You know by now that I am a serious Iditarod junkie… so that one sentence makes me giggle with delight to no end. I’m “hanging with the Seaveys!” Giggle, giggle, giggle.
Well – not quite. I’m not like chilling with them in their living room and shooting the breeze or anything. Darn!
I traveled by train down to Seward. Well…. I should rephrase that. I intended to travel down to Seward by train. Instead, I traveled to Portage by train and then to Seward by coach.
The train started out well enough. Got on the train in Anchorage. Had a row of seats to myself. Had a little breakfast. Saw some amazing rainbows from the train! At one point we could see the end of the rainbow and the entire arch over the water. It was so cool!
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your conductor Vern. This is the hardest part of my job…. informing you that there is some trouble ahead on the track and this train will not be able to make it past mile marker 60.”
Ugh. Turns out that the track is washed out at mile marker 60. Well… there are actually two different stories. One is that there was a little water over the bridge and one is that the bridge was washed out. Either way, no trains beyond Portage. So they took us REALLY slowly along the tracks. Stopped for EVERY wildlife sighting. “Look – there are arctic terns flying at the 3:00 side of the train.” “Look there is a mama moose and her baby.. no two babies… no THREE babies on the 9:00 side.” Okay – that one was pretty darn cool! But we must have sat there and watched them for close to forty-five minutes. They were stalling the trail so we would arrive at Portage at the same time as the coaches that they sent up from Anchorage.
So, the coach was going to be okay, or so I thought. It should be an hour drive from Portage to Seward. We’d be there in plenty of time to make our day trips. And then came the conversation where apparently almost every single person on our coach suffered from motion sickness. We were the last coach to pull out because the driver had to round up barf bags for nearly the entire coach!
We arrived in Seward about fifty minutes later than we were supposed to.
Luckily, the tour companies all knew what was happening, as as they depend on the train for their livelihood, they were all waiting there for the passengers. But it was a little crazy. They had taken the passengers from the earlier coaches first, some people were waiting… it was just kind of a mess. And then it made the start of the tours feel really, really rushed, and not calm and inviting.
So, I found the Seavey Iditaride bus, got my luggage, and climbed on board for my ride out to the kennel.
Well… I have been spoiled by my access to dogs and kennels. And this was a tour. So instead of being disappointed that I couldn’t just go and bury my face in some sled dog fur and kisses, I decided to behave myself and keep my mouth shut and do the tour! We started by a map where Eric Rogers, Iditarod finisher, told us about the race and the course. We then went into the kennel – well…. to the kennel which was behind the fence. And saw the dogs. ( I swear, when I get to Vern’s kennel, I am going straight to the dog yard, straight to Charles’ house and settling in for a nice long love fest!) Eric said there were 99 dogs there the last time he counted, someone else later said 85. One thing that was pretty cool was that they had one Siberian husky so they could show the people the difference between the Siberians and the Alaskan huskies. The Siberian is a movie star – he appeared in “Snow Buddies!” I did get some kisses from Colby who was super sweet and was the one dog who was chosen to be loved on by the visitors. I was surprised how few people took advantage of it though! Definitely a tour group, not an Iditarod Teacher’s group! We then went “behind the wall” as they called it and met the puppies! They have seven five week old puppies that we got to hold. I made sure I went and gave Mama some loving too! We got a look at an old freight hauling sled and some newer racing equipment. We were split up into groups and went on our cart rides. This is were it sometimes stinks being a solo traveler. I was put on a cart with seven other people who were all on a huge family trip. So I’m quite sure they are disappointed that my mug is in all of their family photos!
Our driver was Grayson Bruton. Grayson has completed the Junior Iditarod, the Yukon Quest 300, and several other races. He is planning to run the 2015 Iditarod and will be at the picnic in a few weeks to sign up. He says he has one more qualifier to complete, but the race will allow him to sign up anyway because Mitch Seavey is able to vouch for him. This is just another example of how last year’s bad weather affected mushers. Many mushers have long term plans for completing qualifiers in order to run the Iditarod in a certain year, and many of those plans may need to be altered. Grayson has his own kennel of 65 dogs in Willow that he is training for racing. The other group was taken out by Iditarod musher Justin Savidis. It’s a regular “Who’s Who” of Iditarod mushers here! The ride was fun – fifteen dogs – through some beautiful scenery. One kind of cool touch was that there were signs with the Iditarod checkpoint names on trees as you went down the trail! It made me smile, but I’m not sure anyone else picked up on it!
After our tour we went for a delicious lunch at Resurrection Roadhouse. Well… again, not every story is what it seems from its topic sentence. I went into the rest room to wash my hands from all the dog slobber – we did get to pet and thank the dogs for our ride! When I came out the guide was passing out tickets for lunch and he was two short. So he talked to the waitress about getting extras for us. And I sat and waited. And and she brought out an extra plate which he took (!). And I waited. And I waited. And everyone else was finishing up. And finally my food came. But I felt like I had to wolf it down because the tables were already being cleared. I wouldn’t have really cared, but I knew this was my big meal for the day – I was looking at a dinner of granola bars, so I really wanted to eat!
After lunch we headed up to Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park. We took a nice, rainy, hike up to the glacier which was a great walk. As we drove into the park, at the side of the road were signs with years on them that marked the edge of the glacier at various times. It has receded A LOT. One estimate says 1,000 feet in the last ten years. But it’s actually receding much more slowly then it has in the past. Glaciers are fascinating. I’m going to have to do some more research and come up with a lesson or two for our part of our overhaul on our Landforms unit.
Following our hike, we took a short driving tour of Seward (not seeing the start of the Iditarod Trail so I’ll need to do that on my own on Thursday), dropped people off for their train ride – I mean COACH ride back to Anchorage. I was taken back to the Iditaride Kennels where I settled into my cozy cabin where I’ll be spending the next couple of nights. It’s so perfectly perfect tucked back in the woods. I left all the blinds open and it looks like I’m literally in a tree fort from all the surrounding green!
The best part? I can hear the dogs talking! And even though it’s light and all the windows are open, I managed to fall asleep and sleep for nine hours straight!