Ordering Books

Ordering books from Northern Light Media is simple, and I offer four convenient ways for you to order my titles online:


Northern Light Media You can order every title I’ve published directly through my website, just click on the title you’re interested in for complete details about the book and a link for ordering through PayPal, which also accepts credit and debit card orders.

CSCreateSpace CreateSpace publishes all of my books and makes it very easy to order them from the CreateSpace Store. Each title is listed and clicking on the title takes you to a descriptive page for that book, with complete details and ordering through the convenient CreateSpace shopping cart.

IndieBoundIndieBound I support independent bookstores and encourage ordering my books through your local favorite! There are two ways to purchase books through IndieBound.org: (1) The “Buy Now” button on every book page allows you to purchase the book immediately, and the sale will support the entire network of independent bookstores. (2) By entering a zip code in the “Shop Local” box, you will be able to choose from among the websites for a list of independent bookstores near you. You will then be transferred to the selected store’s website to complete the purchase.

AmazonAmazon Amazon.com, the largest Internet-based bookstore retailer in the U.S., carries all of my titles, simply enter the title you’re interested in and use Amazon’s easy online ordering system!


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Golden Places


Golden Places: The History of Alaska-Yukon Mining, With Particular Reference to Alaska’s National Parks, was written in 1990 by William R. Hunt, prepared as a special theme study to assist in the assessment of cultural resources associated with metal mining in Alaska’s national parks. Designed to focus on mineral discovery and development in the national parks, its first chapters explore the earliest prospecting efforts in the north country, through the Klondike Gold Rush years. From the first Cassiar discovery in the Stikine River country in 1862, through gold discoveries at Sitka, Juneau, Yakutat, the Fortymile country, the Circle Mining District, the stampede to Nome, the Nabesna and Nizina gold strikes, strikes at Kantishna, Kuskokwim, and the stampede to Iditarod, the complete history of gold in Alaska and the Yukon is presented clearly with a gold mining chronology.


Teams freighting to Chisana

The book, which is available free to read online, is divided into 18 chapters which detail the history with in-depth descriptions and fascinating details, such as this from chapter 12: “In February 1914 Chisana folks argued that their community had more log cabins than Circle, Fairbanks, or Dawson and deserved to be called ‘the largest log cabin town in the world.’ Four hundred cabins was one estimate, including seven general stores, a saloon, two restaurants, a clothing store, and ‘roadhouses galore.'”



There is a brief but good description of the history of the Iditarod Trail, shared here in full: “The Seward-Nome Trail, famed today as the Iditarod Trail because of annual dog-sled races from Anchorage to Nome, was never a major long-distance route. It consisted of a number of winter trails that had developed in the early prospecting days that were linked in 1910. When the upper Innoko strike attracted miners from Cook Inlet and elsewhere in 1906, a trail to tidewater appeared beneficial. In February 1908 the Alaska Road Commission began a survey of a new trail from Seward to Nome. After a Christmas strike on Otter Creek by prospectors W.A. Dikeman and John Beaton, the boom town of Iditarod developed. Over the winter of 1910 the Alaska Road Commission marked and cleared 1,000 miles of trail from Kern Creek, on the Alaska Northern railroad 71 miles north of Seward, to Nome. Some portions of the trail were new and some had been used by prospectors or natives earlier. The Seward-Knik section became a mail and supply route until the railroad was extended, and the Knik-Kaltag section was much used from 1910-20. Other portions of the wide winter trail network were used as needed, then abandoned when conditions changed.”

Detailed maps, charts, photographs and extensive notes and bibliographies at the end of each chapter make this book an outstanding online research tool, but also an enjoyable contribution to the history of Alaska for the more casual reader. An observation from the last chapter: “Alaska’s hunters, trappers, dog mushers, and hikers have a certain respect for those early miners. It required travel skills and a spirit of adaptation that is generally admired by Alaskans who have a particular sensitivity to their natural environment.”




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Gakona Roadhouse

Alaskan Roadhouses

This article is an excerpt from the book by Helen Hegener,  Alaskan Roadhouses, Shelter, Food, and Lodging Along Alaska’s Roads and Trails, published in 2015 by Northern Light Media. Ordering information below.



Gakona Roadhouse, 1984. Photograph by Jet Lowe. [HABS AK-27-1]

The Gakona roadhouse at milepost 205 on the Glenn Highway, dating from the first buildings constructed on the site in 1902, is the oldest still-operating roadhouse in Alaska.


Gakona 1930

Mile 2, Gulkana-Chisana Road, Gakona River and Roadhouse, Copper River in distance. Photo by Walter W. Hodge, 1930. [UAF-2003-63-278]

Originally called Doyle’s Ranch, the Gakona Roadhouse was constructed by Jim Doyle, who homesteaded a site on the banks of the fast-flowing Gakona River, which joins the mighty Copper River a few hundred yards downstream. His homestead was at mile 132 of the Trans-Alaska Military Road, which was the name of the then-new Valdez-to-Eagle Trail, built by the U.S. Army to link its post at Fort Liscum, near Valdez, with Fort Egbert, at Eagle on the Yukon River. The Valdez-to-Fairbanks Trail also ran north from the site, making the junction of the two trails an excellent location for a roadhouse.


Gakona Roadhouse, by P. S. Hunt. [AMRC-b62-1-a-151 Crary-Henderson Collection]

Gakona Roadhouse, by P.S. Hunt. [AMRC-b62-1-a-151 Crary-Henderson Collection]

The original roadhouse was built of six- to ten-inch saddle-notched round logs, approximately 20′ by 50′, with with a 15′ by 30′ shed-roofed addition. The building included living quarters, a kitchen and dining room, a few private rooms, an upstairs dormitory and a store. A low shed which could accommodate dog teams was built, and a military telegraph station was installed nearby. In 1910, the roadhouse become the main stop for the Orr Stage Company, and Doyle added a blacksmith shop and a barn that could hold up to a dozen horses. He also raised oats and hay on over sixty acres of fields.


Arne Sundt - Gakona RH Arne's Grandma

Henra Sundt

Jim Doyle sold the roadhouse in 1912, and the property went through several owners, including the Slate Creek Mining Company. In 1926 Arne N. Sundt, a director of the Nabesna Mining Company, discovered that the manager of the Slate Creek mine, a fellow named Elmer, was sidetracking the gold which should be going to the mine owners. In a 1993 interview for the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Oral History Program, Arne N. Sundt’s widow, Henra Sundt, explained what happened next: “Arne put on the only suit that he ever owned,” and traveled to the offices of the mining company and told them what was transpiring. They told Arne he “could just take over the place as Elmer hadn’t sent them one ounce of gold in years!”


