It’s one of the world’s most coveted and exclusive emblems. Properly, it’s to be worn only by mushers who have officially finished the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Here’s the short-version story of its creation.
Soon following the first running of the Iditarod Race, we mushers founded an exclusive club composed of those who had finished the event. We officially named our organization Anchorage-Nome Iditarod Mushers. One of our first decisions was that such an exclusive and illustrious club deserved to be identified with an embroidered patch. Being the artist in the group, I was asked to design and produce it.
We Iditarod Sled Dog Race pioneers are often asked to contrast our trailblazing trip over the Iditarod Trail with those of today. Mind you, this particular discussion of the comparisons is not a commentary about which of the two era’s racers and races were of higher quality, but merely points to the differences. (To understand the true gist of this treatment, the reader must understand the dictionary definition of the word, adventure. Too many today use it where they should use the word, experience.)
Certainly, the degree to which a person setting forth to run today’s Iditarod Race considers it a matter of risk, hazard, danger, and an unknown outcome, depends upon the musher’s wilderness winter survival skills as well as his relative experience and preparedness with bush dog team travel. Almost every one of the 1973 entrees was a trailsman of years’ experience mushing off the beaten track, traveling and living out on long subarctic and arctic wilderness trails utterly alone, with no one keeping track of his whereabouts, watching over his safety, or providing his trail to run on or logistical support.