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

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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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Dogs and ponies

Pooh

“I wonder what Piglet is doing?”
thought Pooh.

“I wish I were there to be doing it, too.”

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh


Hello. My name is Pooh.

Something is up. We have not been running for a few days. We haven’t seen snow flakes falling from the sky for a few weeks. I believe the season is over. So sad. Just when I got into it. I had a shoulder problem for a few weeks, so I could not run with my friends in February. And I so love to run. I may look a little chubby, but don’t let this fool you. I may be quiet around the house, but boy put me on the line and I am becoming “jumping” Pooh. I think the most fun is in the front. Following my musher with good-looking Johnny Cash on my side, that’s just great.

Well, now it’s back to the off-season. Less food, higher temps, rain, sun… Not sure what to do with myself. Ahh, there is always food. I love to eat. I could eat way more than what they put in my bucket. Then, I would look like a sausage. Can’t have that. Oh, well.

I am a bit sad that my musher is leaving in a few weeks. We got along well. He was no trouble. In the beginning I chewed a few neck lines out of excitement. Well, he seemed annoyed, so I let that go.

Man, I can’t wait for winter. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

How many days til Christmas? 266? Ugghhhhh…

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