Glaciers and Huskies

I was able to mush huskies yesterday; here are the photos. The team was up on a glacier near Skagway, Alaska, a main stop for cruise ships on the Inside Passage. A tiny town with lots of specific tourist services and the point from which activities end and start, including inland flights and passages.

Our trip started with a helicopter ride from near the dock across some glacier fields with expert narration. The wind was high, and the pilot noted that Skagway means something like North Wind, and that we shouldn't worry: the fierce wind yesterday was just a normal day for them. (He was a Vietnam-era pilot, so had no worries about a mere wind.)

The glacier tour wasn't long but was fascinating. The intensity of color of glacial ice is otherworldly, and the color of the snow and ice has specific meaning: recent avalanche, new fallen, compression in progress, etc. The pilot said 150 feet of snow turn into a single foot of glacial ice.

We flew up and landed on a glaciar with a large snow base on top -- a snow bridge, they kept calling it, as it bridged any small crevasses well enough in the main camp. We were introduced to a musher, who showed us his dogs and talked about how they're raised and trained. The very nice kid we got was 17, just graduated from high school, originally from Iowa! His father is a bush veterinarian, and the dogs he uses for his sled are rescued animals that he retrains.

The dogs were all incredibly sweet. The mushers said that they raise them to be social and welcoming, and they use only praise for reward, not food. The dogs are fed on a regular basis, but are praised all the time.

Pete took me out with a couple from Manhattan who had a great time as well. We went on a small track that they carefully check constantly for crevasses. The dogs are quite amazing. They learn to poop on the run to avoid slowing down during races. Pete ran his team on the Junior Iditarod last year.

They had about 200 dogs overall in the camp. One of the people harnessing dogs for Pete was from Arizona: she'd arrived a week before with no dog (or maybe even glacier) experience as a summer job! But she had a real fondness for dogs.

After the run, we were encouraged to thank the dogs, so I got to scratch the ears of a dozen or so happy animals. Only one was a little shy; that's a trait that it looks like they breed out of those dogs or train out of them.

Here are reports from the conference and cruise from David Pogue and Doc Searls.