Arne made an agreement to mine the company’s holdings on Slate Creek and send them a percentage, and they sold the roadhouse to him as part of the deal. When Arne got back to Gakona and confronted Elmer with the news, “Elmer got pretty upset and pulled a gun on him, but Arne just reached out and took the gun away from him.” Henra explained, “[Elmer] was just a little guy, but my husband was six feet tall! So Elmer left, but he stayed around the country, mining his own claims on Slate Creek.”

32. Gakona_Roadhouse_from_front copyIn her book, Sisters, Coming of Age and Living Dangerously in the Wild Copper River Valley [Epicenter Press, 2004], Aileen Gallaher described stopping at the roadhouse on her way north from Valdez in 1926: “Our next stop was Gakona, about thirty miles north of Copper Center. The Gakona Roadhouse there was a huge log building, which really could not be called a cabin. It had a second story and a high-pitched roof. The Gakona River flowed swiftly about fifty feet in front of it. The lobby was a large room without any decoration and only a few wooden benches for furniture. In one corner, a staircase led to the bedrooms upstairs, and the other corner was occupied by the Post Office. Across the front next to the lobby were the dining room and the kitchen, and behind were the owners’ quarters. The two men who lived there and operated Gakona Roadhouse were Arne Sundt from Norway and Herb Hyland, from Sweden. Both welcomed me warmly to Alaska, and made me feel at home in this new, amazing world.”

In 1929 Arne Sundt built a new roadhouse, much larger than its predecessor, in an L-shaped, gable-roofed plan, with 9 private rooms, a bunkhouse on the upper floor, two bathrooms, a general store, and a post office. He also built a separate owner’s residence, two cabins, a wagon repair shop, and other buildings. Arne and Henra, who had traveled to Alaska from Norway in 1928 to marry Arne, ran the roadhouse together for 22 years, until Arne’s untimely death from a heart attack in 1949. When he died, her friends said Henra should sell the roadhouse, but she felt running the roadhouse would provide a good living for her and her children, and she prospered, raising two sons and a daughter, finally selling the roadhouse in 1979.


A dogteam in front of the Gakona Roadhouse during the 2014 Copper Basin 300. [Photo: Helen Hegener/NLM]

All of the buildings on the site – all but two of them made of logs – have been subsequently added to the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years, the roadhouse and its cabins have known many famous guests, including the venerable Judge James Wickersham, the first federal judge from Interior Alaska, who waded through overflow water to reach the roadhouse in 1905. Alaskan artists Ted Lambert, Eustace Ziegler, and Josephine Crumrine, with her artist-mother, rented cabins one summer, and each presented Henra Sundt with an original piece of their artwork. Bill Egan, the first governor of Alaska, stayed at the roadhouse often during his years in office, and the arctic explorer Hurbert Wilkins was a guest. Perhaps the most well-known guest is a pipe-smoking ghost, said to have a preference for Room 5, whose appearances have been written about in many newspaper and magazine articles over the years.



Excerpted from:

Roadhouses Buy NowAlaskan Roadhouses, Shelter, Food, and Lodging Along Alaska’s Roads and Trails, by Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media. 6″ x 9″, over 100 black/white photographs, 284 pages. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping and handling.

Alaskan Roadhouses

$24.95 plus $5.00 S&H

Click on the book image to order your copy!

Available at Amazon, eBay, and your local independent bookstores.

Postal orders can be mailed to Northern Light Media, Post Office Box 870515, Wasilla, Alaska 99687-0515.

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1912 All Alaska Sweepstakes

Screen Shot 2016-06-12 at 5.19.22 PMAn old friend, Robert Lutz, sent me the link to an article which appeared in the March 27, 1912 issue of the newspaper, The San Francisco Call, which noted entries for the 1912 All Alaska Sweepstakes race. The article read, in full:

Berkeley Woman’s Dogs To Race in Alaska

NOME, Alaska, March 27.—Few entries have been received for the 1912 All Alaska sweepstakes, the great dog race of the north, which will be run next month over the 412 mile course from Nome to Candle and return. The only contestants in sight are A A. (Scotty) Allen, driver of the dogs owned by Mrs. Charles E. Darling of Berkeley, Cal.; Charles Johnson, Alex Holmsen and possibly Bleechford. Holmsen will drive Colonel Sir James Ramsey’s team of Siberian wolfhounds, taking the place of John Johnson, the famous dog team driver, who has always handled the wolves and who is marooned on the Siberian coast. Johnson went to Siberia late last fall to get dogs for the race and was left stranded when the ice moving down from the Arctic drove his schooner back to the American shore.


Charles Johnson’s team starting the April 4, 1912 All Alaska Sweepstakes

I have written about the All Alaska Sweepstakes race many times, most recently in my newest book, Alaskan Sled Dog Tales. In that book I included an article about the great racer, John “Iron Man” Johnson, who is mentioned in the 1912 article. I also included a booklet written by Mrs. Charles E. Darling, also known as Esther Birdsall Darling, the author of the classic children’s book, Baldy of Nome. That booklet, The Dog Races of Nome, detailed the results of the fifth All Alaska Sweepstakes race in 1912:



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Seppala Kennels Advertising Card

I often stumble across interesting websites in my research, and one I’ve returned to a number of times over the years is the Alaskan Heritage Bookshop website, which sells Alaskan books, Alaskan art, vintage Alaskan memorabilia and photographs, and much more. Based in Juneau, the site bills itself as “The Museum of Alaska History Where Everything is for Sale.” I shared some fascinating horse snowshoes in my last post, and there are lots of other interesting items to be found at the Alaskan Heritage Bookshop.

One such item is an advertising card from Leonhard Seppala’s kennels in Nome, Alaska. This business card was apparently mailed to Carl Lomen, known as the “Reindeer King of Alaska” and one of the famous Lomen Brothers whose numerous photographs recorded early Alaskan history. The card features Seppala’s favorite lead dog, Togo, described as “the champion trophy winner of Alaska.”

Price for this historic gem is $750.00, plus $12.00 shipping.

Togo Card

Togo Card2

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Horse Snowshoes

The photos and information here are borrowed from the Alaskan Heritage Bookshop website, which sells Alaskan books, Alaskan art, vintage Alaskan memorabilia and photographs, and much more. Based in Juneau, the site bills itself “The Museum of Alaska History Where Everything is for Sale.”

One item no longer for sale is an interesting pair of snowshoes for a horse. The screenshots below tell the story – remember these are no longer for sale, but there’s a limitless supply of interesting items at the Alaskan Heritage Bookshop website.

