Everyones number one most important job was keeping the glacier as clean as we possibly could. We had a contract with the forest service to leave the glacier in pristine condition and that was the only reason we were allowed up there. So this included cleaning up all or most of the bodily waste of us and the dogs, to put it delicately. All that aside, though.
I was the camp jack of all trades, balanced between helping with the tourists and trying my hand as a sled dog handler. I use the term jack of all trades to make myself feel special, but really I was just the team catch-all. Wherever help was needed they sent me, sometimes switching me in and out of positions multiple times a day. But I didnt mind it. At least not at first. It was exciting. I never knew where I would end up working and it kept me on my toes. Towards the end of my glacier career, though, my toes were a little rawer. I will admit to some whining.
The dog handling was my favorite and I think the most interesting, so I’ll elaborate on this the most.
Everyone in camp was expected to rise every morning at five am and begin the morning chores: feeding, watering, and scooping the puppy dog’s spaces. (One of my coworkers doing morning chores is pictured above). The dogs for their part were always so excited you were awake, they would jump up on you exuberantly and thank you for your existence with barking and screeching whines of adoration. It was a little hard to take at five in the morning.
Then we would eat our breakfast and after that, the tours would begin. A new one every fifteen minutes.
As a dog handler, I was expected to care for the dogs: keeping them watered throughout the day, helping to harness them up for the musher, keeping an eye on them to prevent fights or unwanted mating (dogs will be dogs, as one musher was fond of saying).
In addition to that, my job was to keep the yard looking good. Our dog camp was positioned on about 200 feet of snow that was melting at an increasingly rapid progress. Underneath snow began the glacial ice. 2-3000 feet thick where we were situated.
So, all this means that sometimes the ground became uneven. Especially if the dogs were digging, or pacing, as they were fond of doing. We had large shovel snow fresnos which we would use to completely level the dog yards every few days.
What’s a dog yard, you ask? Examine the picture above. The large snow alleyways separate the seven rows of five dogs each, totaling 35 dogs per yard. A total of eight mushers, so eight yards, bringing the dog total to 280, give or take a few who had been sent home and include in the puppies. Did I just say puppies? Yep, sure did. Take a gander at those cute furballs, with mama, Turkey, blinking sleepily behind them. Those cute little brats are quite the pawful, shes saying.
We called them the tourist bait. And this was how we dragged tourists back from their respective tours, to snuggle with our little puffballs. We named them after famous prisons, which was much more ironic when viewing them through their cage bars. This one, my favorite, was named Shawhank.
At the end of tours for the day, repeat morning chores, scoop the trail to ensure its cleanliness, and then dinner for the people, and you have officially worked the day as a dog handler.