School assembly presentations on Alaska dog mushing

( Homer News , July '92 article about summer presentations for tourists in Homer)


Lorraine Temple 's enthusiasm for mushing helps to explain why she is spending July, among other months this summer, promoting her show about a sport that only sees action in winter.

As she says, it's hard pushing dogs in the halibut world of the Homer Spit in summer. But that hasn't discouraged her from a year-round enchantment with the sport.

During the winter, Temple operates Outback Kachemak Dog Sled Tours, which provides dog-sled tours in the snowy highlands around Homer. She and her dogs--about 30 of them--operate out of a bed and breakfast at 14 mile East End Road .

But this summer, Temple passed up the sport-fishing season--she has been a commercial charter-boat captain and has spent other summers doing that. Instead, she is spending about an hour of her afternoons each day and a couple of evenings on the Homer Spit giving tourists and whomever else pay the admission a sort of crash course in the sport of mushing.

Judging from the reactions of about a dozen visitors who showed up for the multi-media show Friday afternoon, she's satisfying a curiosity that tourists have about the sport, much of it apparently fueled by the fame of the Iditarod dog-sled race. But even for the nouveau-Alaskan who hasn't yet got the hang of why everyone else gets so excited about a bunch of dogs pulling a sled, Temple 's presentation gives insight.

Her presentation is comprised of explanations and demonstrations by her, with the help of one of her dogs, a film of dog mushing in action, and a slide show. The slide show which is accompanied by music, is of the kind that just might make you want to go out and get yourself a set of dogs and start mushing -- if there were any snow around.

Getting the dogs takes some doing, Temple explains, in one of those tidbits of information that only someone who is inside the sport would know. Some can be had for $100 each, and you need something like a dozen or more, depending on whether you need spares. If you want pups bred by an Iditarod champion, such as Susan Butcher, you might have to put down $2000 or more per hound, Temple says.

Temple has trained dogs for the Iditarod. But she hasn't ever raced in it--a common misconception because she and her dogs appear in photographs in the book "Iditarod Spirit" by Kim Heacox . That doesn't diminish her effectiveness in her show. If anything, it enhances it. That's because training is one of the keys of top-notch mushing. The man or woman at the back of the pack might lean on the sled, but voice commands and the training and instincts of the lead dog is what keeps a musher on the trail.

One of the photographs, of a smiling Temple surrounded by a mass of pups, drew " oohs " and "ahs". It wasn't the only one that rated high on the cuteness meter. When Temple called up one of her dogs, to demonstrate how dogs are harnessed and tethered to a sled, a few hearts seemed to be melting among the front-row ladies. The dog loved the attention too.

Temple takes a few opportunities for short sales pitches during the hour long presentation--explaining, in the case of Heacox's $40 book, that half of the proceeds she donates to the Homer Animal Friends spay and neuter clinic. She talks about her sled-dog business--which is as valuable for the humorous and enlightening anecdotes it provides as for winning her customers. She also puts in a favorable word for Land's End Resort, which is allowing her use of an old warehouse building near the end of the Spit for her show.

The warehouse lends itself quite well to talk about the sport of mushing. It is rustic to perfection, with exposed studs, an unfinished plank floor and benches made of boards laid atop sections of logs. Temple 's sparse decorations add just the right aesthetic touches, and when she brings in a couple of dogs and has them sprawl on the floor in back you could just imagine yourself in a way-station along the Iditarod trail.

Folks already knowledgeable about the sport of mushing might find "Dog Mushing in Alaska " unfulfilling. But for those who don't know what it's all about, the show's just right.



University of California Santa Barbara UCSB

Environmental Studies Associates February 1998, Profiled Alumni


by Paul Wack

Lorraine Temple lives a spirited lifestyle that makes the Alaskan image generated by the former television series "Northern Exposure" seem cartoonist by comparison. She has accumulated many travel and career experiences since graduating from UCSB in 1984, with a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Economics. She has a resume with an attitude, as reflected in one of the many articles about her: " Lorraine is in many ways the quintessentially capable Alaskan woman...Barbie with an edge". She combined beauty, brains, and brawn to carve out an important niche for herself not only at her home habitat on the Kenai Peninsula (south of Anchorage ), but across the entire state.