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Crow Creek Pass, Iditarod Trail

crow creek

Trail up to Crow Creek Pass (by Frank Kovelchek, Wikimedia Commons)

Crow Creek Pass is a popular summer destination with hikers and backpackers, crossing a scenic pass high in the great Chugach Range of mountains which overlooks Anchorage and separates the Matanuska Valley from Prince William Sound. Crow Creek pass, or Crow Pass as it is often referred to, is also a significant point on the Iditarod Trail, made famous by the similarly-named 1,049-mile sled dog race held annually since 1973.

The Iditarod Trail historically began  in the mountains of the Kenai Peninsula, threaded along the tidal waters of Turnagain Arm, and then turned up Glacier Creek and climbed mapover Crow Pass before dropping down into the Eagle River Valley. From there the trail turned north and wound around Knik Arm, through the trading post of Knik and over the Alaska Range to the gold rush town of Iditarod, just south and west of Denali (Mt. McKinley), and continued on to another gold rush town on the edge of the Bering Sea called Nome.

The trail was about 1,150 miles long and incorporated the long-traveled native trails of the Dena’ina and Deg Hit’an Athabaskan Indians on the southern and middle sections, and the Inupiaq and Yup’ik Eskimos on the northern end.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 2.15.16 PMOne of the early travelers over the Iditarod Trail was a hearty adventuring Presbyterian minister known as ‘the Mushing Parson.’ The Reverend Samuel Hall Young had spent time traveling in southeastern Alaska with none other than the great naturalist John Muir, who would come to be known as the “Father of the National Parks” and founder of the Sierra Club. The story of their friendship is chronicled elsewhere on this website.

In 1913 Rev. Young wrote an article for the church publication The Continent in which he shared his story of a journey via dogteam from Iditarod to Seward over the Iditarod Trail, crossing Crow Creek Pass in March. He wrote from Knik, “The worst mountain pass of all is before us–Crow Creek Pass over the high Alaska range. Fearsome tales are told me of this pass, but there is nothing to do but to try it.”


S. Hall Young photo: “My start from Iditarod to the coast.” [UAF-2001-38-64a]

The Reverend, who suffered from a bad back, hired a young prospector named Fred Taulman to take him over the trail, writing, “Were it not for my lame back I would go alone, but they all say that the pass is too dangerous to be traveled singly even by a strong and vigorous person. So on March 21 we hitched up our eager dogs, whose three days rest has put them in high spirits, and hit the trail again around the head of Knik Arm.”

An overnight stop at a roadhouse near present-day Eklutna and the travelers were ready to start the arduous part of their journey the next day. Crossing the Eklutna River and Peter’s Creek, along the shore of Fire Lake and up the valley of the glacial Eagle River, the mountains on either side closing in and narrowing above them.

Young and Team

Rev. Young and his team at Iditarod, 1913. [UAF-2001-38-3]

“Now hard climbing up a steep road to the base of the pass at Raven Creek roadhouse. A storm is blowing. The snow banners on the mountains that overlook the pass and the fast falling snow make it impossible for us to go on, so we spend a day at this fine roadhouse, kept by three men who are hunters, prospectors and hotel keepers as occasion requires. The second day they hitch up four big dogs as big as Shetland ponies to supplement our smaller ones, and a sturdy mountaineer with ‘creepers’ on his feet comes to pilot us over the summit. From daylight until noon we struggle before reaching the summit, making only five miles in six hours. The descent from the summit is almost sheer for 2,000 feet.”

One of the rarest historic Alaskan photos is S. Hall Young’s image of his dogteams at the summit of Crow Creek Pass in March, 1913. It is the only photograph of dog teams in the pass this historian and author has ever found, and at least two historic societies have verified the scarcity of such historically important photos. This one (below) is part of the Rev. S. Hall Young Album in the collections of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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Rev. S. Hall Young photo: “Summit Crow Creek Pass, Alaska. One of the passes on my trip to the coast. [UAF-2001-38-104]

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Joe Redington’s Iditarod Booklet

Redington 0A slim little booklet came to my attention at the Palmer library recently; if memory serves me it was tucked into their collection which cannot be checked out of the library but must remain in the building. Titled Iditarod Trail, The Old and The New, published by Alladin Publishing in Palmer, Alaska around 1990, the booklet was apparently authored by M. Carter; across the bottom of the front cover are the words “Story by Joe Redington.”

The book has some interesting charts and tables, such as a listing of the original 1907 route with the stopping points named, and a list of the roadhouses on the trail. There are a number of old photographs, but the most interesting part is that written by old Joe. I’ll share some photos I took at the library with my cellphone, hope they’re readable.

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Redington 22

Redington 23

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A New Author’s Blog

oie_S89Su5OQBbMPA new feature on this website is an author’s weblog by me, Alaskan author Helen Hegener, who writes and publishes all the wonderful books found here. The link to the blog can be found in the menu bar above, which is accessible from almost every page on this site.

I’m planning to post much more often at the blog than I’ve generally posted on this books site, for as I wrote on the first post yesterday, “This will be more informal than the normal fare at my site, which is usually comprised of book excerpts and related history and research on my books.

“This author’s blog will give me a platform for more casual conversation, commenting, and sharing the life of an Alaskan writer and publisher. Be prepared for posts here about my dog, my travels, the foods I like or dislike, and maybe even a few of my watercolor paintings. I expect this writer’s blog to be fun and engaging, and I will strive to make it so.”

Thanks for reading!



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Dog Team Doctor

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 9.42.28 AMIn 1896 Dr. Joseph  H. Romig traveled to Bethel, Alaska, and opened the first doctor’s office and hospital west of Sitka, at a time when there were very few non-native people living in remote southwest Alaska. Four decades later a book would be written about the good doctor’s adventurous and life-saving exploits across the vast northern territory.

Joseph Herman Romig was born in Illinois in 1872. His parents were descendants of Moravian immigrants, and in exchange for his pledge to serve for seven years as a doctor at a mission, the Moravian Church sponsored his medical training. In 1896, Joseph married a nursing student he met at school, and the couple moved to Bethel to join Joseph’s older sister and her husband as missionaries to the Yup’ik people of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Bethel was barely a village at that time, consisting of only four houses, a chapel, an old Russian-style bath house and a small store. The Romig home was a simple two-room structure, and included the first hospital: one room with two homemade beds.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 9.40.55 AMFor a time, Dr. Romig was one of the only physicians in Alaska, and he became expert at dog mushing, as his practice stretched for hundreds of miles. He became known as the “dog team doctor” for traveling by dog sled throughout the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the course of his work.

