Mendenhall glacier in Juneau is a major tourist attraction that sees all kinds of cruise ship passengers and travelers alike during the busy summer months. What many don’t realize however, is that on top of the glacier is where the real fun lies.
Having learned about the famous Alaskan Iditarod races like many American school aged children, the idea of getting behind the reigns with a dozen or so pure bred huskies leading the way became a wistful dream. It doesn’t help that I love anything and everything to do with dogs of any kind. Is there such thing as a the dog equivalent of a “crazy cat lady”?
If you haven’t figured by now, upon learning we were headed to Alaska, dogsledding was the one ultimate excursion I wanted to take. When we found out that we could do it on top of glacier- well, that was just the icing on the cake.
After an unsuccessful attempt to make the trip while in Juneau (the dogs don’t run when it rains, FYI) we had to get creative, chartering an additional float plane to pick us up from our anchorage, about 40 nautical miles from the city center. C’est la vie! In fact, it made for an even more eventful day. If you ever get the chance to take a float plane, do it.
From the float plane, we got in a helicopter which came with a short narrated tour to the top of the glacier (keep in mind, the space is tight, so no ipads or bags allowed- ipads are annoying anyway, get a real camera, please). Finally zeroing in on the dog camp was a surreal sight and I knew we were in for one hell of a day.
When we finally got out of the helicopter however, instead of running for the dogs and smothering myself in their fur, the first thought was holy bejesus, it’s HOT. Everyone kept warning us to wear heavy jackets, bring scarves and “DON’T FORGET GLOVES”. Those people hadn’t gone on the sunniest, warmest day in Alaska’s history. That’s a slight exaggeration- it wasn’t record breaking heat, but it has been the warmest summer Juneau has had in recent history, from what I’m told. Even on top of 3,000 ft. of ice, the sun was strong enough to have us shedding our coats and hats. I even saw a few people posing in front of the mountain peaks in their tank tops. The heat was real.
But back to the dogs. Oh man, the dogs. I hear one of the reasons no bags are allowed is to prevent people from smuggling them back onto the helicopters with them (this actually happened with a puppy apparently). Although, I can’t blame that sneaky creep; they are seriously irresistible. On an interesting note though, many of the dogs at the camp have competed in the Iditarod- how cool is that? They spend the summers at the camp, going for runs as a kind of “off-season training” and fulfilling the childhood dreams of nerds like me. What champs.
The actual sled ride is only about a half hour, but you can take turns manning the breaks on the back sled (which I obviously jumped at the bit to do first). Don’t mess up though- you’ll feel like an idiot and by god, those dogs are counting on you!
After the exhilarating ride came arguably the best part of the day: the puppies. SO MANY PUPPY FEELS. If you’re lucky like we were, there will be a fresh litter of the cutest puppies you may ever see in your life. We couldn’t hold the newborns, but we WERE allowed to hold two month old, Bob Barker. Try to contain the “awws”. I, once again, was the first to throw my coat and the rest of my belongings to the ground while simultaneously yelling at people to take pictures. No shame.
Not long after, we were whisked away on the helicopter, with nothing left but the warm and fuzzies, and further validation that one day I will undoubtedly be a crazy dog lady. Get at me, fellas.