Day 3’s morning excursion was one of the highlights of the trip. The entire trip was amazing, but this definitely stands out.
We woke up, grabbed a parfait and some coffee at the lodge coffee shop and boarded the shuttle to the town of Talkeetna. From there we checked in at Kahiltna Bistro and took a smaller van back to Sun Dog Kennels.
The dogs were so high strung. There was a brief introduction and then our first activity was to get pulled on an ATV by 15 Iditarod Sled Dogs! The owner of the farm, Jerry Sousa, has run in the Iditarod 12 times and is signed up for his 13th this March! It was amazing to watch the temperament changes as the owners were choosing the 15 dogs to be picked for our short 5-mile ride. They wanted it SO BAD. The barking was boisterous with jealousy as some were picked and others weren’t. There was over 50 dogs there. Almost all of them running in circles on their short tethers around their little houses that had their names on them. Others jumped up to stand on their houses. 1 or 2 were a little scared of people, so they sat quietly in their homes, looking at us suspiciously.
The more dogs they chose, the louder the barking got as they were PLEADING to be chosen to pull the ATV. We weren’t aloud to interact with the dogs during this first bit because of how high strung they were and how unpredictable they can be at this time. When 14 dogs were chosen and there was only one more, the barking was at its loudest. It was deafening. The moment the owner picked the 15th dog, the barking just about seized completely and there were no peeps from the dogs. It was the most bizarre thing. They knew their chance was up and they’d have to wait for the next ride. The course was split in half to let everyone ride; 2.5 miles each. It was an amazing experience to be right behind them, being pulled through the forest. My SIL said, “Is this what Santa Claus feels like?” lol.
When we returned to the farm, The dogs were wiped and covered in water and mud. We got to pet the dogs and praise them for their good work. They were absolute dolls; rolling on their backs for tummy rubs, loving all the attention. Next, we got an explanation of the Iditarod from the runner himself and he shared his experiences with us. For those of you that don’t know, the Iditarod is a dog sled race, that is appx. 1,100 miles long, and takes about 11 days, therefore, they run about 100 miles a day.
The training for the dogs is pretty exemplary. Their goal is to get 3000 miles logged on each dog before the Iditarod. They start training in the late summer, starting with 5 miles, 10 miles, 15 miles per day, all the way up to 100 miles. They start training the yearlings (the younger pups) and pair them up with the older dogs to learn from their wisdom and experience. I learned that the dogs race almost their entire lives. The dogs don’t retire from pulling until they are about 10 years old. Which blows my mind because thoroughbreds will only race until about 5 years old, if that, and their life span can reach 25-30 years.
We also got to play with husky PUPPIES!! They were soft and adorable and fluffy and it was amazing :)
After leaving Sun Kennel Farms, we walked around the small town of Talkeetna, which consisted of mostly pubs, bars and gift shops. It didn’t take us more than 30 minutes to walk the entire town and go in most stores. Very small. We made our way back to Kalhitna Bistro for lunch where I had the Reindeer Chili, which was absolute to die for.
We headed back to Mckinley Princess Lodge, played a game of Farkle, desperately waited to see if Denali would make an appearance from behind the clouds, and boarded a bus to get to Denali Princess Lodge. Once at Denali Princess Lodge, we did a 12 minute HIIT workout (Which I just posted for this weeks WORK-IT WEDNESDAY!, Read why I LOVE HIIT, HERE!) and the went to a dinner theater show! It was very corny and hokey, but thats what you expect in a dinner theater. It was a lot of fun and the food was great! I was just about falling asleep by the end of it from pure exhaustion, so it was straight to bed after that and preparing for the next day in Denali!