“Carl gives us the short version of Mushing 101.”

Kirsten makes us gougères, exquisite puff pastries flavored with swiss cheese and nutmeg, the flavor of which is somewhat dimmed by the accompanying threat that we’ll be making the gougères tomorrow. “Emergency hors d’oeurvres, for after your outdoor activities,” Kirsten says, looking at Carl. Carl grins. It makes us all nervous, but that first day we do nothing more strenuous than help feed the dogs. These are bona fide sled dogs, many of whom have mushed the Iditarod all the way to Nome. “They’re retired now,” Carl says. Right. We can hear them howling from the lodge. They are placated by being fed, but it’s obvious they’d all rather be hitched up and on the trail. Carl gives us the short version of Mushing 101. He demonstrates the claw anchor and the two-pronged brake. The basket of the sled, where rider sits, is filled with snow. There are rubber treads on the runners where the musher stands. Shifting body weight is the key to steering. “The most important thing,” he says, “is never let go of the sled. The dogs will run away with it and you’ll be stuck walking back.” I commit this to memory.

Dana Stabenow. Alaska Traveler (Kindle Locations 1112-1114). Gere Donovan Press.

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