The trail reached its peak between the late 1880s and mid-1920s as miners arrived to dig for coal and later gold, especially after the Alaska gold rushes at Nome in 1898, and at the "Inland Empire" along the Kuskokwim Mountains between the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers in 1908.
The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race first ran to Nome in 1973, after two short races on part of the Iditarod Trail in 1967 and 1969. The idea of having a race over the Iditarod Trail was conceived by the late Dorothy G. Page. In 1964, Page was chairman of the Wasilla-Knik Centennial and was working on projects to celebrate Alaska’s Centennial Year in 1967. She presented the possibility of a race over the Iditarod Trail to an enthusiastic Joe Redington, Sr., a musher from the Knik area. Soon the Pages and the Redingtons began promoting the idea of the Iditarod Race to the extent that Joe and Vi Redington moved to the Knik area from their homestead at Flat Horn Lake and they have never moved back. (Flat Horn Lake is approximately 30 miles out of Knik.) The race has started in downtown Anchorage since 1983. The teams leave the start line at the corner of 4th and “D” at two minute intervals, starting at 10 a.m. There are usually over 65 teams starting and some years even more.
Born in Oklahoma in 1917, Joe Redington is known as the "Father of the Iditarod." He moved to Knik, Alaska in 1948 and made a career of raising sled dogs after receiving one as a gift. He initially used his dogs in military search and recovery missions in Alaska from 1949 to 1957. He founded the Iditarod Trail Dog Sled Race in 1973. The race follows the actual trail that was used in the early 1900's during the gold rush to deliver supplies and mail to mining camps. A 1925 outbreak of diphtheria challenged a group of mushers to a "race against death" to cross Alaska and deliver life-saving medicine to Nome. Redington died of cancer in June 1999. Per his wishes, he was buried in his favorite dogsled in a specially made vault. A life-size, bronze memorial statue of Redington was unveiled in 2003.
The race begins the first Saturday of March on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage. However, the first day is just a ceremonial start, and teams run only from Anchorage to Eagle River, 25 miles away. The time from that day has no effect on the final outcome of the race. The ceremonial start allows for better publicity for the mushers and the race, and each musher gives one lucky "Idita-Rider" a lift in his or her sled at the starting line. Idita-Riders bid in silent auction to ride in the sleds, and the money goes toward funding the race.
There are 26 checkpoints along the trail, starting in Anchorage and ending in Nome. At each checkpoint, 2,500 pounds of dog food is distributed to each team and each musher must sign in upon arrival. A veterinarian is stationed at each checkpoint to provide care to the dogs.
The trail proceeds from Willow, through Rainy Pass in the Alaska Range, into the sparsely populated interior, and then along the shore of the Bering Sea, finally reaching Nome in western Alaska. The teams cross a harsh landscape under the canopy of the northern lights, racing through tundra and spruce forests, over hills and mountain passes, and across many rivers.
During the early years of the Iditarod, the mushers traveled only the northern trail. After several years, the Iditarod's board of directors realized that the smaller villages were being heavily impacted by the large groups of mushers, volunteers and press coming through year after year. In 1977, the southern route, on which the historic town of Iditarod sits, was added. Both routes follow the same trail for 444 miles from Anchorage to Ophir, where they diverge and then rejoin at Kaltag, 441 miles from Nome.
Iditarod Facts In 2002, Martin Buser set the race time record when he crossed the finish line in 8 days, 22 hours, 46 minutes and 2 seconds. In 1974, Carl Huntington won the race with the slowest winning time, 20 days, 15 hours, two minutes and seven seconds. The teams average 16 dogs, which means over 1,000 dogs leave Anchorage for Nome. The closest finish was in 1978, when the winner was decided by the nose of the lead dog across the finish line. The largest number of mushers to finish a single race was 77 in 2004. A red lantern is awarded to the last musher to finish. The longest time for a Red Lantern was 32 days, 15 hours, nine minutes and one second by John Schultz in 1973. T Rick Swenson is the only five time winner of "The Last Great Race", having won in 1977, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1991. He is now the only person to win the Iditarod in three different decades, a record that will probably never be broken.
"Mushing" is a general term for a sport or transport method powered by dogs, and includes carting, pulka, scootering, dogsled racing, skijoring, freighting and weight pulling. More specifically, it implies the use of one or more dogs to pull a sled on snow. The term is thought to come from the French word marchons, which means "to move," and it is often used as a command to urge a dog team to commence pulling the sled. Mushing can be utilitarian, recreational or competitive.
Alaskan Huskies (sometimes called Siberian Huskies) are the modern racing dogs. The preferred sled dog is a mutt that has Malamute, Siberian Husky, Hound, Pointer and countless other breeds mixed in through the generations. Alaskan Huskies are direct descendents of the original northern breed sled dogs that have worked with their human counterparts in the North Country for 6,000 years.
"Hike up!" is the command to start moving or to go faster. Some mushers also simply say, "OK, let's go!" or "Alright!" “Mush!” isn’t really used as seen in the movies.
Each dog consumes an average of 10,000 to 14,000 calories every day during the Iditarod. The dogs' metabolisms are great at burning fats as well as carbohydrates, so the foods eaten by the dogs are high in both. Protein is also essential to help the dogs maintain strong, firm muscles and a good coat. Most mushers feed their teams a combination of high-fat, high-protein dry dog food plus raw meats and fats from sources including beef, horse, lamb, fish, seal, moose and other wild game. A typical meal for a sled dog is about two-thirds of a pound of dry dog food, a pound of meat, up to a half a pound of fat, and about a quart of water.
Balto Statue In Central Park New York City “ Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of stricken Nome in the Winter of 1925.” Balto was the lead dog on the rush into Nome.
<ul><li>E-Iditarod Project participating classes will : </li></ul><ul><li>Study the trail and musher biographies. </li></ul><ul><li>Create a wall-sized map of the trail. </li></ul><ul><li>Select a musher to follow in this year's race. </li></ul><ul><li>Track the selected musher's progress as the race occurs. </li></ul><ul><li>Post to each checkpoint's blog as the selected musher </li></ul><ul><li>reaches each stop on the trail . </li></ul><ul><li>Complete the problem solving tasks you find at each checkpoint's blog. </li></ul><ul><li>Arrive in Nome vicariously with your selected musher. </li></ul><ul><li>Receive an official 2008 e-Iditarod class certificate for completion of the trail! </li></ul>
E-Iditarod Class Project Timeline December 1, 2008 - January 9, 2009 Open registration period . (Mr. Mayfield’s 7 th Grade Math Classes have been registered). January 12 , 2009 - February 13, 2009 Create a wall map of the trail. Class will do additional work on classroom décor. February 16, 2009 - February 27, 2009 Select a musher to follow in the race. ( Each class will select a musher to follow – one male and one female.) March 2, 2009 - March 6, 2009 Prepare your class for the big event. March 7, 2009 - end of the race Follow your musher and post to each checkpoint's blog as he or she progresses! March 31, 2009 Receive an official 2009 e-Iditarod class certificate for completion of the trail!