I picked a winner when I took a dog sled trip through Salmon Berry Tours, which partners with the kennel owned by the man who days later would best the field in this year's Iditarod. After a 975-mile race across Alaskan wilderness, Dallas Seavey, 27, was first across the Nome finish line March 11.
Many mushers offer dog sled excursions to underwrite their racing endeavors, including supplies for their dogs, which are canine marvels (usually husky mixes) bred for speed, endurance and a love of running. Though Seavey isn't always home, my tour group got lucky when he delivered our Mushing 101 lesson.
Riders were paired up for each sled in the 40-minute mushing experience, about 80 miles north of Anchorage. Whether riding in the sled basket or standing behind, it was an amazing ride, and, thankfully, an experienced musher controlled the dogs from the lead sled. We were able to pet the dogs before and after our 7-mile ride. They were sweet, friendly and generous with licks. Several are offspring of this year's winning dog team.
Salmon (907-278-3572, salmonberrytours.com) offers a variety of sled dog adventures priced from $109 for half a day to $299 for a full day, which includes lunch and a visit to Iditarod headquarters in Willow, where you can learn the history of the legendary race. Salmon books specialty tours for Dallas Seavey's Alaska Sled Dogs (907-947-4210, dallasseavey.com/alaska-sled-dog-tours).
As for Seavey, his $50,000 prize will help buy his pups a lot more dog booties, which at $1 each can add up, as he uses 1,000 or so in an Iditarod.