An Alaska Mushing Operation to Avoid

One of the large losses when my blog got hacked and I had to nuke it was a lengthy discussion about Austin’s Alaska Adventures in Nome, operated by Jerry Austin, who died in June 2010, about a year after this was posted). The post was initiated by an email I received from Lyn Harvey of Australia, who went on a trip with them and had a dreadful experience. While I unfortunately can’t re-create the many followup posts, here is Lyn’s well-illustrated commentary again:

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I don’t like to be negative but I must tell it like it was to save someone else from this experience. As you will see from my pages on Tripadvisor I’ve had a lot of adventures, and this was the worst.

Dog mushing was at the top of my bucket list, and it’s expensive and a long way to go from Australia. I had to overnight in Anchorage and again overnight in Nome. Due to bad weather we had yet another night in Nome on the way to St. Michael. I have to say Austin’s web site makes it all look good. HA! Jerry met us at the plane stinking of alcohol, and as his photo on the web site is about 10 years out of date we thought this was his Dad. We were taken to the daughter’s house (she was out of town in Anchorage), and it was dirty and dilapidated with bare electrical wires. There was rubbish in the kitchen from the previous mushers 2 weeks before. We were told the toilet doesn’t work and to go to Jerry’s house! They did fix it. Also told the shower doesn’t work so one of the girls went to their house for a shower and was told off for coming close to meal time. There were 6 of us and only 5 beds. I slept on a mattress on the floor behind the couch and one of the guys slept on the couch. The 2 ‘bedrooms’ where the others slept had no doors. No privacy. After ‘dinner’ that night Jerry lay on the couch watching TV and Clara told us to shush. Clara is rude, surly and ill tempered and she and Jerry argued. They had hired help who took us to the stinking garage and was hard put to find gear without broken zips and holes.

Despite the claims on the web site Jerry had nothing to do with our mushing, he followed on a snowmobile. After mushing up to their ‘lodge’ at Klikitarik, a home made shack, we were given a dinner of roast meat just cooked around the edges and mostly raw and raw carrots and celery! The tent we slept in had only 5 camp beds so one guy slept with the hired help, who is rude and ill mannered, in a tent with no heating. When I asked Clara about the King Crab boasted about on their web site she acted surprised and told me we don’t get that. In response to my reference to the promises made on the web site she stated she has never seen it.

We were concerned at the conditions the dogs are kept in. They have kennels they can’t get into and food is put onto the snow where they poop and pee! Due to bad weather we had to spend an extra night and 2 days at that place. The second day one of the guys went to their house at 2.30pm to ask about lunch for us, and was sent back with 2 boxes of Pringles and a bag of Doritos. I kid you not!

We finally left for Nome at 5.45pm and of course all had flights onwards. Since being home I have been directed to comments posted on tripadvisor about this trip. I can’t believe I didn’t see it before as I spent hours on the ‘Net. I hope to save others from this experience. Don’t go with Austin’s – it’s expensive and a rip off.

My mattress on the floor behind the couch the other guy slept on.

This wire was above the couch we sat on, the other was a ‘bed’

The bathroom vanity unit. Breakfast was at 10 am, and Clara was rude to me when I went over to their cabin before that to ask for a hot drink! As the couple in our group commented to Albert, we were made to feel like a damn nuisance.

The stinking garage

The garage where we got Mushing 101 from Terence. He was the one taking us, not Austin.

How the dogs live.

No dog should have to live like this.

Another useless kennel.

The tent we slept in at Klikitarik.

My bed, complete with rubbish from previous trip, and disgusting pillow.

Would you put your head on that pillow hanging there?

Jerry Austin’s web site says he is 51 years old, and the photo is clearly out of date. I calculated from what I can find on the web that he is 10 years older. As you can see he has a knee brace and walks with a stick. He also has the shakes. Not what we expected.

I hope to hear from others who will be willing to add to my complaints. They need to be put out of business – at least then they wouldn’t have all those poor dogs. It seems there is no monitoring of these remote operations, no Animal organizations to check on the dogs.

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The final 2 photos were taken at Vern Halter’s Dream a Dream Kennel near Willow. What a difference – the dogs all have a food and water bowl and clean straw in their house. This is how a sled dog kennel should look!

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