For the third time in its 45 year history the Iditarod race has been relocated to Fairbanks due to treacherous conditions in the Alaska range. What a pity.

The stretch from Finger Lake to Nicolai entails the most scenic and perilous landscape of the historic sled dog race. Unfortunately, the mushers don’t have much time to admire the beautiful scenery. Depending on weather conditions and time of the day they may not even get a glimpse of the scenery.

As a caretaker at Rainy Pass, one of the checkpoints on the trail, I witnessed one musher arriving just around sunrise on a beautiful winter morning. The first words from underneath his ice-caked fur hood were: “Whoaa, I never knew there were such beautiful mountains around”.

Arriving at Rainy Pass Lodge means the mushers and their dogs have mastered one of the first hurdles: the Steps. Steep, sometimes icy inclines in and out of the Happy River (what’s in a name). A few more nasty side hills and there you are at Puntilla Lake.

Straw, food, water, a dry cabin for the mushers to rest.

After Puntilla Lake comes the long climb to Rainy Pass, the highest point on the trail, and then the hair-raising descent into the Dalzell Gorge. It’s easy to tip your sled, crash into a tree, and in the worst case loose your team. Take a wild ride down that gorge with Jeff King. Past Rohn, a public forest service cabin, overflow, open water and the Farewell Burn are the last obstacles of the Alaska Range before the racers reach the open tundra.

All that drama will be missed this year and replaced by a long slog up the cold Yukon.

Iditarod is certainly a long hard race, but there are others that may be more challenging in terms of endurance, remoteness, and extreme conditions.

There is the Yukon Quest between Whitehorse and Fairbanks. 1000 miles. Long cold stretches between checkpoints. Four out of 21 competitors have scratched so far. Some participants of this race go on to race the Iditarod afterwards. This is prime season for long distance sled dog racing.

And then there is the, a Beringia, a 1,500-km sled dog marathon in Kamchatka, Russia. 19 mushers signed up this year. It will take about 24 days for the winner to cross the finish in Ust-Kamchatsk. In 1991 the event set the Guinness world record as the world’s longest sled dog race, with a route of 1980 kilometers.

There are great sled dog races all over the world. I hope they all will be held in the future, as it keeps a great tradition of alive.

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One Man's Paradise

The Last Great Race

Gallery
Dogs and ponies

The Quest

blogHey loves,

remember me? It’s me Archimedesthe most handsome pup in the whole yard. I am a big boy now. Just wanted to let you know, the Quest is on it’s way.

The Yukon Quest is a tough 1000 mile long sled dog race between Whitehorse (Yukon) and Fairbanks (Alaska). The race is on, no matter what the weather throws at the mushers and the dogs. Just 21 courageous teams signed up this year for the adventure, including 5 rookies.

Good luck!

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Dogs and ponies

All is quiet…

Iditarod has moved through Rainy Pass. It’s been a very fast race this year. Some mushers have pushed for long runs and little rest, some camped out at the checkpoints, some went stealth camping in the wilderness to get rest and keep the competition guessing. A few more days and the winner will arrive in Nome. The race goes on, until the last musher reaches the finish, which may be weeks…

In 2014 I was a caretaker at Rainy Pass Lodge, a hunting lodge and Iditarod checkpoint in the Alaska Range. As the crow flies it is about 120 miles to Anchorage. There is no road access to this remote place. Food and supplies are brought in by bush plane, when needed, or when the weather allows.

In the off-season it becomes real quiet there. Less than a handful of staff take care of the horses and the property throughout winter. All that changes in March, when three races come through and bring droves of competitors and spectators, press and support staff to the site. First, it’s the high-octane Iron Dogs, then the human-powered runners, skiers and bikers, and finally the furry stars of the Iditarod sled dog race.

I did not know much about the the sport of dog sledding then. It was an amazing experience. First, I was so surprised how small these dogs were. How could they pull a sled, a musher, and supplies for more than 1000 miles across Alaska? Where did they and the mushers sleep?

The dogs are amazing, so are the mushers. A small community of resilient spirits from all walks of life. Tragedy struck this year, when some of them lost their homes in the Sockeye wildfire. Nevertheless, this could not stop them from participating in this year’s race.

