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.