Get Out: Learning to mush
ANCHORAGE – We are in the middle of the Iditarod and you might be wondering how the mushers in the race got their start in dog mushing.
In this week’s edition of Get Out, I hit the trails to show you don’t have to go very far to get a taste of this exciting sport.
The past two weeks I’ve been indoors, but the weather has gotten nice and I’m outside this week to find out the difference between gee and haw.
I went to Tozier Track on Tudor Road right in the heart of Anchorage, and yes, this is the home of dog mushing in the Bowl.
This is my second time mushing, and it’s a great way to get out and explore the wilds of Alaska. While this sport is fun for the mushers, it’s equally as fun for the dogs.
“Just the joy of watching the dogs run doing something they love and the thrill of riding the sled and going around the corners, and like being in the wild in the middle of the city of Anchorage,” said musher Beverly Stevens.
Stevens is one of many Anchorage mushers. She retired from teaching in 1990 and was looking for a new activity to fill her time. Mushing came about kind of by accident.
“I wanted to take up a sport, so I had a Labrador retriever and I started skijoring and then I got a husky and then I had puppies so I had to keep a couple of puppies and then I had too many dogs to skijor with and somebody gave me a sled and I got hooked on the sled real quick. I just love it,” Stevens said.
Stevens gave me a refresher on mushing. Gee is right. Haw is left. And I followed her on the trails leading out of Tozier Track.
Mushing is a lot of work for the dogs, but it’s also amazing how much work it is for the musher. Keeping your feet on the runners and helping the dog’s maneuver the sled through corners take some effort. The pro mushers make it look easy.
Stevens said it’s pretty easy to get involved in this sport, with many clubs around the state and even a junior program in town for younger mushers.
“I think the best thing to do is to find somebody that knows how to run dogs on a sled and find a mentor,” she said. “And everybody is willing to help beginners.”
Also you don’t need a 100-dog kennel like many of the Iditarod mushers. Just three or four dogs and a sense of adventure is all you need to enjoy the trails in Anchorage.
For more information on how to get involved in mushing in Alaska check out these links:
If you have any ideas for the Get Out series you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I would like to send a big thank you to Beverly Stevens for shooting this story with us. You wouldn’t have known it from the video, but she was recently diagnosed with cancer and currently undergoing chemo, but still has the energy to get out and mush her dogs. She finished second this past weekend in a four-dog race. Quite an inspiration, and I am certain she will beat cancer and continue mushing for years to come.