Everybody in this field has a story…

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Dogs and ponies

It’s on!

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Iditarod is on!

It’s pretty amazing to see how anxious and motivated these sled dogs are. Maybe they won’t jump as high a week into the race, but running is in their blood.

The mushers? Not so sure. Probably happy to be done with training and having left the circus in Anchorage behind. They also know, what to expect. Long days and nights, little sleep, trying to keep their team healthy, resting just enough, and making good decisions along the way.

Will it be a hat trick for Dallas Seavey, three in a row, or can another musher break his winning streak?

 

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Life

Purpose, passion, perspective

Today is World Photography Day!


To have purpose, passion, and passion… That’s life!

Share one photograph of yours with the world. Starting from today you have one week to submit one of your images, and possibly the story behind it, with the world.

Above is my contribution. It reflects purpose, passion, and perspective to me.

Purpose – a sled dog team training for a big race

Passion – you have to have passion to be a musher, maintaining your own and the dogs motivation throughout the year

Perspective –  my view, with focus on the lead dogs, capturing (with luck) a moment of power and intensity…


The date behind World Photo Day originates from the invention of the Daguerreotype, a photographic processes developed by Joseph Nicèphore Nièpce and Louis Daguerre in 1837. On January 9, 1839, The French Academy of Sciences announced the daguerreotype process. A few months later, on August 19, 1839, the French government purchased the patent and announced the invention as a gift “Free to the World”.

In 2009, Korske Ara, a passionate young photographer from Australia launched the World Photo Day Project with the dream to unite local and global communities in a worldwide celebration of photography.

Today, we can share memories across the globe in seconds. Photography is an invention that has revolutionized the way we see the world. We can visit places without leaving our home. We can share adventures with friends in another city and we can watch grandchildren grow up thousands of kilometers away.

There was a time when photography didn’t exist.

From worldphotoday.com

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Into the Wild

Iron Dog 2014

One year ago I spent a mostly silent winter at Rainy Pass Lodge, Alaska, a remote hunting lodge in the Alaska Range. The lodge is an official checkpoint on the Iditarod trail. Every year three races come through Rainy Pass: Iron Dog, the longest, toughest snowmobile race; Iditarod, the last great race on Earth, and “Iditabike” the craziest of them all?

Anyway, after many months of silence and solitude, a few snowmobile riders would show up on the weekends, getting gas, having a snack and a cool drink, warming up at our fireplace. They trained for the Irondog, a snowmobile race from Anchorage to Nome and back to Fairbanks.

The rattled across Puntilla Lake at neck-breaking speeds only to disappear in the willow thickets, returning a few hours later, telling stories about moose, open rivers, and whiteouts. We, the caretakers never ventured that far from the lodge. These guys covered 24o miles a day and more, on their training sleds.

Then, one weekend, at night the refueling station was setup on the ice, volunteers had shown up, trail crews had come by and we were all waiting for the first race team to show up. I let the following pictures do the talking:

IronDog3 IronDog4 IronDog5 IronDog7 IronDog8IronDog6 IronDog9

And then,
when all was settled and done,
it was silent again…

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Dogs and ponies

Stage Stop: Finale

After eight days of racing we have a winner: Five-time Stage Stop champion, Blayne “Buddy” Streeper from Fort Nelson, BC, Canada, successfully defended his title with an overall time of 27 hours, 45 minutes and 28 seconds. Congratulations!

Thumbs up! Buddy Streeper wearing the yellow bib in Driggs, ID.

Thumbs up! Buddy Streeper wearing the yellow bib in Driggs, ID.

John Stewart from Draper, UT, came in close second, just a tad over 15 min behind the winner.

John Stewart cruising to a second place overall.

John Stewart cruising to a second place overall.

Third place goes to Bruce Magnusson from Michigan, 12 min behind the second place.

JR Anderson from Minnesota missed the podium by just a minute!

JR Anderson on his way up with the Tetons in the background.

JR Anderson on his way up with the Tetons in the background.

All 15 mushers that entered the 20th anniversary race finished. Well done! Find more information about the race here.

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