Before the days of snowmobiles and bush pilots, dogs were the best way in winter to navigate the rugged Alaska terrain.
Tom Skilling got a taste of dog mushing near Denali National Park on
his travels around Alaska, where winters are winter and people like
them that way.
Back in the 30s, to promote Alaska statehood, a dog mushe drove a team
of wolves all the way to the Chicago's World's Fair. Though more
tourist attraction now than vital transportation, dogs are still an
important part of the winter landscape in Alaska.
Our experience with dog teams comes from musher Jon Nierenberg, a New
Jersey native who found a way to combine his two passions of dogs and
the great outdoors.
"When you first stand on the back of the sled and go, you know it,"
Nierenberg says. "
I started dog sledding in 1982. When I came up and worked for the park
service. I got my own dogs in the spring of 1983. There are people like
me that primarly use the dogs for guiding, taking new people out to
show them the experience of traditional travel in the north in the
"I like to go over a handful of things before we go. Stand right here.
This is your handle bow. Always stand on the brake cause if you step
off the brake, the dogs will take off. The gangline is what the gang of
dogs are attached to," Nierenberg says.
"If you can survive the first five minutes from the take off, you're good for the day," Nierenberg says.
"We go out every day and run the dogs usually 20-30 miles. I'm
uncomfortable in hot temperatures, so I enjoy the cold. We go out in 40
below and are out sometimes all day long," says Don Mirosh of Healy,
A few hours on the trails, full bellies and the northern lights. Life is indeed good.