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Now we’re talking, Alaska

August 7, 2016

The thing about Talkeetna and Denali National Park it that you’re there for the mountain.  If you aren’t at the mountain (or fishing I suppose) there’s not much reason to be there.  With my flight to the mountain canceled because of weather (in Alaska you should put “weather permitting” behind any sentence the way you put “in bed” after your fortune), and a long drive ahead of us, we had an early departure from town and headed out in search of adventure and puppies.

After an overlong detour for coffee – service in Alaska is sloooow – we arrived at Dream A Dream Iditarod Kennel.  Vern Halter has competed in more than 20 Iditarods, with his best finish as third place.  His wife is also an experienced musher and vet.  Now in their 70s, they continue to train both dogs and mushers and open their farm to visitors wanting to learn about the race.  He explained the history of the race and the rules and regulations.  He showed us a charming video likely made in the early ’90s and told us about the client he’s training now, Cindy Abbott (click – her story is amazing!) . He talked about her mid-life trip to Everest and her moxie and I thought “I need to meet her! I need to be her!”

Then he brought us out to meet the dogs.  After a walk through the woods with five husky puppies (OMG!) we got in an open jeep.  I was in the front middle seat and Vern commanded “watch that break” as he jumped out and starting harnessing dogs to the jeep.  I could feel them pulling as I pushed hard to keep the car in place.  The dogs barked and howled eagerly in hopes of being selected to pull us.  Once the selected 16 were harnessed we zipped off for an exhilarating drive through woods and mud and puddles.

We picked Vern and Dream a Dream somewhat at random, but he was a charming and funny and I could have stayed there all day.  One of his young assistants was a visitor to the farm 8 years ago when she was a teenager living in Texas.  Vern said to her, finish college and you can come back and work here.  Eight years later she called him and he invited her up. I might do the same in a few years.

From Vern’s we headed over Hatcher Pass.  A gravel mountain pass that winds high into the clouds and over.  It took a couple of white knuckled hours (and one very scary wrong turn that required me to back down the narrow twisty road).  Every moment was frightening and gorgeous.  When we found ourselves back at sea level and paved roads there was a small inn where we stopped for lunch.  The alpine lodge had walls of windows over looking the green mountains and vibrant fire weed covered fields.  Our fondue and beers didn’t live up to the beauty of the place, alas.

On the road again, we were going to head directly to the hotel, but quickly turned off to visit a golf course and then a musk ox farm.  There were baby ox and they were beautiful! they are combed for their soft hair and woven goods where for sale, but we resisted.

A couple hours later we reached our hotel.  I am watching the olympics, Siobhan is reading by the fire and we are happy!












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