When his term of missionary service was complete Dr. Romig left Bethel, and in the following decades he played an eventful and important role in the growth of Alaska. In the 1920’s Dr. Romig set up a hospital in Nenana for the Alaska Railroad. In 1930, he was asked to head the Alaska Railroad Hospital in Anchorage. He would eventually be, in addition to a missionary and a doctor, a superintendent of schools, U.S. Commissioner, mayor of Anchorage (1937-38).

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 9.50.37 AMIn 1939, Dr. Romig was appointed chief surgeon at Anchorage’s newly constructed state-of-the-art Providence Hospital, but he retired shortly thereafter, and purchased land on what would later be called Romig Hill. From his log cabin on the property, he started a “Board of Directors” club which eventually provided the founding members of the Anchorage Rotary Club. In the 1950’s and ’60’s Romig Ski Hill was a popular recreation area for Anchorage and provided a tow rope, lighted trails, a regulation jump, Quonset hut for warming up, and an intercom system which played polka music for the skiers.

dtdJoseph and Emily Romig moved to Colorado Springs, Colorado, where Joseph died in 1951. Although he was originally buried in Colorado, his remains were later disinterred and moved to Alaska to be buried in the family plot in Anchorage Memorial Park. J. H. Romig Junior High School, named in his honor for his dedication to youth and education and later renamed Romig Middle School, was built on Romig Hill in 1964.

Dr. Romig’s life story and his adventures in southwest Alaska became the subject of a book, Dog-Team Doctor: The Story of Dr. Romig, by Eva Greenslit Anderson, published in 1940.

Sled Dog TalesThis story is excerpted from the new book Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, which will be published May 14, 2016; advance orders are available now. All advance ordered copies will be signed by the author, Helen Hegener; after May 14 books will be shipped directly from the publisher and will not be signed. Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order.

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The Parks-Archer Colony Barn

The Parks/Archer barn is a familiar landmark in the Bodenburg Loop Road area, being two Colony barns placed end-to-end. In this photo the barn on the left is the Parks barn, built on tract no. 189, and the barn on the right is the Archer barn, moved from tract no. 193. (Photos by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

The Parks/Archer barn is a familiar landmark in the Bodenburg Loop Road area, being two Colony barns placed end-to-end. In this photo the barn on the left is the Parks barn, built on tract no. 189, and the barn on the right is the Archer barn, moved from tract no. 193. (Photos by Helen Hegener/Northern Light Media)

In 1935 the U.S. Government transported 200 families from the Great Depression-stricken midwest to a valley of unparalleled beauty in Alaska, where they were given the chance to begin new lives as part of a federally-funded social experiment, the Matanuska Colony Project. As part of each family’s farmstead, a magnificent barn was raised, a sturdy square structure 32′ by 32′ and soaring 32′ high. Today these Colony barns are an iconic reminder of what has been called the last great pioneering adventure in America.

In my book, The Matanuska Colony Barns (Northern Light Media, 2013), I shared the individual histories of many of the Colony barns. The Parks and Archer barns were built on adjoining 80 acre tracts, numbers 189 and 193, respectively. Lynn Sandvik explained to the author, “They moved the Archer barn north and put them together and did quite a bit of work on them about 20 years ago, for some kind of centennial something, but then they forgot about them again.”

In a letter to the author, Valley historian Jim Fox related a little of the Parks family history from an interview with daughter Bonita Parks Strong: “Many of the farmers in the Butte had sheep, selling their wool to Pendleton in Washington or Minnesota woolen mills, often getting blankets and winter clothes in exchange along with some cash. The Parks family had a big flock which they drove up into the mountains to the north in the summer, an 18 to 20 mile trip…”

In front of the Archer barn, the Parks barn can be seen in the distance, along with Bodenburg Butte. Glen Archer’s great grandmother Lillian Post wrote near it, “Perle Archer thinks he can handle his big bull. One day it took many to handle him.”

In front of the Archer barn, the Parks barn can be seen in the distance, along with Bodenburg Butte. Glen Archer’s great grandmother Lillian Post wrote near it, “Perle Archer thinks he can handle his big bull. One day it took many to handle him.”

Glen Archer, a grandson of Colonists Perle and Dorothy Archer, wrote to the author, “My sister and I grew up listening to our father, Floyd Archer, tell stories about growing up in the Matanuska Valley and homesteading there and how his parents, Perle and Dorothy Archer, moved the family from Wisconsin to Alaska. He was only 18 months old… there were six children including my father in the family. My father still has lots of memories of life in Alaska, going to school, playing with the Colony kids, and all the hard work and long winters.”

The barn in the foreground is the Otto Peterson barn, the one in the center of the photo would be the Archer barn. The Parks barn was just out of the photo on the left side.

The barn in the foreground is the Otto Peterson barn, the one in the center of the photo would be the Archer barn. The Parks barn was just out of the photo on the left side.

“About 12 years ago, I inherited from my father the old family album filled with pictures of the homestead and family in Alaska. Among the pictures is a picture of the Archer barn, more pictures of the chicken coop, farm animals, the fields, as well as the house. All of the pictures appear to have been taken by my great grandparents (Dorothy’s parents) during their trip to visit Perle, Dorothy and the six kids, in 1939, which would have been well after Perle and Dorothy were selected as part of the 200 plus families and moved to Palmer.”

In another letter to the author and friends, Glen Archer shared some of the family history after a visit with his father: “Dad said yesterday that the original house was a nice fairly large two story log house which had a full basement. It had been insulated with what he remembers as oakum, which he described as fibers saturated with a tar like substance. Somehow, two or three years after being built, his older siblings Betty and Bob one day caught the insulation on fire and the house burned to the ground. Dad said that grandpa (Perle) was very sad about the whole experience as he had really put his heart and soul into building that place and was proud of it. According to Dad, Grandpa was one of the few individuals who truly knew how to build and taught others to build. He was a general contractor for decades after they returned to the states. Grandpa also apparently started a sawmill which employed others so they could have access to milled lumber and was instrumental in building Fort Richardson.”

Parks/Archer barn. Photo by Stewart Amgwert, Wasilla.

Parks/Archer barn. Photo by Stewart Amgwert, Wasilla.

This post is an excerpt from the new book The Matanuska Colony Barns, by Helen Hegener, published by Northern Light Media, May 2013.

Barns Buy Now• The Matanuska Colony Barns: The Enduring Legacy of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, by Helen Hegener, photographs by Eric Vercammen, Stewart Amgwert, Albert Marquez, Dave Rose, Joanie Juster, Ron Day and others. Foreword by Barbara Hecker. Introduction by James H. Fox. 140 pages, full color. ISBN 978-0-9843977-4-7. Includes Colonist families listing, maps, bibliography, resources, index. List price $29.00.

