I’ve been a bit distracted this week, as I am every year during the beginning of March. I’ve been keeping up with the Iditarod, running right now across the great state of Alaska, checking FB updates not only from the Iditarod Trail Committee, but also from one of the mushers, Karen Ramstead, who runs an all-Siberian Husky team.
I was up WAY too late last night (Tuesday), but I got to see Dallas Seavey cross under the Burled Arch and into Iditarod History. At age 25, he is the youngest musher ever to win the Iditarod. Even cooler? His dad and grandpa couldn’t be at the finish line to welcome him in, because they were still out on the trail with their own teams!
Thanks to “animal rights” activists, Mushers, and the Iditarod in general, often suffer slings and arrows, painted as evil-rotten-horrible animal abusers. But you need only peruse the following stories to see how false that is.
The first is a story of Pat Moon from Chicago, who scratched from the race in Ruby because he was down to only 7 dogs (they start with sixteen). He is credited with saving the life of a local child. Twenty minutes after scratching from the race (“the dogs weren’t having any fun”), he was in the Ruby Checkpoint when the child’s mother came in looking for help. Her son had been sledding and crashed into a parked snow machine, splitting his head open. Moon is a trained EMT; he accompanied her to the house, where he stopped the bleeding and bandaged the wound until the child could receive further medical attention.
Another story comes from Dalzell Gorge (a passage between Rainy Pass and Rohn Checkpoints). “Mushing Mortician” Scott Janssen’s dogs were running just fine through the pass, when 9 year old Marshall collapsed. “He dropped,” said Janssen. Sobbing, Janssen held Marshall’s mouth closed, and breathed into his nose as he massaged the dog’s chest. “Come on, Dude, come back to me,” and a few minutes later, Marshall did. He rode in the Sled Bag to Rohn, where he was tended to by race vets and flown to Anchorage, where he is doing just fine. (Fair warning: the videos on both of those links will make you cry, unless you’re a heartless beast)
THIS is why I watch that race. The mushers are incredible, and their dogs are phenomenal. My dog is healthy and happy, thanks in part to lessons learned along that trail. If you’ve never followed it, I encourage you to do so. There’s still plenty of time to catch Iditafever… check out the Iditarod Website, pick a musher (or 30) from the Current Standings, do some math to figure when they’ll come into Nome, then click over to the NomeCam and see if you can catch their finish. Stick around and see who gets the Red Lantern. And while you’re watching, tune in to some Hobo Jim for a soundtrack…
*Ok, the Northern Route isn’t really 1049 miles this year. Because of some changes, including the location of the start of the race from Wasilla to Willow, as well as conditions along the rout, the race this year is 975 miles. ” ‘1,049 miles®’ has been a symbolic figure from the inception of the race to signify the 1,000 miles or more of race trail and the number 49 depicts Alaska as the 49th state.