Please sign in to start usingthe Trip Planner
How does the old adage go—it’s not
where you’re going, but how you get there? Well, this wasn’t more poignantly
demonstrated than on a recent visit to Alaska Tails of the Trail with Mary
Shields. I got lost in her stories as she took me down the trails of her Alaska
journey. How lucky we are that she parked her sled in Fairbanks, Alaska.
The day started with a scenic
30-minute drive from downtown Fairbanks through boreal forest to the Goldstream
Valley. With the sun streaming through wispy clouds, the lush valley was filled
with light and the temperature high. Winding down Jones Road north towards the
hills, I was overwhelmed with anticipation. Huskies! I’ll admit it, I had puppy
on the brain. Not just any puppies—Alaska mushing puppies. I pulled into the
driveway and Mary was there to greet my arrival.
She guided me towards the garden
fence and offered up a choice of mosquito spray in preparation for our hour
outside. Proceeding to the enclosed (to keep the moose from noshing on the
veggies) garden we toured her raised beds bursting with color and variety—herbs
and new perennials in this box, cabbages and other veggies in that. Slowly
turning 360 degrees in the round garden, Mary’s lilting voice identified the pops
of color with ease.
Making sure to close the gate behind
us, we left the garden and headed toward the kennel. Well-trained and obedient
to Mary’s calls, the huskies hopped atop their houses for hugs and kisses. They
nuzzled right in for rubs behind the ears and strokes along their backs. What
amazing creatures! After greeting each at their house, I was guided to an
outside-the-fence platform. Mary let the dogs off their chains and I got to
watch the magic of them playing and interacting with one another. Mary sat atop
one of the houses and told me about the training, feeding, breeding and upkeep
required for these magnificent athletes. When playtime was over, each chose a different
house and Mary treated them for their good behavior.
Moving across the well-kept lawn from
the kennel to Mary’s home I gazed up at the cabin roof. Before going through
the doorway I asked Mary about her roof. “That’s a sod roof—with fireweed and
raspberries. I use a ladder to pick the raspberries!” Inside the house, Mary
had prepared fresh baked goods, hot coffee and iced limeade—treats provided to
every visitor! The interior of the house was just as quintessential Alaskan, as
the exterior. The woodwork was incredible. I was instantly at ease as Mary led
me through the kitchen to a large round table around which we sat for the
second hour of the tour. And here’s where the stories gave me chills—coming to
Alaska and living in an abandoned cabin with Denali as a backdrop, running the
Ididarod, taking springtime trips to a remote cabin to write books and “get
away from it all,” living in the sub-arctic with ingenuity and passion. Her
love of this country, this Interior Alaska country, is not doubted and her love
of sharing it with others was on full display.
Mary’s tales are genuine and
authentic. Her graceful and unassuming manner draws the listener in. Her
stories are those all-too-often found only in books. Her life is real and I’m
glad one of my trails led to Mary’s door.
Loading Content. Please Wait ...