A town of about 1000 people, its population increases dramatically with tourists in the summer. Its mayor is a cat named “Denali”. At the beginning of Spring, the snow is still deep, requiring waist-high trenches to reach the decks of our cabins. The highlight of our time in Talkeetna was a visit to a sled dog training center, the endeavor of the locally famous musher and Iditarod winner, Dallas Seavey. There were 130 dogs under the supervision of 6 to 8 trainers. In addition to their wrangling, feeding and scooping chores, the trainers host tourists, setting them up to ride a dogsled on one of their training courses. This actually provides a training service for the dogs—giving them practice at maintaining a target speed and keeping a fixed pace.
Tourists are also used to socialize the dogs, starting with puppies. We were encouraged to pet them and play with them; see the photos below.
A modern dogsled is a minimalist handmade assembly of aluminum extrusions and nylon webbing. The most important part is the brake, which drags a rubber mat and/or metal spikes into the snow. This is important because the “engine” for the sled is always on and running. To keep it from running away at full speed, the brake is applied. A competition dogsled team comprises 14 dogs, but that is far too much dogpower for a tourist to handle. In fact we found that four dogs was too much! It was physically quite demanding to manage the sled, but it was also exhilarating!