Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Dog Sledding - Mush!

I recently returned from dog sledding. Those who know me were perplexed. It doesn’t seem to fit me the way say sunbathing in Bermuda might. But it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. When we were young, my little brother Chris and I would tie our Siberian Husky Mishka to our sled for crazy rides. That’s when it used to snow in Philadelphia.

I managed to tie the trip in with research for my novel “Trying On Gigi Brigidi.” There was still plenty of snow falling in Jackson Hole, Wyoming the first week of April. It’s been a record year.

My citified protagonist gets relocated there by chapter five and I needed to get a handle on the changes that have occurred since my last trip there in the early 90s. That was a for four-day snow mobile safari through Yellowstone for a travel article. It will probably rank among the top three trips of my lifetime. I’m still waiting to take the other two – Italy and an African Safari.

Anyway, dog sledding was an absolute blast. Our trainer Dana was laid back and makes a mean cup of hot chocolate. The Alaskan Huskies are a mutt mix bred for specific racing characteristics by individual mushers. I had 11 on my team, lead by Zeus, a crazed and enthusiastic pup who has run the Iditarod twice.

We took off through the Teton National Forest, which gifts gorgeous views of the Grand Teton Mountain range and large unscathed swathes of forest. I got be a musher and manned the helm of the sled all by myself. And I live to tell…Actually, it was a peaceful and beautiful experience. I could have done it for days. My husband was quite pleased the overnight yurt was snowed in, though.

There was only one downside – make that backside. The excited doggies poo quite a bit while running. Aside from the rather graphic view, there is no windshield. Since this wasn’t a race, no one minded making puppy pit stops.

I also visited the National Elk Refuge for both a horse-drawn sleigh ride and a private drive. Besides thousands of elk, we spotted big horn sheep, coyotes, bald eagles, golden eagles and bison.

During a wildlife excursion, we got to see the elusive alpha of the Teton wolf pack. I was amazed at how huge they are – 160 pounds. He was spooky with black fur and piercing eyes. We also saw several moose, rare birds, coyotes eating an Elk carcass and an owl – not to mention surreal landscapes.

On a more civilized note, we stayed at the Rusty Parrot in Jackson. The room came with champagne, roses, chocolate truffles, a teddy bear, fresh apples and a wood-burning fireplace stoked every night. The comfy robes and slippers were ours to keep. It was probably the most comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in. My low ick factor is borderline obsessive compulsive. I don’t go anywhere without my silk sleeping bag, shower flip-flops and Clorox Wipes. None were needed. I give the Rusty Parrot my highest rating. That would have been enough, but they threw in a chef prepared breakfast every morning. Those meals will have me on a treadmill for the next month. Dinner was delicious as well and incredibly intimate with only about six tables. The service was top-notch.

My favorite room in this Ralph Lauren-esque hotel is the library. Fresh cookies, a fire and great books. Ahhhh. Amazingly, I did get all my research done. A lovely real estate agent gave me insight while unknowingly convincing me that I could never live far from a major city, even though Jackson Hole may be the most beautiful place on Earth.

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