The Iditarod is a dog sled race that takes place every March in Alaska. It is sometimes called the “Last Great Race.” Although the race is over 1150 miles long, the race is officially 1,049 miles, since Alaska is the 49th state in the USA . The Iditarod trail goes from Anchorage to Nome.
The Iditarod Trail, now a National Historic Trail, had its beginnings as a mail and supply route from the coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps at Flat, Ophir, Ruby and beyond to the west coast communities of Unalakleet, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and Nome. Mail and supplies went in. Gold came out. All via dog sled. Heroes were made, legends were born. In 1925, part of the Iditarod Trail became a life saving highway for epidemic-stricken Nome. Diphtheria threatened and serum had to be brought in; again by intrepid dog mushers and their faithful hard-driving dogs. Throughout the years, the sled dogs were important to day to day life in the villages and throughout Alaska. All of these examples and more are a part of Alaska’s history.
Joe Redington, Sr. had two reasons for organizing the long-distance Iditarod Race: to save the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies, which were being phased out of existence due to the introduction of snowmobiles in Alaska; and to preserve the historical Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome. These reasons were his life’s work. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has grown over time and helped to accomplished the goals that Joe Redington Sr. lived.
Anchorage is the starting line. From there, the field of dog teams run 11 miles. After a restart in the Matanuska Valley, the mushers leave the land of highways and bustling activity and head out to the Yentna Station Roadhouse, Skwentna and then up through Finger Lake, Rainy Pass, over the Alaska Range and down the other side to the Kuskokwim River — into the interior and on to the Yukon — a river highway that takes the teams west through the arctic tundra.
The race route is alternated every other year, one year going north through Cripple, Ruby and Galena, the next year south through Iditarod, Shageluk, Anvik.
Finally, they’re on the coast — Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, Koyuk, Elim, Golovin, White Mountain and into Nome where a hero’s welcome is the custom for musher number 1 or 61! If you have the opportunity to be in Nome for the finish, don’t pass it up – it is the celebration experience of a lifetime!
This year 72 mushers are competing in the race. The official Iditarod webpage has a wealth of info: current standings, GPS tracking, volunteer opportunities, check points, behind-the-scenes, vet checks, musher profiles and teacher on the trail links and much more.