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Vermonter takes on Alaska

Junior Nicole Webster took a trip to Trapper Creek, Alaska over the holiday break. 

The sun hits the snow and it looks like glitter. There isn’t any wind so the trees are perfectly covered with snow and the white mountains reflect beautifully off the blue sky. It’s peaceful.

            Three days after Christmas, I took a 3,223 mile trip without even leaving the country. I spent about five hours of that trip in cars and another eight to nine hours on planes from Florence Vt. before we reached Trapper Creek, Alaska.          

            I went to Alaska for winter break to visit family friends who have a house there that they’re planning to retire to because they own 20 sled dogs.

            Why did I, a Vermonter, decide to travel only 400 miles less than I did when I went to Spain to vacation in a harsher winter? (Side note: It is NOT dark there all day. The days are just a couple hours shorter than here but soon will be much longer and if I get that question one more time, I might scream.)

            Well, mostly, I’m nuts. But also, it was an amazing experience that I wouldn’t give up for anything.

            I spent 10 days in a house run off a generator or batteries. I had horrible cell service. I read eight books. I saw the biggest mountains I’ve ever seen. I saw more moose in a day than I’ve seen in my entire life. We were 60 miles away from the nearest town.

            I drove my own sled dog team.

            Driving your own team is the coolest experience ever. You feel so in control, peaceful and free all at once. My first day on my own went great, even though the dogs had a hard time believing I knew the difference between “gee” and “haw.”

            “Gee,” for those of you who don’t know, is the signal to turn right and “haw” is the signal to turn left.

            We had to stop a few times to straighten out but all was fine.

            My second day, my dogs and I ran into some trouble.

            We were supposed to turn right and take a different trail than the day before but they thought I was wrong and turned left. When I went to stop them to change their direction, I had to take my foot off the runner and put it on the brake but it slipped and they took off going the opposite way we were supposed to.

            My sled and I tipped over.

            I couldn’t keep my grip on it so my dogs and sled left without me.

            Being the calm, cool and collect person that I am, I had a breakdown and started yelling, which somehow didn’t stop them, so I took off running.

            After chasing them for half a mile they decided to stop and wait and I later found out that is very unusual. We finished our loop from the day before and headed home.

            The next day, we had chaperones for our run which actually motivated my dogs to go a bit faster and turn when I wanted them to so it all worked out for the best.

            For those times when your dogs aren’t running away without you, though, dog sledding is the best. I ride horses and people say that’s an activity where you feel free and relaxed, and you do, but this is even more freeing because there is way less to think about and the surroundings are so beautiful.

            I’m not saying it wasn’t crazy at times because when 20 dogs want their breakfast or dinner, they’re insane and loud but they’re also the sweetest dogs that love their job more than anything. Once they see harnesses or the sleds they are a million times louder than at feeding time.

            Seeing them so happy, made me happy.

            A lot of people think I’m weird for vacationing in the winter in a place colder and snowier than here, and maybe I am, but I wouldn’t trade the experience I had in Alaska for any tropical vacation.