Iditarod: An Alaskan Tradition, The Last Great Race. While living in I didn’t want to miss seeing what this Race is all about. In 2008, during the first weekend of March I watched and photograph the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The official route runs from frozen Willow Lake to the finish line under the Burled Arch in Nome on the western Bering Sea coast. Each team of 12 to 16 dogs and their musher covers nearly 1000 miles (plus or minus depending on the year) in 8 to 17 days. The race route runs thru some of the roughest, most beautiful Alaskan terrain. It runs thru jagged mountain ranges, frozen rivers, dense forest, desolate tundra and miles of windswept coast. Temperatures are usually well below zero, with winds that can cause a complete loss of visibility, the hazards of ice overflow, long hours of darkness and treacherous climbs and side hills.
There are 22 checkpoints on the route before reaching the end of the race in Nome. At these check points the mushers check in and out, and veterinarians check the health and condition of each dog. You can’t compare it to any other competitive event in the world! Temperatures can be warm during the day causing most teams to rest during the day and travel at night. The dogs love the colder weather.
The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All via dog sled. In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in by dog sled teams.
I came away from this little adventure with a major respect for this sport, the dogs, the mushers, training, dog care, and the life style required to even participate in a long distance race like the Iditarod.
© Journey's End Photography