Published January/February 2014

6 Great Adventures for Everyone

From dogsledding in Alaska to gliding in Hawaii, you’ll hardly break a sweat with these exhilarating activities

BYBeverly Burmeier
There’s nothing wrong with spending your vacation lounging on a white sand beach sipping fruity drinks decorated with little umbrellas. But if travel means stretching your boundaries or going beyond your comfort zone, try one of these six adventures. You don’t have to be a super-athlete or daredevil; all you need is the desire to try something new.
 
1. Dogsled in Alaska 
Standing on a 15-foot blanket of soft snow covering a quarter-mile of hard-packed ice on Norris Glacier, I expected to feel cold. But the sunshine, reflecting off the unending whiteness, made the June day unseasonably warm — so I took my jacket off.
 
We had taken a helicopter from Juneau, Alaska, to the glacier for the opportunity to mush a dogsled team. As we approached camp, a training ground for the Iditarod race, hundreds of dogs jumped wildly and barked excitedly. They were raring to go.
 
“Don’t pet the dogs,” says John, a professional dog musher who lives on the glacier for months at a time. “They’re in work mode. After the run, they will be relaxed and friendly.”
I slide onto the long wooden sled’s low-slung seat while John stands on the back runners, holds onto the bar, and operates the brake with his foot.
 
Off we go with a team of nine dogs harnessed to our sled. The apparatus skims along the soft snow giving us a thrilling mushing experience. We stop several times to allow the dogs, who are used to running in subzero temperatures, to pant out the 60-degree heat. Afterward, the dogs settle down and enjoy being petted. “They are bred to pull sleds,” John says. “That’s what they love to do.”
 
2. Swim with Stingrays in the Cayman Islands
Stingrays are often regarded as “bad guys” in the ocean, so it took courage to book an excursion that involved swimming with these sea creatures in the Cayman Islands. My fears were unfounded.
 
After crossing over Cayman Ridge, the deepest part of the Caribbean Sea at more than 25,000 feet, the catamaran we were on stopped at a sandbar aptly named Stingray City. The water was 3 to 4 feet deep, just right for cavorting with some of the 2,500 stingrays hanging out there.
 
Watching graceful southern stingrays glide in their natural habitat was delightful, but the crew encourages guests to stroke each ray on its large fin and nose — being careful not to touch the spine or blowholes behind its eyes. They explain that the barb on the tail is only dangerous if you rub backward on it. While feeding squid to the rays, I made a fist with thumb enclosed, so it wouldn’t get sucked into the ray’s mouth on its underside.
 
Just for fun, I held both arms out in front and let the ray slide upon them for an intimate brush with its silky soft skin. If you stoop to shoulder level in the water the ray will slide up your back in a spine-tingling maneuver.
1. Dogsled in Alaska
1. Dogsled in Alaska
2. Swim with Stingrays in the Cayman Islands
2. Swim with Stingrays in the Cayman Islands
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