Photo: Jenny Nichols

In the days before there were airplanes, roads, or snowmobiles, dog sleds were the way to get around Alaska. They helped settlers mine for gold, haul supplies, and even deliver the mail to rural communities like Tanana on the banks of the Yukon River.

Last April, the Flying Classroom went to Tanana to participate in the Yukon River Championship Sled Dog Race. Eighty years ago, the two main stores in town—Tanana Commerical Company and the rival Northern Commerical Company—placed a bet: Who could race their dogs down the frozen river fastest? By the 1950’s, the race had become an annual event. Today, the Tanana Dog Mushers Association also sponsors a women’s race, junior races, and a 6-mile “Cheechako” race for newcomers like us.

Barrington may have been able to run forty yards in 4.3 seconds in high school, but as you’ll see in the video above, these dogs left him out of breath. “I won’t have a voice. It was like having a football team. You’re just like ‘Go, go, go!’”

Photo: Tom Kielty

After a fuel stop in rainy Juneau earlier today, Barrington and the Flying Classroom will arrive in Anchorage again this evening. Shaesta will join the team there before they make the dangerous North Pacific crossing to Russia tomorrow.

NEXT STOP: Anadyr, Russia