14 thoughts on “Mush!”

  1. When I was in Alaska i got to visit Iditerod champion Martin Buser, who lives just outside Wassilla. They breed those dogs specifically for endurance and strength, even mixing some hound in them. Outside his house were about 100 dog houses, each with a dog tethered in front. A computer picked who got the workout that day, in the non-snow months pulling a wheeled cart instead of a sled. They are made for this.

    The Iditerod is something but the Yukon 1000 is supposedly what separates the men from the boys.

  2. I lived in Alaska for 25 years, a lot of it in a house 400 yards from the first Iditarod checkpoint. the sport is amazingly fun to watch! the Iditarod start in downtown Anchorage has about 1,600 dogs packed onto 5 blocks of downtown streets waiting for the start. the howling, barking, and smells are stupenous. after a mile or so of running on snow-packed streets, the teams head onto the snow-covered bike trails for a 20-mile run to the first checkpoint. a great sport indeed!

  3. Cool comments. This was nothing like the Iditarod, but definitely served us tourists very well. We had a total of six sleds with different combinations of dogs depending on number and weight of passengers. We hit the weather just right so it was cold, but not insane. The temp was around 20 with no wind – about perfect. The sled dog guy said that much warmer than that and the dogs performance goes down since they overheat. They race these dogs in local races in northern Wisconsin.

    Amazingly, I really didn’t have to do much besides hold on. The dogs just followed the path and made all the correct turns when they needed to.

  4. I have been to the Iditarod headquarters. Right in the entrance is the stuffed body of the lead dog, Balto, from the 1925 race to Nome with the diphtheria anti-toxin. The Wiki article on the race is wrong about diphtheria being a “white man’s disease” as there is no natural immunity to diphtheria toxin in humans, no matter what the race. Typical Wikipedia PC junk. Otherwise the article is interesting as I did not know the start had been moved to Willow from Wasilla. I was there about 1995. We stayed in Wasilla but I didn’t meet the mayor.

  5. Fascinating article, as Mike K said. Before the introduction of the horse to North America, the plains tribes used dogs as draft animals, just as the Inuit did in the North.

  6. “Before the introduction of the horse to North America,”

    I think most people don’t realize that the horse and camel were native to North America and were driven to extinction by the invading humans over the Bering sea land bridge. The Spanish reintroduced the horse in the 18th century and the plains Indians adopted it rather quickly as transportation instead of food. The Spanish didn’t go to New England and the horse was not adopted by the Indians there.

  7. My wife was an “Iditarider” last year, and she says riding in that sled for over an hour was the most fun she’s ever had. The people lining the route in Anchorage were just awesome – tossing hot dogs and muffins to the Mushers. or just holding out their hands for a hand slap. She video-recorded the entire ride with a little credit-card camera so we can re-live the experience whenever we want.

  8. Imagine being on that course with the nearest town days away and the wind howling at -100 wind chill. Some years ago I read a great little book called “Stories of the Iditerod” – available only in Alaska I think – but 2 stories that stand out was a description of a cap wih the northern lights in full splendor, and along a frozen river – he musher hearing all these voices – learning later it was the site of a massacre 100 years earlier.

    I think it takes as much mental as physical stamina.

  9. About 20 years ago, I was in Alaska and the bus driver who drove out bus in Denali was telling us stories about his sister who had moved to Alaska a few years earlier. He had helped wire her cabin and told us she was a real hardcore type. She kept dogs and had done the Yukon Challenge. She would go snow camping with her dogs for days at a time in winter. A bit too hardcore for me. I preferred Homer. I almost bought a house just north of Homer about that time.

  10. Mike – I remember seeing a TV program on real hard core Alaskans – living 100s of miles from a town, killing everything they need for food, getting school lessons via a radio….that is a bit much for me too

  11. Bill, those are the “game management area” guys. You see those signs, and you probably know that, if you are a resident of GM #22, for example, when a moose is hit by a car, the first one on the GM#22 list is called and has 30 minutes to respond. If they do, they can have the moose carcass for hauling it away. Then they go to the bottom of the list but one moose may feed a family for a year

    When I was a kid in Chicago, my father would buy a beef, or a side of beef, once a year. We ate that beef all year. Lots of hamburger in a side of beef. One year, our freezer failed while we were on vacation. The freezer was never the same.

    The real, real hardcore folks are like the ones my friend used to meet when they were fishing, drifting down the Copper River. The guide would drop them at a spot and help them get the boat launched and provisioned. Then he would pick them up 100 miles down river.

    Drifting down the river they would meet a couple of families who were really isolated and usually would invite them to stay the night. Those families relied on hunting and fishing plus twice annual trips to town. Kids were home schooled and saw strangers a few times a year. A bit much for me.

  12. “When I was a kid in Chicago, my father would buy a beef, or a side of beef, once a year. We ate that beef all year. Lots of hamburger in a side of beef.” Yep, it always lasts longer than the good cuts. But there is no better value when purchasing beef then getting a half or a whole one.

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