In my last blog I wrote that we found the best place to eat in Jackson. Well I can now say we have discovered the best activity to experience in the Jackson Hole area. A tour with the Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours is a trip that you will never forget.
I have to admit I am not a huge dog lover. Jamie, on the other hand, is an extreme dog lover and proud dog owner. After today’s experience, I have a new-found respect for dogs especially ones that earn their keep.
At 0815 this morning we headed south of town in search of Frank Teasley, a professional dog musher for nearly 30 years, an eight-time Iditarod veteran and owner of Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours.
In route we spotted deer, elk, bighorn sheep and my favorite, the bald eagle.
When we arrived at the headquarters I was overwhelmed by the number of dogs. Over 170 dogs reside there. We were greeted warmly by both staff and dogs. When one dog sounded off to welcome us in, the other 169 followed suit.
It wasn’t long after our arrival we were able to meet the legend himself. I enjoyed getting to visit with Frank and learning a bit more about his background. He is certainly a talented and tough athlete. As a pre-teen he knew professional sled dogging was his passion. I can relate to that because at age fourteen I knew bullfighting was going to be my future.
Before leaving, he fitted Jamie and me with the proper attire for handling a 20-mile round trip to the Granite Hot Springs. The secret is dressing warm and being prepared. It was at that time Frank said, “Jeremy this is like rodeo in the winter-time!” “Well giddy up,” I replied.
Our guide was Dan. We eagerly watched as he hooked the dogs to the line and ultimately the sled. The lead sled was powered by eight Alaskan racing sled dogs. Much like marathon runners the dogs are lean, muscular, and ready to run. All of the dogs love their job. That was evident by the eager barking and forward lunging taking place as soon as they were hooked up. It was as if they were telling Dan: “Let’s go, let’s go, it’s off to work we go!”
Right before heading out, Dan informed us we would both get the opportunity to drive the team. Did I mention any previous experience with dog sledding? I didn’t think so.
Nonetheless, we started our journey with Dan in control. It would be ten miles before we would arrive at the Granite Hot Springs. The focus and intensity each of the dogs possesses is simply amazing. All of the pre-trip barking and lunging was now silence and concentration. Each dog has a role and performs their role out of loyalty to their owner. There is the lead, swing, and wheel positions. Simply put, the dogs know their respective roles and want to run much like rodeo animals want to buck. If you don’t believe me just say “Hike” and see what happens.
Equally impressive as the team of sled dogs was the wilderness we explored in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Wildlife is abundant and the scenery is at times so beautiful it is hard to adequately describe. Within two miles of our start I spotted two moose. It happened to be a cow and her young offspring. Snow was belly high on the animals but they managed to move with ease in hopes of finding food.
The trail followed the rim of Granite Creek. At times it felt as if we were in heaven. Beautiful mountains towered above us, the smooth sound of running water was merely a few feet beneath us, the sun was shining, and the only sound outside of Mother Nature was that of the dog’s paws dancing in the snow.
The average speed of our sled was eight mph. It didn’t take too long to reach the Granite Hot Springs.
Upon our arrival there, Dan told us we could enjoy a soak while he prepared lunch. We didn’t pack for a swim so I thought I was out of luck. To my surprise, I was able to rent a pair of shorts and enjoy 30 minutes of pure relaxation.
Wyoming is home to multiple hot springs situated throughout the state. In the southern area you can soak in Saratoga. In the center of the state you can relax in Thermopolis and in the northern part of the state you can find hot springs in the Jackson area as well as Cody and Yellowstone.
Granite Hot Springs is the largest soaking spot I have ever been in. The water enters the pool from Granite Creek. It is approximately 108 degrees in the winter time. In the summer, it is slightly cooler. Yes, cooler. At its deepest, the pool is over six feet.
So there I was, relaxing in a natural hot springs with huge snow cliffs all around me. The steam rolling off the pool created a light fog that when breathed in was refreshing to my soul. I can guarantee you one thing – nobody was talking about 401Ks or the stock market.
Dan was sounding the dinner bell chimes and I had worked up an appetite so that was like music to my ears. It was a full course meal featuring steak and trout in the middle of the scenic Bridger-Teton National Forest.
When our meal was complete it was time to start the ten-mile trek home. This was the moment of truth. Dan told me to take control of my own sled dog team. That was a feeling I will always remember and rates in my top life experiences. Jamie took over at the halfway point. We both handled the sled with ease and managed to keep it upright and on the trail proving that you don’t need any experience to direct your own sled.
Who would have ever thought that I could gain so much respect for dogs in such a short time? Of course Jamie now needs more dogs so she can get her very own sled.
If you have never experienced a sled dog tour, let me highly recommend the Jackson Hole Iditarod Sled Dog Tours. You can request a full or half day but take my advice and reserve a full-day tour. The added bonus to that is a soak in Granite Hot Springs.
On the other hand, if you are already a fan of sled dogs or just a dog lover, let me invite you to visit Wyoming’s stage race at http://www.wyomingstagestop.org/
The International Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Race starts in Jackson, Wyoming and features overnight stops in seven Wyoming towns ending across the border in Park City, UT.
Perhaps Jamie will have a team put together by next year and take the gold. Regardless, we plan on making an overnight stop with the race and reporting my findings on the Blogging Bullfighter.