Order from the publisher or from your local bookstore via IndieBound. Also available at Amazon. To order via check or money order, mail to Northern Light Media, Post Office Box 298023, Wasilla, Alaska 99629. To order from the author via credit card or Paypal, CLICK HERE and send payment to helenhegener@gmail.com


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John “Iron Man” Johnson

Best HeadlineIn 1910, a Scottish nobleman who lived in Nome, Fox Maule Ramsey, crossing the Bering Strait to Siberia and purchased 70 Siberian racing huskies. In that year’s All Alaska Sweepstakes race, a 408-mile run from Nome to Candle and return, Ramsay’s dogs won 1st, 2nd and 4th places, with the first place team driven John “Iron Man” Johnson with his peerless lead dog Kolyma setting the pace. Named for the great Kolyma River in northeastern Siberia, the striking black-and-white blue-eyed Siberian husky was Johnson’s favorite, and his constant companion.



At one point in the race, crossing the aptly-named “Death Valley,” Johnson became snow-blind, strapped himself to his dogsled, and relied on Kolyma to keep the team on the trail. Upon winning the race Johnson was given a traditional victory wreath, but he took it off and placed the wreath on Kolyma, saying, “I did not win the race, this leader won it!”

John “Iron Man” Johnson was a musher of great renown in early Alaska, having won the 1910 All Alaska Sweepstakes race with an elapsed time of 74 hours, 14 minutes, 37 seconds, setting a record which would not be broken until the Centennial running in 2008, at a time when dogs were better bred, better fed, and better cared for on the trail.

“‘Iron Man’ of Arctic and Savage Huskies Leave Wilds to See Land of Soft Delights” ~1915 newspaper headline

oie_2292438Xd2iVfY5San Francisco, Cal., Jan. 9, 1915 John Johnson, “The Iron Man of Alaska,” and his pack of $30,000 Siberian wolf dogs, winners of the All Alaska Sweepstakes race, have come down here to loaf a little while in the land of soft delights. With Johnson is Bill Brady, another celebrity of the “land that God forgot,” and his string of huskies, valued at $20,000.

John and Bill and their shaggy canine friends were a little shy and awkward when they tromped down the gangplank at the wharf here. Asphalt streets and skyscrapers were strange to feet and eyes accustomed to snows and the long, hard trails.

Lean and hard they were, both men and dogs, their bodies stripped to the fighting weight of bare muscle and sinew the Northland demands of its creatures. An extra pound of flesh may weigh like a ton in the strenuous sport. Johnson does not sleep. Only a few mouthfuls of food pass his lips, and scarcely any water. The dogs run the grueling race under the same conditions. In 1910 when he won his first Sweepstakes, John Johnson did not once stop to rest. This year he allowed himself a few minutes in breathing spells, finding that the short pauses benefitted him and his dogs. The man who can do that is quite naturally the idol of his fellows on the other side of ’53.

The dogs, too, come in for their share of worship–Those who live to drag themselves to the winning post. The drivers in the All-Alaska race, inaugurated by the Nome Kennel Club in 1908, may go as they please. The only condition is that they bring in every dog, dead or alive, with which they started. In one of his races Johnson finished in spectacular fashion with three exhausted dogs and one dead on his sled.

with Kolyma and Jodi

With leaders Kolyma and Jodi

His record for the 408-mile course never beaten is 74 hours and 14 minutes, which is remarkable time when the rough country over which the trail leads is considered. On the way Johnson feeds his wolf hounds biscuits made of graham flour, eggs, cream and sugar, only small portions being doled out to sustain their fires of endurance.

“You can’t get over the country on a full stomach,” explained the greatest of northern dog mushers.

While in San Francisco, where Johnson and Brady expect to stage Alaskan dog-racing scenes at the 1915 exposition, the $50,000 beauties will be fed on a fish diet until they get accustomed to the rations of bread, milk, and biscuit it is intended to substitute after a time.

This is Johnson’s first visit to San Francisco in 10 years. Formerly he often made this port as a sailor, having graduated from the foc’scle to champion dog driver a decade ago.

~ ~ ~

oie_d9bitPyLMAKhLake Tahoe’s Winter Carnivals were much-anticipated and popular events in the early 1900’s, and while dog sledding and racing began during winter carnivals in the late 1890’s, the first and official sled dog race in the continental U.S. was reportedly held in Truckee, California, in 1915. Bert Cassidy, editor of the Truckee Republican (Sierra Sun), described the event: “Crowds of people had been arriving in Truckee on each train… all hotel accommodations had long since been taken… movie cameramen were legion… all the bigger papers had sent sports editors.”

After arriving in Seattle  with his dog team during the latter part of 1914, John Johnson traveled to San Francisco to enter some races and display his dogs at various shows.  He and his team entered the race in Truckee, and were billed as an All Alaska Sweepstakes champion team of “Siberian Wolf Dogs” competing against a team of “Huskies” driven by Ed Parker, and a team of Malamutes driven by Bill Brady.


Jack London and John “Iron Man” Johnson at Truckee, California, 1915

Johnson was photographed with the famed novelist Jack London, a spectator at the event who would return to the area twenty years later for the filming of the movie version of his book, The Call of the Wild. While at Truckee, Johnson and his dogteam would be  featured in a movie titled “The Deathlock,” a silent film by the Mutual Film Corp. starring Fred J. Butler, Wilma Wilkie, and David W. Butler in a story of Alaskan prospecting, gambling, claim jumping, and of course, romance.

A Swedish Finn who was born in Åbo, Finland in 1871, John “Iron Man” Johnson never raced again after the 1914 All Alaska Sweepstakes, except for the short exhibition race in Truckee, California in January, 1915 (he won it.) He later became a deckhand on a trading ship plying the Bering Sea waters. In the 1920 census for Nome, Alaska, John Johnson’s age was given as 48, his home was listed as Cape Nome, and his occupation as a seaman – coastwise.

Iron Man 3rd AAS 1910

1910 All Alaska Sweepstakes winning team, driven by John “Iron Man” Johnson

This article is excerpted from Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2016 by Northern Light Media.

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A Look Between the Covers

Sled Dog TalesThe newest book from Northern Light Media, Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, is in the final proofing stage before indexing the book, and I thought a peek between the covers might be fun for readers looking forward to this book. Here, then, are a few page shots from the layout in production (below).

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales will be published May 14, 2016; advance orders are available now. All advance ordered copies will be signed by the author, Helen Hegener; after May 14 books will be shipped directly from the publisher and will not be signed. Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order.







