When was the last time you got really excited? I’m talking about the kind of excited that causes you to giggle like a little kid and wave your hands in the air with glee. For some of us, it’s likely been way too long. So if you’re looking for a way to rediscover that child-like feeling again, you may want to hop on an Idaho dog sled tour.
You’ll find Silver Sage Mushing in Ashton, Idaho on the eastern side of the state. This quaint little town of about 1,100 is overflowing with strong, historic ties to dog sledding traditions thanks to Union Pacific Railroad. In the early 1900s as the railroad expanded in this area, so did the need for supplies during perilous winter months. It was local mushers and their dog teams that answered that call, delivering mail, supplies and even travelers. While modern amenities and transportation have changed this need today, the dog sled culture is still thriving in Ashton.
That’s where Linda Janssen and Dave Harman come in. Together, they own Silver Sage Mushing in the gorgeous high desert country near the Tetons and offer three dog sled tours through this beautiful land.
I had the chance to climb aboard a dog sled for a medium length tour, a four mile ride around “Ambush Rocks,” on a bluebird day that served up gorgeous views of the Tetons and the surrounding area. As we walked to the kennels to meet the dogs who would be the “horsepower” behind this trip, I learned that many of these pooches were rescue dogs. Some had been saved from dangerous situations and others were sled dogs who suddenly found themselves without a home. Either way, Dave and Linda stepped in to give these dogs a second chance at happiness. I was introduced to excited and eager pups named Izzy, Black Velvet, Happy Jack, and Red Dog to start. It was easy to see from their wagging tails and happy barks that these pups were ready to run! It was great to have a few minutes to get to know the dogs and receive a few slobbery kisses before hitting the trail.
After getting familiar with the sled and the essential mushing terms like “gee” for right, “haw” for left, and “hike” for go, I climbed atop a cushioned seat for the ride. When I was ready, Linda gave the dogs the signal and off we went. As the sled headed up the first hill, I was surprised how quickly the excess noises of the world melted away. The only noises left behind were my giggles and the sound of crunching snow beneath the dogs’ feet. Sitting in the sled, the rhythm created by the running of the dogs was so calming, so gentle, it could have rocked me to sleep. But don’t be fooled, these dogs know how to boogie, keeping the pace around 10 – 12 mph for the duration of the tour.
From wide open fields with pristine snow to picturesque views of the Tetons and local wildlife, there was no shortage of scenery on this trip. It was amazing to see just how untouched and wild this part of Idaho remains – a little bit of history frozen in time.
About halfway through the trip, I encountered the “Thrill Hill.” I dare you to not scream “wheeeee” as you hit the hill, fly down and right back up the other side. It was the perfect blend of dog sled and roller coaster. The final leg of this tour offered incredible views of the Tetons and I recommend snapping lots of photos here before basking in that last, peaceful mile on the sled.
Upon our return, the dogs were treated to a little post-run reward and I could almost see the smiles on the faces of these amazing canine athletes – the sign of a job well done.
As we wrapped up the trip, I nabbed a few extra dog snuggles and said my goodbyes to my new friends. The experience was like nothing I’ve done before, but I can tell you it’s something I hope to again.
- Bring sunglasses or goggles. The dogs tend to kick up snow as they run, so it’s nice to have something to deflect it.
- You’ll get a quick snowmobile ride from the parking area to the kennel area. Make sure you have gloves for this or your fingers might be a bit chilly.
- Dress in layers. In Idaho, the weather can change quickly so it’s best to give yourself a few options out on the trail when it comes to keeping warm.
- Facilities are limited at the tour facility. Make plans to hit the restroom before you bundle up and head out for the tour.
- Plan ahead with cash or check for tour payment as this small business does not currently accept credit or debit cards.