Something to howl about

New Iditarod books just in time for running of Last Great Race

Posted: Friday, March 01, 2002

The Olympics were fun, but for a winter sport with teeth turn your attention to Anchorage on the first Saturday in March for the Iditarod.

Sled dog teams and their mushers head out this weekend on a 1,150-mile trail to Nome in what participants call, without fear of contradiction, The Last Great Race on Earth.

Even people who like to stay warm can share in the excitement, learn the history and thrill to the heroics by reading some new publications about the race.

''Iditarod: The Great Race to Nome,'' by Bill Sherwonit and photographer Jeff Schultz (Sasquatch Books, Seattle, $21.95) nicely tells the whole story, from the early days when dogs were beasts of burden to the days where they have become pampered racers, flown about the state in bush planes.

Sherwonit covered the Iditarod for more than a decade for The Anchorage Times and the Anchorage Daily News. Schultz has been the official photographer for the Iditarod Trail Committee since 1982. Their book comes about as close to being there as one is likely to experience without a parka.

''The earliest Iditarod races were not so much competitive events as grueling wilderness treks,'' Sherwonit writes. Some people wondered whether the first racers in 1973 would even find their way to Nome because teams ''essentially had to do their own trailbreaking across long stretches of wilderness.''

Alaska Geographic's ''The Iditarod'' (a quarterly magazine of The Alaska Geographic Society, Anchorage, $23.95) is an equally competent compilation of the history of the race and the people and dogs who have turned it into a famous international event.

Both books are indexed and either could serve as a resource reference for casual fans who want to know what the Iditarod is all about.

For children there's ''Storm Run: The Story of the First Woman to Win the Iditarod Sled Dog Race,'' by Libby Riddles and illustrated by Shannon Cartwright (Sasquatch Books, Seattle, $16.95). Even though this is a kid's book, it's a compelling story with colorful details that gives equal credit to the brave huskies.

''We moved into the blackest of nights. I couldn't make out any runner tracks. In fact, I could barely see the trail. I was either lost -- or in first place,'' Riddles writes about the race she won in 1985 by driving into an Arctic storm.

This year's is the 30th running of the race that was founded by Joe Redington Sr. in the face of icy skepticism. He wanted to celebrate mushing and commemorate the historic trail. By the time he died in 1999 at the age of 82, he left a cultural institution that defines the state.

Airplanes had nearly replaced sled dog teams in 1925 as a way to move across Alaska. But no one was available to fly serum to Nome when diphtheria broke out. It was up to sled dog teams to deliver the vaccinations over the Iditarod Trail and they did.

Iditarod race judges don't give politically weighted marks for technical merit and presentation. The prize goes to the first team to make it across snowy mountain ranges, frozen rivers and Bering Sea ice, surviving frostbite, sleepless nights and irritable moose.

Just finishing the race is an incredible achievement. This is one of the events were everyone deserves a gold medal.



Subscribe to Peninsula Clarion



Trending this week:


 
 

© 2018. All Rights Reserved. | Contact Us