There may not be any snow on the ground, but visitors can still get a taste of Alaska’s state sport — dog mushing — under the midnight sun in Interior Alaska.
The indigenous peoples of subarctic and Arctic Alaska have a relationship with dogs that goes back thousands of years. Dogs carried packs, pulled sleds, and served as hunting companions. When prospectors came to Alaska in search of gold, they discovered dogs were still ideal working companions. Mail was delivered by sled dog teams in Alaska and Yukon until the 1950s, and you can’t forget the epic delivery of diphtheria serum to Nome in 1926 that is part of the inspiration for the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Interior Alaska has its own epic distance sled dog race, the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race, which runs 1,000 miles every February between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon, on traditional mail trails along the Yukon River. The start and finish alternate between the two cities each year. The 2020 race starts in downtown Fairbanks and finishes in Whitehorse. The Alaska race headquarters is located in the log cabin at 550 First Ave., which contains a display of sleds and mushing memorabilia, race results and Yukon Quest merchandise and apparel.
For more information, call 452-7954 or visit www.yukonquest.com
If you are looking for more information about the Yukon Quest, the Fairbanks Community Museum, upstairs in Suite 215 of the Co-op Plaza on Second Avenue downtown, includes exhibits and displays about sled dog racing.
Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. For more information, call 457-3669 or email email@example.com.
Even in the summer, visitors can meet these canine athletes and their humans in person. Here are some that offer summer-time sled dog experiences. For more information on these and others, contact www.explorefairbanks.com.
Summer sled dog tours
• Leslie Goodwin of Paws for Adventure has been giving sled dog tours since 1998. Located off 5.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road, at the corner of Herning and George Herning and George roads, Paws for Adventure offers summer rides at 7 p.m. daily, depending on the weather. The Tukaway Tour is a kennel tour and cart ride with Yukon Quest veteran Chase Tingle. Other times may be reserved, depending on the weather. Call 907-699-3960 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
• Just Short of Magic is located at 16.5 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road. Owner Eleanor Wirts offers a 90-minute summer educational tour. Guests get an opportunity to gain hands-on experience with the dogs, accompanied by a broad range of sled dog information. Visitors will have a chance to meet the dogs, handle mushing equipment, prepare a sled dog’s meal and help feed them. Just Short of Magic does not offer rides during the heat of the Interior summer. Reservations are required. For more information, visit www.justshortofmagic.com and click on the summer link of the website.
• Frisky Pups Bed and Breakfast and Sled Dog Tours is co-owned by Iditarod mushers Bill and Sandy McKee. It is located at 14.1 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road and offers a kennel tour and, depending on the weather, short rides. The dogs will be hooked up to a five-passenger side-by-side all-terrain vehicle to take visitors on a ride lasting up to 10 minutes. Bill McKee said rides will start at 9 a.m. and are determined by the weather. Call 907-750-2313 or text or visit, friskypupsbb.com.
• Black Spruce Dog Sledding conducts tours throughout black spruce forests and scenic areas north of Fairbanks. Visitors will be seated in a five-passenger buggy being pulled by dogs. There’s also hands-on experience for the visitors such as harnessing the dogs and helping give them water. The company will also be offering its Husky Hiking Experience where visitors take the dogs on a off-leash nature walk, depending on the weather or trail conditions. Tours are offered by reservation from late May to October. Visit blacksprucedogsledding.com or call 907-371-3647.