Sled Dog TalesAlaskan Sled Dog Tales will be published May 14, 2016; advance orders are available now. All advance ordered copies will be signed by the author, Helen Hegener; after May 14 books will be shipped directly from the publisher and will not be signed. Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order.





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Alaskan Sled Dog Tales

Tales coverThe history of Alaska was in large part written behind a team of sled dogs.

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales shares the important history of sled dogs in Alaska and how they were an integral part of events such as the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, explorations of the land before there were roads or railroads, and tells of the thrilling adventures of legendary mushers such as Leonhard Seppala, Scotty Allan, ‘Iron Man” Johnson and others.

Included are stories such as Alaskan mail carrier Eli Smith’s epic trip to Washington, D.C., Alaska Nellie’s daring rescue of a lost mail carrier, the Rev. Samuel Hall Young’s 1913 trip over the Iditarod Trail, and Territorial Judge James Wickersham’s 1901 dogsled trip down the frozen Yukon River from Eagle to Rampart.

Crack-dog-teamDozens of old photographs and postcards are included, along with the entire booklet published by Esther Birdsall Darling in 1916, titled The Great Dog Races of Nome, which details the first eight years of the All Alaska Sweepstakes race, from 1908 to 1916.

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales will be published May 14, 2016; advance orders are available now. All advance ordered copies will be signed by the author, Helen Hegener; after May 14 books will be shipped directly from the publisher and will not be signed. Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener. $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping & handling. 320 pages, 6′ x 9″ b/w format, includes maps, charts, bibliography, indexed. Click this link to order.

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A.A.”Scotty” Allan

scotty allanFrom the Wenatchee World, Wenatchee, Washington, June 29, 1909:

“Scotty” Allan, Dog Trainer

Winner of All-Alaskan Sweepstakes an old-time resident of Chelan County and well known here

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer of Monday night contained an interesting story regarding “Scotty” Allan, who won the All-Alaskan Sweepstakes dog team race. The story in itself is an interesting one, but is especially so for the fact that “Scotty” lived in this country for several years, making his home in Leavenworth and is very well known in this city. Allan was practically raised by P.D. Sutor, of Burch Flat. The following is the P-I story:

A_A_Scotty_Allan_NomeGreatest of all dog drivers in the world, winner of the classic All-Alaskan Sweepstakes dog race at Nome last April, A.A. Allan, “Scotty” Allan, as he is known to friends and all Alaskans, came down from Nome on the St. Croix to spend a well-earned vacation at the exposition. A wiry little Scotchman, standing five feet four and one-half inches is this “Scotty.” At 42 he is as spry as a high school boy, and every pound of the 150, which makes his weight, is filled with an energy which makes the whole a tireless machine.

It was a pleasant greeting that occurred between “Scotty” Allan and Jake Berger, the owner of the team which the former drove over a blizzard-driven trail of 408 miles, last April, to victory, when the St. Croix pulled into her dock. With $8,000 in gold, a cup valued at $2,500, and with the second prize of $2,500 to his credit, which he won with the Berger No. 2, Mr. Berger has been anxiously awaiting full details of the race, having been in Montreal when it was run. When “Scotty” came down the gang plank the dog race was begun and run all over again, and the two men went over every foot of the way until Mr. Berger knew the whole affair as if he had been there in person.

Little Profit for Victor

Scotty1By the time the two men reached the Butler Annex, where they are registered, Jake Berger found that while his two teams had won and he was $10,000 to the good, much of the money had been expended in purchasing and training dogs during the long winter and that he was just about even with the game. It mattered not, however, for he has a comfortable fortune, a paystreak which has not had the ends tapped as yet, and above all he is a true sportsman.

Ever since his boyhood days in Scotland, Allan says, he has been fond of horses and dogs. He made companions when a lad, and when he came to North Dakota with blooded horses in 1887, he liked the wild free life of the men and animals. He says he loved the range horses just for their wildness. Then he came to Seattle in later years with the Great Northern railway, for all his life he has followed work with a pen, while his pastimes have been with animals. Then came the stampede in 1897 to the Klondike and “Scotty” Allan was the first to go. It was his first sight of dogs working in harness, and from the moment he first looked at them until the present day “Scotty” Allan has always had a string of dogs. Although he is president of the school board at Nome, secretary of the Darling & Dean Hardware company, and an official of several other companies and societies, he will always leave his business cares to enter a racing competition.

“Scotty” Trains the Dogs

Scotty and BaldyWhen Mr. Berger came out last fall he entrusted his dogs, a score in number, to “Scotty,” leaving a good sized bank account to see that they were properly trained. During the winter the latter tried all the dogs and with the purchase of a few selected animals entered Berger’s two teams. He also did something which was the surprise of everyone in Nome. All winter he kept using a big heavy basket sled in training his team. He was laughed at, but told all that he wanted a sled that would stand any kind of usage. About a half hour before the race he brought out a sled that has never had an equal in the north. Although twelve feet long it weighed but 31 pounds, and a feature of its construction was the use of every D violin string that could be purchased in Nome, which were used for lashing the joints. This spring there was a lack of music owing to this. His dog harness weighed nine ounces per dog, and his whole outfit of muklucks for himself and dogs, blankets for the animals and tugs and other equipment totaled, sleigh included, weighed only 42 pounds.

There were 14 entries in the race. The pick of human racing machinery was selected for the test of endurance, skill in the handling of dogs, and and judgement in the methods of travel. The best dogs of eastern Siberia and Alaska faced the starter’s stand on the ice of the Bering Sea on April 1.

Allan, with Berger’s team, made the 408 miles through a blizzard in 82 hours and 2 minutes, and Blatchford in 82 hours and 18 minutes. The Siberian team, third in the race, made the run in 89 hours.

Cross Breed the Fastest

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 10.52.23 PMMr. Allan says that after years’ experience with dogs he decided that a cross between a setter and the native Alaskan dog proves the best traveler. Each animal for racing purposes should weigh between 70 and 90 pounds.

Mr. Allan has made 17 trips from the interior of Alaska to the coast ports, covering every one that leads to a ship connection and over some of which, in the early days, he had to break trail.

So much does Allan love his dogs that they also have the kindest love for him and it is told that during the race not one of his dogs would lie down until it saw their master retire to his room. Dubby, a dog he has had for ten years and perhaps the best known animal on Seward peninsula, is the constant companion of Allan at all times and although too old to race followed Allan’s team out several miles on the road and when distanced cried and howled for an hour before returning to Nome.

Allan says $4,000 has already been subscribed for next year’s race.
Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 1.30.23 PMExcerpted from Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener, published in May, 2016 by Northern Light Media.


