Since I was a little girl I’ve enjoyed the sport of dog mushing as both a competitive musher and a spectator. Every year one of the biggest dog mushing events in the world is held in Anchorage, Alaska. The ceremonial start of the Iditarod Sled Dog Race begins on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on the first Saturday each March. The Iditarod Trail stretches over 1149 miles of Alaska’s vast wilderness. The true race begins a day after, on Sunday from Willow, Alaska. This is where you see the mushers dressed in their cold weather gear and their sleds fully packed with food and equipment for themselves, but mostly for the dogs. From my experience as a musher your number one priority on the trail is your dogs. Each dog is treated with great care to assure they are performing at their very best. Imagine what it’s like to care for not just one Olympic athlete but a team of 16.
A couple of weeks before the race begin in Anchorage each musher has to prepare meals for both themselves and the dogs along with all the necessary gear. These items are all sorted into drop bags which are shipped to each checkpoint along the race. Mushers usually ship over 2000lbs of food and gear. Once the mushers leave Willow it takes them between nine and 16 days to reach the finish line in Nome, Alaska. The race crosses over some very grueling terrain. The Alaska Range, The Yukon River, and finally the Bering Coast where temperatures have reached as cold as -130 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill.
Mushers and their teams train year around for this event. During the summer a few of my favorite mushers offer Dog Kennel tours where you can visit the kennel and get an in depth experience of life as a dog musher. These tours are offered in Denali, Talkeetna, and Seward. You can also follow the Iditarod or learn more about the race by visiting www.Iditarod.com.