As I sit in a coffee shop in Juneau, Alaska, waiting to fly back to Fairbanks after a four day Alaska Travel Industry Association Convention promoting the Last Frontier Mushing Co-op and our new sister company, Chena Outdoor Collective, I think to myself- how on Earth did I get HERE?!
I don’t remember what my five-year-old self wanted to be when she grew up, but I’m pretty sure dog musher wasn’t on her radar. I know for certain reindeer farmer didn’t cross her mind. Alaska? It was a far away place with bears and big fish that I wanted to visit on a cruise ship some day. Yet here I am, walking around Juneau, saying “Hi, my name is Ryne. I’m a dog musher and reindeer herder” as if that’s a completely normal occupation that I’ve planned on my entire life.
And since I’m sitting here, waiting for my flight, I get to let my mind wander and think about how exactly I’ve ended up here. Like everyone’s life paths, there have been lots of twists and turns, but I’m going to simplify it to a Cliffs Note version:
My parents bought me a dog sled ride in Durango for my birthday present when I was in middle school. In stereotypical millennial fashion, I’m blaming my current life position on my parents. It’s your fault. You bought me that dog sled ride.
I dropped out of college. Another classic millennial move. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I left the University of Puget Sound. My parents said “we’ll be emotionally supportive.” AKA, hope you can find a way to financially support yourself. So I’m blaming my parents again, because this led to the next life step- searching for a job that would feed, lodge, and clothe me.
I “googled” dog sledding jobs. Yep millennial move #3. I relied on Google. I found a job that provided only room and board because millennials care more about experiences and less about money/retirement/etc. Next thing you know, I’m living in a cabin at SP Kennel.
Allen lets me run his team in the Iditarod. I actually vividly remember Bridgett (Allen’s daughter) asking me if I wanted a big kennel one day, to which I replied, absolutely not. Then I ran the Iditarod, and next thing I know, the first Ryno Kennel puppies are being born that summer.
Derek says- Yes Ryne. You can move in with me and have a few dogs. Hahaha…few dogs… if only he knew.
I returned to college to get an accounting degree. Everyone needs an accounting degree. I think it should be a mandatory part of life. Whether you dream of being a CPA or starting your own business or being a dog musher, you need to have an understanding of how money works. I’m not saying the accounting degree has made me a financial advisor, but it allowed me to become friends with lots of amazing people who are far more intelligent than I am to help advise me on business decisions- cough cough Feniks & Company, cough cough Mariah and Melody.
My life was overflowing with supportive people. Like so many. Like so, so, so many. Derek (now husband), amazing handlers (Riley, Maliko, Gunhild, Liz, Tyler, Kalyn, Tom, Saeward) and all the kennel supporters. As a musher, we portray a life of self-sufficiency and isolation. Just you and your dogs. All alone. Braving the odds and charging through blizzards. When in reality, I rely SO MUCH on others, their generosity, and their knowledge. That includes you, reader.
We started Last Frontier Mushing Co-op and Reindeer Outpost. We joined forces and started doing tours. I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been a magic carpet ride, but what start up is? Bottom line, I get to spend more time with my dogs, meet incredible guests, and embark on exciting adventures.
Ok. Here’s the latest. We’ve expanded! The Two Rivers Outpost wants to become a tourism destination, and Amanda Brooks and I were hired to transform it into just that. (THANK YOU TWO RIVERS OUTPOST!)
This summer with the help of Brian Earle Building (neighbor) and Warren Howard, we designed and built an amazing tourism hub. Chena Outdoor Collective will offer dog demos, reindeer viewing, gold panning, and a visitor center. We’re highlighting our amazing community and trying to put Two Rivers and the Chena Valley on the map! This will allow us to start doing summer tours with the long term goal that I can free up time to really focus on racing. Because at the end of the day, that’s what we love. The dogs. The competition. The adventure. Exploring Alaska. So while I do put a lot of time and energy into tourism and I love expeditions or other opportunities to share this amazing sport with others, I’m not forgetting that this sport is why we started Ryno Kennel in the first place!