We thoroughly enjoyed the Palmer/Wasilla area. It was exactly the combination of being close enough to the stores we need and being far enough from the rush of the city that we like.
One of the things I’ve been looking forward to doing is learning more about the Iditarod Sled Dog Race. We were able to go to the Headquarters in Wasilla for a few hours.
The Iditarod Trail started out as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps. Mail and supplies went in and gold came out all by sled dog. The Iditarod Sled Dog Race is a commemoration of the years mushers spent running desperately needed supplies to the mining camps. You really can’t compare any other competitive event to the Iditarod. The Mushers and their dog teams have to go through a thousand miles of the roughest terrain Mother Nature has to offer. Jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, desolate tundras, and dense forest…lets add in the weather now…temps far below zero, winds that cause complete loss of visibility, and the loooong hours of darkness that make up the Alaskan winters. Sound fun? Yeah, you couldn’t pay me enough to do this race. Maybe that’s what makes me so curious about it. Why would anyone willingly do this?
The race starts the first Saturday in March. The racers line up in Anchorage and race all the way to Nome. People come from all over the world to participate. It takes a lot of people to make this race possible, from the veterinarians that come to check each dog to the volunteers that help man the outposts that dot the raceway. It’s been called the “Last Great Race On Earth” and it’s easy to see why.
While we were in the main office of the Iditarod Wasilla Headquarters we were told that we should go play with the puppies. That, in fact, playing with the puppies is a vital part of their training because it helps them get used to being around a lot of different people. Well, OK…twist our arms…we’ll go play with your adorable puppies!
I mean, look at that sweet little face…how could we turn down the opportunity to
cuddle train Iditarod Sled Dogs?
We tried our best to wake them up. We passed them around, jiggled them, petted them, talked to them…and they slept and grunted through the whole thing. The boys hated every minute of it…can’t you tell by the looks on their faces?
After we got our fill of puppy lovin’ we headed over for our turn on the sled. Meet our dog team.
Here we are on the…er…sled/buggy. The owner actually asks if you want her to take pictures. What a wonderful touch! We didn’t have to ask, we didn’t have to pay… We thought that was a really great touch. The owners genuinely seemed pleased that people were coming to see their dogs and help them train them.
Our team was quick and nimble. One kept trying to lick all of the bushes and another one kept trying to jump over the dog in front of it. Hey, we did tell you they’re in training. The Little Boys spent the entire time giggling and laughing and all three boys talked about it for days.
We had to do a little more Sled Dog lovin’. They really are awesome dogs. I had four boys (you can see them in the picture above) who were wanting to sneak a puppy home.
In the picture above you can see one of the older sleds used in the race.
That same day we went to the Matanuska Valley Musk Ox Farm in Palmer.
The Musk Ox is a descendant from the last ice age which means they used to roam around with woolly mammoths and saber tooth tigers. The musk ox is known to the Alaskan Natives as “Oomingmak”, which means “The Bearded One”.
There was a great little museum with all kinds of touch and feels for the boys to look through while we waited for the tour to start.
The farm had around eighty muskox. We got to see maybe thirty of them. Apparently, muskox are twitchy little beasties with horrible eyesight. They think kids or someone bending down to take a picture is a wolf and they act aggressively. We actually got to experience this right at the end of our tour when a momma beastie tried to protect her baby from the kiddies (and me) looking at them through the fence. We moved along quickly.
You can see the momma beastie in the picture above…and if you look very closely you can see the hooves of the baby beastie she was protecting from the wolf/kiddies. Moms…whattya gonna do…we protect our beasties.
In a different area of the farm, there were some juvenile muskox who were all too friendly. The boys got to feed them some tasty morsels.
The muskox on this farm are pampered and fed nicely. Their whole purpose is to produce as much qiviut (qiv-ee-ute) as they possibly can. What the heck is qiviut? It’s the underwool of the muskox. Qiviut is eight times warmer than wool, softer than cashmere, and stronger than pretty much any other kind of fiber out there.
It also cost $95 an ounce. Littlest was extremely dismayed at this. He had been looking forward to buying some to crochet a scarf for himself. He had to settle for a $5 sample.
We stopped at a pull-off near the Muskox Farm to feast on this view.
See y’all on the road!