We were picked up from our hotel at 8:15 am. We were the first ones in the van. From there, we went around from hotel to hotel picking up folks, who were to joins us for the journey. A family from Dallas, a rich couple from Nashville, a young traveler from Ohio and a couple who were new residents to Jackson Hole. Our driver pointing out wild life along the drive and described the crazy avalanches from the week before. You could feel the van filled with anticipation and excitement.
After the 30-minute drive, we finally arrived. We pulled up to a driveway not only surrounded by snow cover hills, but a driveway lined with plowed snow about 7 feet high. Then we heard the dogs. Some howled, some whined either way you could hear them, a lot of them. We claimed up a 10-foot high snow bank and the pups were revealed. There were rows upon rows of hand made wooden doghouses, each with a name painted on the front and a dog by its side.
We were lead inside where we met the staff and the owner himself. Frank Teasley, the owner introduced himself, gave a brief history about the company and its mission. After asking our shoe size and handing over the biggest boot I had ever seen, he said to make sure to take it all in, because this was going to be the highlight of our trip. And boy, was he right.
We were put into small groups. Each group had one guide, two sleds each pulled by six dogs. We walked through the maze of doghouses to meet our pups and go over a quick “how to” with our guide. The dogs howled with excitement the whole time. Leaving us only to get every other word of the instructions. Our guide had the Jackson Hole couple on their own sled and she tagged along with Dan and I, first. I have a feeling she though the residence could handle it, but we city folk couldn’t. Either way, I was so happy she came with us first; because not only was I excited I was nervous as hell.
There were two wooden legs on either side of the sled. Sabrina, our guide was on one, me on the other and Dan was just along for the ride. Sabrina yelled a few “YAH-YAHs” to pups and we were off at what felt like 50 miles per hour. In reality they said it was about 20, but still it was impressive. Sabrina would throw her weight from one side of the sled to the other, to better navigate the pups. Throwing out an, “Ahi Ahi “here and there to keep the dogs moving.
We glided through the snow, our faces being bit by both the wind and the sun. It was an amazing feeling. We came along a large curve and there it was, one of the most amazing sites I had ever seen in person. Mountain after mountain covered with untouched snow and I was ride right toward it. It was beautiful. It was majestic.
About half way through the ride, Sabrina had us switch. Dan was now surfing one of the wooden pegs, while I sat in the sled and enjoyed the view. Shortly after that we arrived at the Granite Hot Springs. We climbed up a big hill of snow, with a one-person wide path shoved up to the springs. The Granite Hot Springs are an attraction and has been built up with a deck, changing room, picnic tables and “bathroom”. We escaped from the sunny sky into the change room, put on our suit and we walked outside. I walked outside in the middle of the winter, in a national forest in my bikini and swim shorts. Dan and I then popped in the hot springs. It was crazy. I couldn’t get over the fact that not only was it winter and I was in this warm pool, but it was natural. I was swimming in nature, surrounded by nature, surrounded by snow.
Reluctantly, we soon changed back into our gear and headed down for lunch with the guides. They provide hot chili, corn bread, ciders and teas. From there, we got to hang out with the pups. Learn about their personality and the why this is so important when sledding. Each dog has its own personality and you have to make sure when building a team of dogs, each personality complements the other.
We were soon off and on our way back to base. This time, it was just Dan and I. I was drove first. This time around, I could tell the pups were getting tired, it was a warm day for them to be out, close to 40 degrees and the sun was shining. Not to mention they were pulling close to 300 pounds. But, I liked moving a bit slower, I could take it all in again. We could admire the sparkling white snow and crystal clear blue sky.
At about 3:30pm we got back to base. I didn’t want to leave; I didn’t want to say good-bye to our guide, who was amazing or the pups. It truly was a fantastic experience and Frank was right, it was the highlight of our trip.
To find out about Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours, click HERE.