Mary Shields is a legend in the mushing community. She was the first woman to finish the Iditarod, running the race in 1974, its second year. (Lolly Medley also ran the race that year, but finished 29 minutes behind Shields. It took both women 28 days to cover the race trail.) Since then, Shields also has run the Yukon Quest and the 1,200-mile Hope race in the Russian Far East. But more than racing, Shields loves to share what it’s like to live a life full of adventures with sled dogs in her highly rated Alaskan Tails of the Trail.
Shields, now 74, says the most frequently asked question is whether she was afraid to be outdoors in the wilderness alone.
“I tell them, ‘I’m not by myself. I have these dogs with me,’” she said. She still has five big dogs at her home. These are larger dogs, more typically used to pull freight rather than sprint short distances or run long-distance competitive races like today’s Iditarod.
“They’re pretty mellow dogs,” she said. “They pose pretty dramatically. One of them gives kisses all day. They’re working dogs, but they’re pets, too.”
Shields, now 74, conducts one tour a day, starting at 10 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m. in the boreal forest near her home in Fairbanks.
“I try to reflect why we love doing this so much,” she said. “The dogs, of course, love all the attention. I just want it to be a real personable experience, so they feel like they’re just a friend coming for a visit.”
Reservations are required. To make a reservation or for more information, visit www.maryshields.com.