Dog Mushing in Fairbanks

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Dog Mushing

Throughout Alaska, sprint races, freight hauling, and long-distance endurance runs are held in late February and March, during the season when longer days afford enjoyment of the remaining winter snow. Men and women often compete in the same classes in the major races. For children, various racing classes are based on age, starting with the one-dog category for the youngest. The Interior sees a constant string of sled-dog races from November to March, which culminates in the North American Open Sled-Dog Championship, attracting international competition to Fairbanks.

Alaska Dog Mushers Association. The association, one of the oldest organizations of its kind in Alaska, holds many races at its Jeff Studdert Sled Dog Racegrounds. 925 Farmers Loop Rd., Mile 4, Fairbanks, AK, 99712. 907/457–6874. www.sleddog.org.

Paws for Adventure Sled Dog Tours. Paws offers everything from a quick ride to mushing immersion courses. Experience the joys of mushing—and snap plenty of photos—on a one-hour ride. Learn how to drive a team at the three-hour mushing school. The three-day trip includes mushing school plus overnight mushing and camping. George Rd., on A Taste of Alaska Lodge property, Fairbanks, AK. 907/378–3630. www.pawsforadventure.com. From $100. Oct.–Apr., weather permitting.

Sun Dog Express Dog Sled Tours. If you want to experience dog mushing for yourself, this outfit conducts demonstrations, rides, tours, and schools. 1540 Hayes St., Fairbanks, AK. 907/479–6983. www.mosquitonet.com/~sleddog. From $60.

Yukon Quest International Sled-Dog Race. This endurance race held in February covers more than 1,000 miles between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, via Dawson and the Yukon River. Considered much tougher and, among mushers, more prestigious than the more famous Iditarod, the Quest goes through more remote lands, with fewer checkpoints. The starting point alternates between the two cities each year (Fairbanks gets even-numbered years). Their visitor centers have more information, as does the quest's Fairbanks office. Fairbanks Yukon Quest office, 550 1st Ave., Fairbanks, AK, 99701. 907/452–7954. www.yukonquest.com.

Monumental Forces

Over the last 100 million years, a collage of microtectonic plates of igneous and sedimentary rocks collided with and attached itself to the North American continent. The original rocks of these microplates are up to 800 million years old. During these collisions active volcanoes peppered the plates with patches of hard, granitic rock. This tough rock underlies much of the Alaska Range, helping the peaks withstand millions of years of erosion by wind, weather, rivers, and glaciers.

Pressure along the 1,300-mile-long Denali Fault causes uplift throughout the Alaska Range, which continues to rise as fast, in geologic terms, as 1 millimeter per year. Mt. McKinley, at 20,320 feet, the highest peak in North America, was pushed to its towering height by movement along this fault. Today large glaciers pour from the valleys, remnants of the last ice age's extensive glaciation, which ended 6,000–7,000 years ago.

Because of the way the ice carved the landscape out as it disappeared, the region is full of thousands upon thousands of lakes and rivers, as well as broad alluvial fans of glacial outwash.

The central part of the Interior was never glaciated; it was, in fact, part of Beringia, a vast, ice-free zone that stretched from the Mackenzie River in the Yukon to as far as the Lena River in Russia, the continents connected by the Bering Land Bridge—which was really more of a subcontinent than a bridge, since it covered as much as 600 miles north to south. Beringia was home to steppe bison (like Blue Babe at the UAF Museum), mammoths, camels, a couple of different kinds of saber-toothed cats, and American lions, as well as horses not much bigger than collies. Beringia disappeared as the ice around it melted, climate change making an entire world disappear.

The Brooks Range was formed by compression generated from a spreading ridge in the Arctic Ocean. The forces stacked and folded Paleozoic and early Mesozoic rock against the northernmost part of the North American continent. Because it is drier and doesn't receive enough moisture to feed glaciers, the Brooks Range to the north was never extensively glaciated.

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