenient as me and my parents are, y'know, three people. 

The three of us our handed over to Alex.  Alex has a team of dogs all lined up and attached to a dog sled.  The sled has one seat (like, a piece of tarp slung in a seat like a beach chair) and a place for the driver to stand (on the sled runners) in back.  Said sled is attached by a rope to another, similarly constructed, sled.  Alex plants himself on the runners (i.e. the driver's position) on the first sled.  The three of us will rotate in the other three positions.  I start with the best view -- seated in Alex's sled.  My mom is driving the back sled (the driver back there has to just hold on) and step on a brake when Alex gives the sign.  Alex starts up the dogs (saying "All right," rather than "mush!") and the dogs are off.  We're driving through pristine snow on a freakin' glacier.  With actual professional huskies pulling the sled.  (Many of them have already run the Iditarod; others are in training.  We're told that during the winter the dogs do "endurance training."  During the summer, they pull four passengers for short distances as "strength training.")  It's a pretty awesome experience.  Many photographs to come.  (Dogs, glaciers, views from the seat...)

We swapped positions twice, so I was able to drive the rear sled once, and then sit in the seat of the second sled.  I've gotta admit, the very first segment (where I was riding in the front sled) was the bestest.  Largely because none of the dogs had taken "comfort breaks" in the snow yet, so I was riding through clean white snow, rather than, uh, yellow or brown snow.  (We're told that the dudes at the camp will actually clean this up later, as they don't leave any waste on the glacier.  It is taken off by helicopter, but not in the helicopter.  If you ever see a helicopter flying around Juneau carrying a large bag beneath it, give it a wide berth.)

After the helicopter ride back (pictures this time) and a very quick snack, we were off again.  Day not over yet.  Not hardly.

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