The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race!
It’s world famous. The Last Great Race on Earth. What an incredibly spectacular challenge! Intrepid men and women and their magnificent dog teams pit themselves against a thousand miles of untamed Alaska wilderness. Dueling one another in quest of riches, adventure and glory, they battle all that nature can throw against them. Today it’s an event of global renown, one of the greatest outdoor dramas on the international sports stage. But how did it make its way to those exalted heights?
Much of it has never been written. But now, for the first time, the amazing inside story is told. Volume II of TRAILBREAKERS chronicles the fanatical quest of Alaska homesteader Joe Redington Sr. of Knik, an incredibly driven and mule-stubborn country visionary, as he concocts and advances the most audacious contest in northern sports history. His concept introduces a new kind of sled dog race. Extravagant? Joe’s idea redefines the word. It’s so outrageously grand in all of its facets that few can wrap their mind around it. This stirring tale relates his struggles amidst public indifference, disbelief, derision, and resistance to found the event that few in that day believed could succeed.
This story is, as well, the gripping saga of the bold enterprise that launches Joe’s grandiose promotion. The North stands electrified as daring men and their heroic dogs plunge headlong into a hostile unknown, forcing their way a thousand miles across Wild Alaska during the deadly winter of 1973.
As these intrepid teams battle their passage over the daunting Alaska Range, breast the huge drifts of the Interior, grimly endure fifty below on the Yukon River, and buck the harsh blizzards of the Bering Sea coast, back at race headquarters, Joe and his closest inner corps, just the smallest few of his scant group of supporters, hold their breath while keeping track of the unfolding drama. They know something that not only does the public not know, but few of the supporters and even fewer of the racers themselves know, and that is how precariously his almost non-existent race infrastructure teeters and by what thin threads the whole event hangs. As well, they well understand that the grim struggle taking place out there is no less than a dire, do-or-die battle for the very survival of the Iditarod. Should the men and teams fail to make it through that winter of 1973—and it has to be 1973, no other—Joe’s dream will die, surely die an ignominious death, never to be heard of again, and the world will never know that word that rings so magnetically, “Iditarod.”
But if his pioneers can make it through to Nome, they will have established a fabulous base of success Joe can build upon. So Joe Redington and his stalwarts watch with bated breath, knowing the entire fate of the Iditarod rests upon the shoulders of three dozen steel-tough, trail-hardened Eskimo, Indian, and white sourdough hunters, trappers, gold miners, homesteaders and adventurers and their marvelous dog teams.
Everything arctic weather and a cruel trail can mount against them, they meet and conquer. Joe’s trailblazers finish the course in triumph and launch a new star, the Iditarod, to dazzling resplendence.
This book tells the incredible tale of how Joe’s desperate experiment unfolded in that winter of 1973, and how precariously it all wobbled between crashing, irrecoverable defeat and radiant glory.
Delve into these pages! The barely organized, but glorious running of the most daring Iditaord adventure of all time is on! Come along on the wild and crazy, grueling, trail breaking run. Be there as the pioneers plunge into the great unknown. Travel along as they blaze a path across the North like a brilliant comet, and the magnificent event gains its beginnings as The Last Great Race on Earth.
Rod Perry: Mine is not the only way to tell the story of the founding, trailblazing run. Each contestant on that hazardous odyssey lived his own adventure, saw his personal passage through his own eyes, and had stories enough to have filled a book of his own. But of those original drivers, most were whale and seal hunters of the Bering and Chukchi Seas, caribou hunters and marten trappers from the arctic tundra and subarctic boreal forests, sourdough gold miners, homesteaders, and trail-hardened adventurers. They were incredibly self-sufficient, exactly the type required to not only survive, but thrive amidst such a primitive, shoe-string event of such minimal organization and thin support. To pull off his event, Joe Redington needed men who were independent, undemanding, and tough to kill, and that’s just the type he got. But with all of their attributes, few of the original drivers were writers, and many are gone now, or will soon crest over their last pass, so most of those histories were never and will never be put to pen and page.
I was closer to the race’s founding effort than all but a small handful of the other pioneer racers. That made me privy to inside, never-before-told revelations of organizational incidents and intrigue surrounding the establishment of the event. Back then these were not shared even amongst most of the original field of mushers. Since those days, they have never made their way from the inner circle out to even the most experienced of the media or fan base. Also, I am familiar with many outlandish adventures and surprising details that were part and parcel of the 1973 race. Though superb stories, they were so little known even in 1973 that most of the other racers were unaware they took place. In the pages of TRAILBREAKERS you will learn of them.
Gleo Huyck, Co Founder, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race: “It’s about time someone wrote it this way! If you are jolted when parts of this story differ from commonly accepted renditions, you may be sure that Rod’s version is accurate. Unlike most other writers, he was there close to us. From his experiential, insider’s viewpoint, Rod writes about how The Last Great Race was begun as it should be: carefully researched and artfully, factually—and humorously—described.”