My nephew Steve and his friend Kenny came up and joined us in Nome this year. Unfortunately they missed a connecting flight and got stuck in Anchorage for 3 days, missing the trip to Unalakleet. But here is a video Steve put together of their trip, including the trip to White Mtn., a snowcoach and helicopter ride to the Safety checkpoint, Dallas arriving in Nome, dog mushing and and a Native Youth Olympics demonstration. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiM20DKLe7o
Well this year it wasn’t even close, Dallas won in convincing fashion with Mitch finishing four hours behind. As one Iditarod racer said to me in White Mountain, Dallas looks like he could be the Tiger Woods of dog mushing if he decides to stay in it for a long time.
Local musher Aaron Burmeister finished 3rd, which was great for the local Nome residents to have one of their own in the top three. Jesse Royer made a big leap in her career finishing 4th and Aliy Zirkle rounded out the top 5. Weather was an interesting factor this year as Alaska was suffering from warm, snowless conditions right up until the race started. Then temperatures dropped fast, making this one of the coldest Iditarods on records. Now it has warmed right up again and it is a little below freezing here in Nome. All in all another great year out on the trail with many memorable moments for our clients at the checkpoints.
The race start turned out better than I hoped. The wind started howling, which dropped the temperature, the rain stopped and the sun made an appearance. A friend of mine from Nikolai, Philip Esai, passed away this past year and he was the Honorary Musher for this race. I helped load his wife Dora, wearing bib #1, into the sled of the 1st musher to leave the start line, starting the 2015 Iditarod. Philip and Dora have been race volunteers since the first Iditarod, opening their home to mushers and race volunteers. He will be missed in Nikolai and by the Iditarod. Tomorrow we travel to Fairbanks for the restart on Monday. It should be a great start.
Two hours from now the 2015 Iditarod mushers will head down 4th Avenue for the ceremonial race start. 40 degree rainy weather is what they will be mushing in. There is no snow in downtown Anchorage, except for what was brought in last night to lay down on 4th ave. Other parts of the trail are now getting lots of snow. It should be an interesting race this year.
Well a month from now I’ll be heading north for another Iditarod. This will be #20 for the business and about 30 Iditarods for me. This would have been our biggest year yet, but we had a quite a few cancellations for different reasons. As it is we have 45 clients spread out over 6 different tours and we will be welcoming back 8 returning clients, some for their 4th year in a row. If you have ever wanted to experience this great event, 2016 might be your year to do it.
I recently did an interview on Travel Radio Australia talking about the Iditarod Race and our company. To learn more about us, listen in: Travel Radio Australia Interview
Iditarod Cruelty: Fact or Fiction
According to some animal rights activists, dog mushing is a cruel sport. I’m amazed at what gets published as facts when it is mostly an opinion from people who have no actual experience with sled dogs or living in the Arctic environment where the dog mushing takes place. Over the months I will look at some of these claims and give you my opinion, based on my years of involvement with the sport.
Tethering is cruel to the dog: Fiction
Whenever I read this comment I know it is written by someone who has no actual experience with sled dogs and pack animals. Tethering accomplishes several functions, it keeps the animal in a defined space, it prevents the members of the pack from injuring each other from fights or accidents and it starts the puppy training, getting them used to being restrained and helps them adjust to being in a harness that will be tethered to a gangline when they are in the team . I have made the mistake of using a long chain that allowed dogs to physically interact with each other and the result was injured dogs from fights, and these were dogs that ran side by side in my team. Sled dogs do not have to be physically touching each other to be interacting. Just being in close proximity to each other means they are in their social group and not alone. Sled dog puppies are kept in a puppy pen with their litter mates, or allowed to roam the dog lot for months before being tethered to a stake or pole. Compare this to your typical household pet that are usually taken away from their litter and mother at a young age and then left alone all day long while the family goes to work, school etc.. How is leaving a pet alone in the house or in the back yard better for the dog than keeping it together with its pack?
As for the argument that the dogs are suffering because they are left outside, that is their natural environment and they are very well adapted to it. At my home in McGrath in January 1989, it was -50 degrees F or colder for 3 weeks. Evan though they had snug dog houses filled with straw beds, the dogs would spend their time laying on top of their dog houses. I was reluctant to take them out in that temperature, but when I brushed the snow that had accumulated on the dog sled, they went ballistic wanting to go for a run. I took them out for a short run and they were in their glory and didn’t want to go back to the house. You don’t force the dogs to run, it’s what they want to do.
I was in Florida recently and on a few occasions saw husky owners walking their dogs. The dogs had their tongues hanging out and were panting profusely. They were also pulling the owner along by the leash. The anti- mushing crowd would say this was a wonderful life for those dogs, I disagree. I think the sled dogs I had that were kept in a pack and given the opportunity to run in a team through the arctic winter were living a much more fulfilling life and doing what they are genetically programmed to do. They were working dogs engaged in an activity that that was inherent in their genetic makeup and rewarding.
Well this Iditarod turned out to have about everything that could be thrown at the mushers, and then some. Over the years I’ve been used to seeing little snow in the Farewell Burn, but coming out of Rainy Pass I was surprised to see the area along the Kuskokwim River and Little Egypt Mountain completely brown. There were large areas there that had no snow at all.
The dry trail made for some hairy dog mushing and took its toll on the mushers with more than 10 mushers scratching in the first 3 days due to busted up sleds and bodies from the dry trail.
There were a lot of choice words for the trail and the Iditarod Trail Committee from some of the mushers when they arrived in Nikolai. In McGrath I listened to Jason Mackey as he described his ride through the mountains and along the trail. “ It was like being on a roller coaster that was completely out of control. I felt like I was free falling through the air at times and actually feared for my life.” Fortunately neither Jason or his dogs were injured and he finished in 34th place.
For those that made it through the snowles part of the trail intact, they probably thought the worse was behind them, but Norton Sound is known for its storms and as the leaders worked their way to the finish in Nome some real bad weather set in. Four time Iditarod Jeff King champion set out from White Mountain with what seemed to be an insurmountable lead, only to be hammered into submission by a raging ground blizzard that brought his team to a standstill. Waiting at the finish line in Nome and watching the Iditarod tracker, we saw that Jeff had been stationary just a few miles from the Safety checkpoint, then Aily Zirkle passed him before she became stationary in Safety for a long time. While she waited out the storm in Safety, Dallas Seavey passed through without seeing her there. He pushed on to Nome thinking he was in 3rd place and just hoping to beat his dad Mitch who was behind him. It took Aily almost 20 minutes to get her team organized and try to chase down Dallas. With a larger, faster team she made up 17 minutes of that time, but Dallas crossed the finish line less than 3 minutes ahead of her, a very surprised Iditarod 2014 Champion in a record breaking time of 8 days, 13 hours and 4 minutes. Good going Dallas!
What a glorious day we have had here in Nome today. Twenty six teams have arrived so far under clear calm skies at night and sunny weather during the day. Several teams had trouble keeping focused on on the finish line and tried to make detours as they came off the ice and down Front Steet. This was the first time the winner arrived at night in some years. The slower pace made for a tighter race with almost half the pack arriving within a day of Mitch Seavey.