My Day with a Musher

“Glacier Gee!” the musher called to the lead dog, a compact Alaskan Husky at the head of the lead line on my dog sled. Yes, finally, I got to stand on the runners of a dog sled, behind a team of yelping, jumping, excited dogs, poised to lean into their harnesses and take me for a thrilling ride. It’s been on my bucket list for years, and I had hoped to fulfill that dream on my birthday, earlier this month, but I was very sick with a cold, and the weather was terrible for traveling. It looked like I was going to have to put my dream ride off for another year. But then, at Ski for Light, held in Colorado this year,

www.sfl.org

dog-sled-riding was offered as an extra activity, (not part of the SFL event), but for the price of $35, we could stand behind the musher, on the rails, or sit in the basket of a dog sled, and ride for 10 minutes. 10 minutes doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you’re standing on the rails, clinging to the bar in front of you for fear of getting thrown off the sled, it’s enough. As we prepared to line up for the ride, I kept being asked if I wanted to sit or stand. I guess they ddoubted my ability, given my age. But I kept insisting that I have wanted to stand for years. I wanted the feel of the motion of the sled, to feel the strength and the pull of the dogs ahead of me. My musher’s name was Tim, and I told him I was totally blind, so I would appreciate any verbal description he had time to tell me. He warned me, as he did every participant, that once the brake was released, we would start off with a jerk, and we were to “hold on tight.” It was just as he said. One minute, we were standing calmly, but in anticipation, and the next, we were off with a jerk and gliding down the trail. I must admit that I squealed like a teenager on an amusement ride, but I quickly composed myself for the trip through the woods. Only it wasn’t exactly a smooth glide. The sled jerked from side to side, and when we took curbes, we leaned over, so it seemed that the sled would tip over, but it didn’t. Because our sled was a bit heavy, with me standing behind the musher, and another woman sitting in the basket, when we would go uphill, Tim would hop off and run with the dogs. I had read about this practice in books about the Iditarod. In fact, reading these books, and witnessing the ceremonial start of the Iditarod in Anchorage one year at SFL, had whetted my appetite for experiencing a taste of it myself. As I clutched that bar in front of me for dear life, as we jerkily swayed from side to side, I got that taste I had been longing for, and it was awesome! It was one of the highlights of my week at SFL. What made this experience complete was the opportunity to pet some of these sweet and endearing dogs. I didn’t get to pet Glacier, but I did get to say hello to Rickie, Rosie, and Nancy, aftger they had made our run. . As a dog-lover, who missed her dear Dora, it was just what I needed to keep the Rocky Mountain SFL high.

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