Thursday, March 27, 2008

Loved everything more than anything

Now I can check a couple more things off my to-do list before I kick it...the bucket that is.
Skydiving? Check.
Heli-boarding? Check.
Eating king crab for lunch on a Tuesday? Check.
Mushing in the most beautiful spot on earth with the best people ever? Check and check.
I still need to see Modest Mouse in concert, windsurf in Belize, drink a mojito at La Bodeguita in Havana, write a novel and make out with Sebastian Bach. (I know, I know, I'm married, but if Sam wanted to make out with, say, Dennis DeYoung, I'd be all for it...uh comes the visual...)
It's hard to know where to start this post. I guess I'll start at the beginning. We drove to Coldfoot last week in howling winds and whiteout conditions with 18 dogs, three dog sleds and a pocket full of high hopes and lint. The next morning, after spending a night in the cozy Coldfoot Inn (A bunch of ATCO units slapped together) and getting pissed when some old-lady tourists turned the one hotel TV (it had satellite, OK?) from Sex and the City to freakin' Wolf Blitzer...sheesh...we loaded half the dogs, all three sleds and me on the plane. The flight over to Iniakuk Lodge was amazing. The craggy mountains of the Brooks Range, the rivers snaking in and around, and tracks from countless caribou made for a non-stop gawkfest. The pilot was pretty damn cool, too.
The dogs handled the flight well. As soon as the engine started whirring and the plane lurched forward, they all froze, staying that way until we landed. The lodge itself is 30 years old. It's a gorgeous full-scribed log building. On the property there are several cabins, saunas and sheds - all log structures and all absolutely beautiful. Sam flew in on the second plane-load with the rest of the dogs, gear and the clients; Peter and Christine from Georgia. They are a young, enthusiastic couple who both work in the medical field.
We mushed each day and Peter and Christine both caught on really quickly...only a couple wipe outs but they handled it all like pros. The dogs took to them immediately. I had to borrow four dogs from Lance as I didn't have enough. Those Mackey dogs are strong, I tell ya, and were an added bonus for the clients. The weather was clear and sunny every day and though we didn't go too far by dogsled, we stretched out the glorious days by having trail lunches and taking our time to soak in the breathtaking scenery. It was fan-freakin-tastic. We skied and snowshoed when we weren't mushing...or eating. The chef, Philip, is a genius in the kitchen. Actually, John , the co-owner/guide knows his way around a pastry bag, too, but I have to say the dinners were a definite highlight. We had pork roast, filet mignon, salmon, caribou soup, king crab (for lunch!), homemade breads and pasta sauces...and don't even get me started on the desserts.
In the evenings, we'd share stories of our adventures while sipping coffee by the roaring fire. We watched slide shows of photos we had taken from that day's mushing excursion and go to bed exhausted, full and happy.
Peter and Christine were so nice; the perfect guests, I'd say. And John was the perfect picture of genuine Alaska hospitality. If it sounds like I'm gushing, I am. I can't help it. It was paradise 60 miles above the Arctic Circle in the middle of nowhere and I can't wait to go back. Thank you John and Pat for letting me into your Utopia.
Oh yeah, so the title of the last post (thank you, McRudeness, for the comments...) Out of the blue Peter asked Sam and I if we "had BJs up here?" Of course, we just giggled. Apparently there is a big chain store called BJ's in the South and he was inquiring about whether or not we had that particular store up here. After tittering like adolescents for a few, Sam replied "uh, yeah, on a good night..." hee hee.

Anyway, here are some pics I took on the trip. Sam has a bunch too, but I have to dig them out, so get started on mine.

Iniakuk Lake from the air.

Dogs on a plane! Bull and Sally enjoy the view.

Peter and Christine out on the trail.

At our first trail lunch, I let the dogs loose to play. Here's Summer coming for a pet.

Best handler/husband ever.

Booties drying by the fire.

Philip, the kitchen wizard preparing bacon-wrapped scallops.

Room with a view.

I turned around backwards on my sled to get this one.

Christine and Peter with the Mackey dogs: Vinnie, Foster, Winter and Hayden.

The great and powerful John Gaedeke.

Hazel and Gus with their eyes on the prize: the bucket of food.

Even the outhouse was pretty.

The lodge.


Libby said...

OMG pretty fracking awesome, Jill. Great photos. Love the dogs on the plane. Sounds like an incredible experience. I can't wait to hear more about it in person soon. Welcome home!

dogsled_stacie said...

What a great experience - how long were you up there for? Was it a paid gig? Sorry to be nosy, but I can't even believe doing something like that, let alone getting PAID for it! (she says, hot off the trail with tourists, paying ME for the fun! Go figure. I gotta make this a permanent thing)

Love the dogs on the plane and all the untouched snow all around the trails, very cool!

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Great pics, great adventure. I have a hard time believing there's a chain store in the lower 48 called BJ's... but what do you expect from outsiders, eh?

That reminds me... I gotta get you my poutine recipe...

Mary said...

Samuel L. Jackson is so tired of those motherfucking dogs on that motherfucking plane.

Just trying to get your dirty word count back up there. I know you're jealous of my blog's 69% rating...