The Last Great Race….
With the official start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race yesterday in Alaska, I thought it fitting to comment on our experiences with mushing and The Last Great Race on Earth.
Audrey and I have attended over half a dozen races including 3-4 ceremonial starts in Anchorage. Once where snow was trucked in to cover the streets of downtown, as was necessary this year due to warm weather and little snowfall. We’ve also witnessed the official start in Willow a few times. On frozen Willow Lake, large groups of spectators with impressive BBQ parties including tents, chairs, outhouses and plenty of beverages, cheer the mushers on as they begin their treacherous, scenic journey towards Nome.
During one Iditarod, we flew to Rainy Pass – a checkpoint along the race trail. We watched as the constant stream of dog teams and mushers arrived. Like a truck stop, every team had their parking space to rest, sleep and eat before moving on again. Veterinarians examined dogs and tired mushers attended their teams – laying straw, cooking hot meals, changing booties and a variety of other chores for their dogs before they even thought about tending to their own personal needs. All through the night and during the day we watched mushers and dogs arrive and depart the checkpoint on their way to Nome.
Audrey and I were once fortunate enough to experience a little time driving our own team of dogs across the tundra and a small piece of Norton Sound. We departed from the village of St Michael and mushed our way to a winter camp where we spent the night. We returned to St Michael the next day. We had plenty of snow and sunny weather most of the trip until a snow squall crossed our trail on our return. But the dogs knew the trail. We were completely reliant on their sense of direction as they returned us to St Michael safely. It was an unforgettable experience and one we still talk about often.
Iditarod is a special and exciting time in Alaska. A time to celebrate and honor the tradition and important history of Arctic dog teams.
Enjoy the race!