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12705627_10208907920080306_2693434325711240864_nAs a writer I work with words on a daily basis, and I’ve been asked if it ever gets old, this spending my time at a keyboard instead of pursuing other potentially more exciting ways to make a living. Okay, I will admit there are times I envy my many photographer friends who travel to scenic places and bring back splendid photographs which not only make people oooh and ahhh but often bring the photographer a nice paycheck as well. I can take respectable photographs, but my forte is and always will be writing, because I love playing with words, selecting one over another to give a different meaning or inference, editing and rewriting until the meaning and intention flows smoothly and clearly. I believe the old adage, ‘The pen is mightier than the sword,’ because the world has been built on words, and they truly have power and magic.

10363344_10208903561291339_5458732217473317988_nI’ve done a lot of writing this winter, in part because winter is a time conducive to writing, and in part because as one who makes a living with her computer I need to keep the paychecks coming in through whatever means and channels are available. And of course I love seeing my name in lights – I mean print – and even more I love sharing the fascinating history and wonderful stories of our great state’s colorful past. I’m pleased to say I have articles in three Alaskan magazines this month, all three favorites which I love reading and sharing with others: Last Frontier Magazine is running an article on dog teams hauling the U.S. mail; Mushing Magazine includes my article about Mardy Murie’s dogteam trip down the Fairbanks-to-Valdez Trail and stopping at Yost’s Roadhouse (and check out that beautiful cover by Alaskan artist Jon Van Zyle!); and Alaska Magazine is featuring my story about the intrepid Samuel Hall Young, known as the ‘Mushing Parson.’ I also have more articles scheduled for future issues, and I’m expanding my writing borders beyond Alaska with queries to a few magazines in other places.

12791093_594199084071046_8903145598952231173_nI’ve also been writing presentations: In February I gave another talk and slideshow to the Palmer Historical Society on the old Alaskan roadhouses, and this month I’m once again speaking and presenting a slideshow at the venerable Talkeetna Roadhouse at their Iditarod Sunday dinner, about – what else? – sled dogs and roadhouses! I’ve always said I’m not much of a speaker, which is fairly common for writers, but I do enjoy sharing the history of Alaska in this very different and interactive format, and it’s always a fun time to meet old and new friends!



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Famous Trail Dogs

“For years, with great dogs, I toiled and often with them was in great perils. Much of my work was accomplished by their aid. So I believe in dogs, and here in this book I have written of some of them and their deeds.”
~Egerton Ryerson Young, in My Dogs In The Northland (1902)


Balto Central Park

The Central Park statue of Balto, one of many dog heroes of the 1925 Serum Run to Nome.

The BLM Alaska website is a trove of mushing history, with excellent articles on the Iditarod National Historic Trail and related topics. A new addition to the site is Famous Trail Dogs, a salute to some of the famous and not-so-famous sled dogs who traveled the Iditarod Trail and others in Alaska’s storied past. Edited by Helen Hegener, the page shares information about stalwarts such as Togo, Fritz, Baldy, Kolyma, Wolf and others, whose lead-dog skills and great hearts helped shape the history of Alaska. Here are their photos, for their stories, click on the link above.

Baldy of Nome oval copy

Baldy of Nome

Fritz in Nome copy


Gunnar_Kaasen_with_Balto copy

Balto, with Gunnar Kaasen



Slim and Rembrandt

Rembrandt, with Slim Williams


Kolyma (left) with ‘Iron Man’ Johnson

Togo sitting


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Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.03.07 PM“On January 28, 1925, newspapers and radio stations broke a terrifying story — diphtheria had broken out in Nome, Alaska, separated from the rest of the world for seven months by a frozen ocean. With aviation still in its infancy and one of the harshest winters on record, only ancient means — dogsled — could save the town. In minus 60 degrees, over 20 men and at least 150 dogs, among them the famous Balto, set out to relay the antitoxin across 674 miles of Alaskan wilderness to save the town. An ageless adventure that has captured the imagination of children and adults throughout the world for almost a century, the story has become known as the greatest dog story ever told.”

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.04.14 PMThe description above is for the documentary film Icebound, which premiered in Anchorage in December, 2013. The film was described in an article for Alaska Dispatch by Megan Edge: “While ‘Icebound’ takes a tone that’s more dismal than some of the more kid-friendly retellings that have been produced in the years since the epidemic, it doesn’t lack for good storytelling. The film presents the facts in a straightforward manner, focusing on ghastly details and little-known facts. Not to discredit Balto, but as the film will tell you, he was not the breakout leader popular culture has made him out to be.”

The film is available to view online.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.11.20 PM

Enter a caption

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2016 Northern Lights 300


Start of the 2016 NL300 at Happy Trails Kennel. [Northern Light Media photo]

The Northern Lights 300 mid-distance sled dog race runs on the Iditarod Trail from four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser’s Happy Trails Kennel to the Winterlake Lodge on Finger Lake, deep in the Alaska Range. The race has become a favorite with many mushers, offering a unique opportunity to run the first 125 miles of the famous trail from Seward to Nome under race conditions. This year’s race was the fifth running of the Northern Lights 300 per se, but the history of the race stretches back decades under its previous names, the Willow-Tug 300 and the Klondike 300.



2016 Northern Lights 300 mushers [Northern Light Media photo]

After weeks of preparation and anticipation by mushers, handlers, volunteers, race officials and fans, the race got underway at Happy Trails Kennel on Friday morning, January 22. Dog trucks were directed onto the lake below Happy Trails Kennel, where plenty of space gave everyone lots of elbow room, and by 8 am the mushers were gathering at Race Central for the drivers’ meeting. Midway through the meeting our host and primary sponsor, Martin Buser, was called outside, where he learned that his son Nicolai had been in a terrible accident in Seattle that morning. Martin and his wife Kathy were on a plane to Seattle before the first musher left the start chute, while their son Rohn stayed to keep the kennel functioning smoothly. As word of the accident spread through the assembled crowd there was shock and disbelief, and tears.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 8.30.59 PMUnder Race Marshall Sue Allen’s experienced guidance the start went off smoothly, with many handlers later commenting that it was a well-planned and executed beginning to the race for the 33 teams, a large percentage of them seeking to qualify for the 1,000-mile Iditarod and Yukon Quest races. The race checkpoints from the start at Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake included Yentna Station at 56.1 miles out, the Finger Lake checkpoint at 129.9 miles, the Talvista checkpoint at 166.6 miles, and Yentna Station again at 213.9 miles. The trail was reported to be in good condition, which was later confirmed by many of the mushers.

