Those of you who have been readers of this blog know that after last year’s race I drafted and tendered a proposal to induct Dan Seavey into the Iditarod Hall of Fame. Today at the finish of the Ceremonial Start 15-or-so mile leg from downtown Anchorage to the BLM complex at Campbell Airstrip I had a great visit with Dan. We stood talking around the team his son Mitch had just completed the run with. I also had a quick exchange with grandson Dallas. Neither Dan, nor Dallas, nor I knew he had been inducted. My wife Karen informed me when I got home tonight. Here’s the Anchorage Daily News article.
A quick note here before I head out to take in the Ceremonial Start and rub shoulders with “The Big Family” (other brothers and sisters of the long trail and their families, helpers, fans, and race supporters/administrators/event putter-oner volunteers).
I just returned from the grand Musher’s Drawing Banquet. People there from all over, about 2,500 strong. A big part of the fun for me is meeting with old friends who go all the way back to race beginnings. Three of us founding drivers were there tonight—four if you count one who dropped out on the Yukon. And then it’s wonderful to see others who go back almost as far, those who ran the first ten or so races.
Originally posted February 27, 2012
When I’m asked, “Who’s your pick to win the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race?” I answer the questioner that if he had any idea of the complexities and variables that go into final Iditarod standings, he wouldn’t even ask. But with that caveat, I’ll clue you to two young stars on the rise. These 25ish guys are at the front of an up-and-coming few who have chosen distance racing as a profession immediately out of the chute following graduation.
Jake Berkowitz Kelly Hartog, commenting on Jake in the Jewish Daily Forward said, “What’s truly incredible is that a ‘Nice Jewish Boy’ has chosen to run dogs for a living. My son the dog musher isn’t exactly something you hear around the Sabbath dinner table.”
Though today’s Iditarod races aren’t exactly Nancy-visits-the-farm level experiences, they wouldn’t come anywhere close to offering much in the way of true adventure to the great Indian and Eskimo dog men, and the gold miners, trappers, big game guides and other veterans of long northern trails who headed toward Nome on the first Iditarod. Where would be the least hint of risk, hazard, and danger to such Bush-hardened trails men as made up the trailblazing field? Those of us who answered Joe Redington’s challenge to pioneer an audacious new concept in sled dog racing, in taking our plunge into the virtually trackless unknown, eagerly entered in to what could be described as a test drive we could not afford to fail and a reconnaissance that must return a positive report. That is, if the race were to see a future.
The Iditarod was created by a special breed of mushers for their own kin, dog drivers of a breed attracted to answer a primal call to adventure. The race would give such intrepid types outlet by providing a platform upon which, using only primitive transportation, they could challenge a crossing of the great, savage Alaska Bush in the dead of subarctic winter. The very dictionary definition of adventure reads, “A bold undertaking; a daring enterprise featuring risk, hazard, danger, and an unknown outcome including a chance of failure, disaster or death.” It’s supposed to be a tough race for tough, competent dog drivers. Most who have competed are great folk with an attitude of gratitude. They are downright thankful a race has been laid out for them, veritably handing them on a silver platter the needed base for expressing their personal call of the wild.
Birch is the firewood of choice here along the old Iditarod Trail, but only for home use. That’s because, in the round, birch never dries, only rots. Year after year it remains wet inside the bark. Birch bark is so impervious it will not let moisture from the green wood out. Birch wood will only dry when spit, stacked, and left a good while to cure. So for campfires, travelers of the northern wilderness turn to other woods which dry while standing dead. The most commonly used is spruce. But for cabin use, where you have time to work ahead on next year’s supply, you cut and split a few cords of birch, which produces more calories of heat per cord than spruce.
I hereby submit Dan Seavey for your consideration for induction into the Iditarod Hall of Fame. My perception is that, apart from the late Joe Redington Sr., those already making up the Hall were deemed deserving because of a single meritorious area of achievement or contribution. However, as was Joe, Dan Seavey is “Iditarod multifaceted,” being distinctive for achievements and contributions in several areas of Iditarod. Each is noteworthy enough by itself to make him deserving of your consideration.
We thought we were sold out, but a few have been found.
The last remaining copies of my first edition of TRAILBREAKERS Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod (Blazing the Last Great Gold Rush Trail in North America) are available while they last at www.Amazon.com
When these are gone, they are gone. History. There will be no backorders. When the new revised edition appears in early summer, though it will be under the same title, it will be an expanded work at an increased price.
Before you jump all over this order, make sure you understand which of my two volumes you are ordering. Volume I (which you may order from Amazon until the short supply is gone) is about how the Iditarod TRAIL was born back in gold rush times. Volume II (which you may order straight from me through my website) is how the Iditarod RACE was born. For more information about the two volumes, please visit my website www.rodperry.com
Limited copies of First Edition Volume ONE: Trailbreakers Volume I
Lately I have posted stories of escapes from going through river ice while running the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Obviously the dogs, being in it with the driver, experienced those narrow escapes at the same time. When running such stories, I fully expect to be assaulted by individuals and organizations who are separated so far from the land (“too many generations off the farm”) and hold such a skewed, unnatural view of the natural world that they would, if they could, protect even free-born wolves from wild wolfdom.
Of even the most avid fans of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, not many know that Nome was not always part of the race plan. In this series I’ve been telling how it happened that we have an Anchorage-to-Nome race. I strongly urge you, if you’ve just come aboard, to not begin here but go back to Part I and read it from the top. This series has been lifted from the much more complete telling in my definitive work, TRAILBREAKERS Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod, Volume II (The Most Daring Iditarod Adventure of All Time, Founding The Last Great Race On Earth.)
By far the longest, most grueling race ever planned, to be run through one of the most majestic landscapes on the planet, over a gold-rush-era trail dripping with unparalleled history and romance, offering a purse of staggering proportions, featuring the most exciting, anticipation-charged start ever seen in the annals of sled dog racing—all of it was heading Nome’s way. With every other part of the race of such surpassing extravagance and grandiosity, the Iditarod Trail Committee understood that the event could not afford a ho-hum, anticlimactic letdown in Nome. No, the race needed to be superlative in every aspect, start to finish. Nothing less than a rousing reception and gala celebration at the end of the trail would do.
During the six years of pre-Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race evolution of ideas and planning, Nome was not the end destination. This continuing series tells part of the little-known story of Nome’s last-minute inclusion. The full story may be found in my definitive book TRAILBREAKERS Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod.
Joee and Ramey Redington stated in a cover quote, “Rod’s got his facts down. Dad (Joe R., “Father of the Iditarod) would be proud of this book.”
Not one in ten thousand of even the most avid race fans has a clear and complete understanding about beginnings of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. For instance, how did it come to be that the race ends in Nome? If you think it was because Race creators wanted to commemorate or recreate the Serum Run, you’re certainly needful—if you’re fan enough to care—of a tutorial to straighten out your notions.
If you’ve just joined in, notice that this is part four. I’d highly recommend you drop back to the beginning and read the three prior Nome—The Golden Key posts.
Recently, senior editorial writer for the Anchorage Daily News Frank Gerjevik, and I reflected on Iditarod’s early days. Frank commented, “You know, Rod, everyone who came into it after its formative years seems to have the mindset that it’s always been full-formed, like it’s always been the way they see the Iditarod today.”
Way back in the late 70s, I counted Frank the first writer that began to “get it” about this unique new sport, the first sports writer who began turning out really insightful daily stories covering the spectacle. And that reflection of his during our recent visit was spot on. As I’ve often said, not one in ten thousand fans has a very full or accurate concept about Iditarod’s formative stages.