Any attempt to summarize Lorraine 's exciting and challenging career trail doesn't do her justice, just as a photo of Mt. Denali can not express the full beauty and scale of the highest mountain in North America . Being adventurous, Lorraine headed to Alaska after graduation, following the inspiration of Anthony Money's book, This Was the North, and the advice of a friend: "Don't look back, keep going." She immediately landed a job at a resort near Anchorage . In addition to the normal duties of waitressing and bartending, Lorraine also cared for 100 sled dogs, which planted the seed for her long-term interest in mushing. Being a romantic, she accompanied a love interest down to the Kenai Peninsula , built a house, and eventually started her own fish buying business. Although the business was successful, Lorraine found herself being drawn to the Caribbean where she worked on private yachts for a couple years, and eventually earned her license to captain 100 ton class vessels. This milestone set up her next adventure: the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound in 1989, where Lorraine became captain of a 63-foot landing craft. She was one of the few female captains among a fleet of hundreds of boats run mostly by men. After the spill, she continued, as both a captain and biologist, running boats supporting research projects administered by National Marine Fisheries.

After a time, Lorraine returned to land and started the Husky Ranch on 10 acres near Homer ("The Halibut Capital of the World") on the Kenai Peninsula to begin a dog sled tour business. She created a dog mushing show in a refurbished warehouse on the Homer Spit during the summer months to educate people about this exciting form of adventure and the opportunity to interact with the natural environment. Rapidly building expertise and reputation, Lorraine was invited by Iditarod winner Libby Riddles, the first woman to ever win the race, to provide sled dogs and assist in creating the Alaska native mushing scenes in Steven Seagal's 1993 film, On Deadly Ground. It was an experience she won't soon forget, especially how everyone involved with the film shared a special respect for the beauty of Alaska . Unfortunately, Lorraine found that opportunity and notoriety extracts a price, and a lesson learned. After signing a release form, a number of photos of her and her dog team soon appeared in numerous ads and promotions including an " Alaska " postcard. Although she lost out on potential royalties, the exposure has been good for her business, the Outback Kachemak Dog Sled Tours, and moved her a step closer to institutional status in Alaska .

Blessed with an entrepreneurial spirit, Lorraine has diversified her business interests (a good idea in Alaska ) by preparing annual Homer Coupon Books, a very popular item on the Kenai Peninsula . She has expanded the Husky Ranch to include a truly rustic bed and breakfast cabin with an amazing view of the Kachemak Bay . An occasional display of the Northern Lights only enhances the uniqueness of the setting. Lately Lorraine has been working for Nunatak Kennels on a glacier outside Juneau, the state capitol, providing dog sled rides to cruise ship guests, which is an adventure far more rewarding than being strapped into a Disney-programmed ride. (Article written 1998) Lorraine believes that it is important for people to experience nature directly and not through the false promise of virtual reality. In her view, direct contact with nature is the best way to encourage environmental awareness and respect.

Lorraine possesses a boundless level of spirit and energy. Her "family" currently includes 35 huskies, 2 horses, a cat, 10 birds a 45 gallon aquarium and 67 plants to remind her of Santa Barbara . She is also proud of the two plastic pink flamingos in her living room, which most people place on their front lawn, but this is Alaska .

At first glance, the connection between her UCSB experience and her career is not apparent. However, further reflection generates connection. As a student, Lorraine always handled more than a heavy plate of responsibility. She carried a full course load and worked 20-30 hours a week as a Campus Security Officer. Lorraine learned a lot about the world and herself during her tenure at UCSB. She combined this knowledge with intense energy, faith in the future, and a concern about the environment that translated into making a real difference among the many people she has touched over the years, including her professors. Lorraine has demonstrated that one person can make a difference even in the adverse conditions of Alaska .

In one of the numerous articles written about her adventures and unique lifestyle, Lorraine was asked what was the force that drives her to accomplish all the things she has done so far in Alaska . Her response: "Last year I was running my dog team one day about five o'clock as the sun was setting, casting as incredible alpenglow onto the Kenai Mountains across the bay while the full moon was rising from behind the mountains at the same time. I stopped my dog team and I just stood there watching this scene and tears just started streaming down my face. Words couldn't describe how intense the moment was. It was a whole body mind soul feeling that was so overwhelming, so beautiful, I'll never forget it...moments like that." And she smiled, in a way that visualizes a unique feeling of unity between a human being and her special place on Earth. We should all be so lucky, and as Lorraine would quickly remind us, the opportunity is there, if you "Hang in there!" Lorraine has.

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To be a star, you must shine your own light, follow your own path and don't worry about the darkness for that is when stars shine the brightest. ~ Anonymous

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