26 dogs, four people, 7 days, 3000 miles, a couple trucks, a breakdown, helicopters and a delivery. This about sums up our trip to bring the dogs to Alaska for the summer where they will be running tours with Alaska Icefield Expeditions on the Denver Glacier outside of Skagway in Southeast Alaska. We’re super grateful to Aaron who worked with us this winter and will continue to work with the dogs up on the glacier leading tours for guests coming off the Alaskan cruise ships that travel through the Inside Passage.
Last Sunday Caleb, Aaron and I (Deanna) loaded the dogs up in our trailer and truck and headed north. We stopped in Gunnison to pick up Kaitlyn, a friend of Aaron’s who is also working on the glacier. We took a longer route to Alaska so we could stop and visit with my brothers and their families in Idaho. It was a short but sweet visit. From there we headed west through Oregon and Washington and then up through British Columbia and Yukon Territory. The country we drove through was gorgeous- deserts that glowed pink and lavender with the sunset, up over mountain passes, along massive rivers and glacial lakes, through stunted tundra forests, passing moose, caribou, foxes, coyotes, black bears, bison (and baby bison!), porcupines and eagles. We even got to stop at Liard Hot Springs and soak away our road weariness for a few hours.
The worst weather we saw was a gnarly blizzard right out our front door. Going up over Monarch Pass was crazy icy. Once we got over that though, the rest was smooth sailing, weather-wise anyway…
Since there were four of us, taking care of the dogs super easy. Each morning we would unload the dogs from their boxes, feed and water them, and let them stretch their legs a bit while we eat our breakfast. Then we’d get back on the road and drive for 6-8 hours and stop again to let the dogs out to use the bathroom and drink some water, while we kicked around a soccer ball. We would load them back up, drive another 6-8 hours then stop for dinner. This was their longest break where they ate, drank, pooped, peed, and then we would try to give them all a little run to use up some of their energy. After a couple days of this routine they’d settle in and get used to it. Though it’s definitely a relief for us all when we finally arrive.
The biggest hitch in the trip came in Washington. We were cruising down the highway thinking this was going to be the easiest trip north with the dogs when we heard a huge clunk that continued for a couple of seconds until we pulled over. It was the injectors. Caleb knew this without a doubt because the same exact thing happened to him a month prior, leading him to have all six injectors replaced. Needless to say this was hugely disappointing. Thankfully we had AAA from the last time we had to be towed. The trailer wasn’t covered by AAA, but one of the tow truck drivers was awesome and came with his own truck to pull our trailer to town for no extra charge! What a blessing that was. He was super helpful and even offered us a place to stay at his house.
We had to get the dogs to Alaska by May 2nd, so we didn’t really have time to hang out and wait for the truck to get fixed, nor could we trust it after being left twice now on the side of the road. So we rented a
U-haul, the only truck we could find with a hitch. It turned out alright and was a super solid (though gas-guzzling) truck. We made it to Skagway on time and were able to drop the dogs off at Temsco, where they were loaded into helicopters and flown up to the glacier.
It was surreal how quick that whole process was. It took less than an hour to get all 26 dogs and Aaron and Kaitlyn up. Once the last group was loaded and flown up, Caleb and I stood there feeling a little lost. The dogs will be gone for the next 5 months. All our focus had been to get the dogs to Skagway and up to the glacier. There hadn’t been much thought about what would be next. A strange absence, for sure. I think we’ll get used to it pretty quick, but we’re definitely missing the dogs right now. After leaving the dogs, we took a ferry to Juneau, did a little glacier caving and now we are headed home to Colorado.
We’re looking forward to updates and photos from Aaron on the glacier. When we hear how things are we’ll keep you all updated as well. Watch Facebook for those updates!