12615695_917608201641454_7957739697473628955_oThe first evening each musher’s start differential was added to a mandatory six-hour layover at the Yentna Station checkpoint, and just before midnight the first musher was back on the trail again: Ryan Redington driving 13 dogs at a fast 9.5 miles per hour after dropping one of the 14 he’d started with. Rick Casillo and Sebastien Vergnaud were close behind Redington. By 1 am over half the teams were out of Yentna and on their way to the Skwentna Hospitality Stop, and by 4 am all of the teams were back on the trail again.

12633641_917954508273490_5646504666617147790_oAt 7:31 Saturday morning front-runner Ryan Redington pulled into the halfway point at Finger Lake. Rick Casillo followed at 7:41, Charley Bejna at 7:44, and Sebastian Vergnaud at 7:45. At 8:30 I posted a good morning on Facebook and asked where everyone was watching the race from. Responses ranged across the globe, with fans commenting from many different states and as far away as Norway, Germany, The Netherlands, England, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Offshore West Africa, Canada, Australia, Mexico, and Scotland, proving once again that sled dog racing really has an international audience!

12604675_917969114938696_368956506623449743_oRyan Redington led the pack out of Finger Lake at 10:51 am Saturday morning, nearly an hour ahead of the second-place musher, Rick Casillo. Limited communications with the remote Finger Lake checkpoint were made worse by a snowstorm moving in, making it tricky at best to get updates on the mushers’ times and team counts, but mushers continued to arrive and depart from the checkpoint throughout the day. During the second day of the race the news media carried many reports of Nicolai’s accident, including a CaringBridge link for updates on his situation, and Race Manager Sue Allen posted: “The NL 300 staff continues to maintain race logistics while our thoughts and prayers continue for healing for Nikolai and peace for Kathy, Martin, Rohn.”


Finger Lake. [Albert Marquez]

Ryan Redington checked into Talvista at 14:28 with 12 dogs, followed by Rick Casillo at 15:18 with 14 dogs, and Sebastien Vergnaud at 15:34 with 13 dogs. The race was shaping up for a run to the finish line! Race photographer Albert Marquez, working at Winterlake Lodge on Finger Lake, posted some beautiful photos of the teams, commenting, “Sorry folks . . . as much as I want to share my photos with you, it will have to wait until I have better internet. Most teams have left Finger Lake checkpoint. Its been snowing here for the last few hours and hopefully I can fly out of here tomorrow. I have lots of photos to share with you. In the meantime, enjoy these!


12628364_917970668271874_455643223443528231_oAt 12:30 am race volunteer Josh Klauder posted on Facebook that the three front-running teams were eligible to leave Yentna, Ryan Redington and Rick Casillo both at 3:49 AM, and Sebastien Vergnaud at 4:09 AM. It was going to be a fast race down the home stretch!

An hour later a strong earthquake shook southcentral Alaska, jarring everyone awake and leaving the mushers and volunteers on the trail with stories which would be told and retold in the coming days and weeks. Trailbreaker James Fee took photos of the ice on the Yentna River skewed into broken blocks, and his compelling images would be featured in a television news video the following day.

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 11.36.16 PM

Ryan Redington (left) and Rick Casillo at the finish. [Northern Light Media]

The race very nearly had a photo finish: At 9:30:15 the musher who had led the race for almost the entire way arrived at Happy Trails Kennel in first place: Knik musher Ryan Redington. Second-place finisher Rick Casillo was only 30 seconds behind Redington with a finishing time of 9:30:45. Seven minutes later Sebastien Vergnaud finished at 9:37:00. First place finisher Ryan Redington received a beautiful pair of embroidered Golden Collars for his lead dogs, donated by High’s Adventure Gear. Ryan’s brother, Ray Redington, Jr., had taken first place three years before, in the 2013 Northern Lights 300.

Mushers continued arriving at intervals throughout the next day and a half. Sunday evening, as some of the last mushers made their way into the Happy Trails Kennel, a reporter for KTVA television, John Thain, came out to interview and film them talking about what it was like to be on the trail during the 7.1 earthquake, and edited a great video featuring several mushers and trailbreaker James Fee’s photos of the Yentna River.


Race photographer Albert Marquez hitches a ride with the dropped dogs at Finger Lake.

Dozens of great photographs taken on the trail by race photographer Albert Marquez can be accessed at this link.



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Iditarod Trail History

I assembled the following photos relating to Iditarod Trail history for the BLM Alaska Idita-Chat on January 20. As it turned out, circumstances changed and I only posted a few of the descriptions, and none of the photos, so I thought I would share the collection here. The photos are in more or less chronological order.
Screen Shot 2016-01-21 at 8.06.06 PM
Before there was an Iditarod Trail there were many shorter trails used by the Native peoples of the land.

Iditarod country map copy
The Iditarod Trail was officially scouted in 1908.

Jujiro with snowshoes
Jujiro Wada, an early musher often credited with helping to blaze the Iditarod Trail, in 1909.
Dogteams and provisions copy

Dogteams loaded with freight and ready to travel the Iditarod Trail.
Prospector with gee pole copy

A prospector helps his dogs handle a heavy load with the aid of a gee pole.


3:4 million gold at Knik copy
3/4 million in gold from Iditarod arrives in Knik, 1912.
S. Hall Young Dogteam copy
The Reverend Samuel Hall Young, known as “the Mushing Parson,” traveled the Iditarod Trail in 1913.
Crow Creek Pass

S. Hall Young crossing Crow Creek Pass on the Iditarod Trail, 1913.


Dogteam on the trail copy

A dogteam on the trail in early Alaska, circa 1914.


Unloading Passegers at Nome 1914

Unloading passengers and freight from the S.S. Corwin at Nome in 1914.


Sepp's Siberian Team copy
In 1925, Leonhard Seppala and many other mushers carried diphtheria serum to Nome on the northern part of the Iditarod Trail.

Gunnar_Kaasen_with_Balto copy
In the 1925 Serum Run, Balto led Gunnar Kaasen’s team the final 53 miles to Nome on the Iditarod Trail.


Balto Central Park
A statue was erected in New York’s Central Park to honor all of the Serum Run dogs.
Seward & Susitna Mail Team copy
The historic Iditarod Trail was the main trail that carried mail from Seward to Nome. This is the Seward and Susitna Mail Team, circa 1913.


Mail Delivery copy
On average, dog teams pulled sleds containing between 500 – 700 pounds of mail.


1973 Iditarod Howard Farley
The first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was in 1973, and 37 mushers participated in the race from Anchorage to Nome. In this photo Howard Farley of Nome readies his big freight sled at the start.
Northern Lights Tom Jamgochian

The northern lights over sleeping dog teams on the Iditarod Trail, in a photo by Tom Jamgochian during the 2015 Northern Lights 300 race from Big Lake to Finger Lake and return.



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