Making Memories Part 1 : Nenana to Manley – 82 miles, familiar trails, Nenana to Tolovana Roadhouse and new friends…

“Gather moments, not things.”

Funny, I ran across this quote while spending some ‘down time’ on the internet- reading about someone else’s moment.  Is good to stop now and then and remove yourself from your normal life and think about what you are doing with your life –  Am I still ‘doing what I love and loving what I do’?   Sounds way more cliché today than when I chose the saying as my advertising slogan many years ago, but I still can’t find any better expression.

For nearly 20 years the dogsled tour business has given me a quality of life that is hard to explain in short version.  When asked by the prospective dog tour business entrepreneur about this life, I make sure to include that there are easier ways to make a living.  You had better love what you’re doing because you’re not going to find yourself with EXTRA – extra money, extra time and extra resources.  And though you want it to be more about your special bond with your dogs, there is an important balance you must strike between sharing with people and your furry companions.

On my priority list has been keeping this lifestyle and business interesting to me, so that I look forward to going to work everyday.   I do love meeting new people and sharing my life of adventure. My life in Alaska began 23 years ago as a teacher in a small village; educating and being educated (sharing life experience) keeps me happy. And, there is never a dull moment with the sleddogs.   Understanding them, protecting them and helping them thrive as a coordinated group of canine athletes is an exciting challenge.   It’s hard not to smile when your co-workers are always so glad to see you.  There is a balance.  It is not just a job, it is a life. Our life experiences make us not only more interesting, but richer.   I’m happy and I will continue to explore, learn and make a richer life as long as I am living (as long as I get to mix it up once in a while) and find that ‘edge’ I seem to thrive on.

Spring 2015, my 50th birthday, was a time to ‘mix it up’, find a new trail and keep things in balance. My husband, Dave, and I and 10 of our favorite furry companions sought new adventure on the historical ‘Serum Run trail’ of 1925 (750 miles of trail from Nenana to Nome ).  This year was a perfect time to follow the trail as the Iditarod start was held in Fairbanks (due to poor snow conditions in Anchorage/ Willow – its usual start venue). We started our trip after the Iditarod frontrunners were just about to finish in Nome and finished the 1st week of April.  I drove a 10-dog team; Dave drove the Skandic (the Iron Dog) and pulled a Siglin Sled with our Arctic Oven camp and gear.  Our agenda provided for travel during daylight hours, approximately 50 miles per day, a couple of rest days, a couple of ‘food drops’, and a chance to enjoy the vast land we traversed, camping along the way.  Most nights were spent comfortably camping in our wood-heated Arctic Oven tent. Some nights on the coast or in more exposed areas were spent in rented housing (rented from the local Native Corporations or by donation to the village school) or shelter cabins.

Though our pictures do not do the experience and landscape justice, I will include the best I have, and offer a short explanation of each leg of the journey.  Because of its vastness, this land and experience was definitely meant to be ‘lived’, but I will offer what I have and you can let your imagination fill in the blanks.

Nenana to Manley : On the first leg of our journey, we were accompanied by Jeanne and Marijke,  two adventurous and fun-loving women who had experienced dogmushing before joining us on this trip.  Jeanne has sponsored a couple of Iditarod mushers/ friends of ours, experienced dogsledding on smaller journeys  and been involved with that race as a contributor.  Marijke hails from Switzerland and has owned her own sprint dog team and competed in races in her home region.  We were honored  with great company for the beginning our wonderful journey (on my birthday, no less…) and we look forward to more adventure with these two ladies.  This part of the trail was very familiar as we regularly offer multi-day tours from Nenana to Tolovana Roadhouse (the 1st stop in the original Serum Run of 1925)  Then we were on to Manley Hot Springs, a once thriving town, has a dwindling population and sees mostly summer visitors – we were able to get a place to stay at the Roadhouse and guests took a hot tub in the hot springs, housed on private property in the greenhouse of Gladys Dart.  Gladys allows guests to use the tubs if they sign in with her for a nominal fee.  They are only available when someone is around to maintain the hot tubs.  This was a special treat.