“As I transcribed my recordings for this book, I was once again caught up in each musher’s sense of wonderment as he described what he and the other mushers had accomplished so long ago. More than once a voice would falter and break, and a long pause would follow. There was a reverent quality to the way each musher shared their memories of that first race. It was truly one for the ages.” ~from the Introduction
In 2007 the loss of two sled dog racing pioneers, men whose names I remembered from the first Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, set me to thinking that the stories of the remaining 1973 Iditarod mushers should be recorded. Their memories of that first 1,000-mile race were an Alaskan legacy, part of our state’s colorful history, and yet few people knew who they were, or what they had accomplished under almost insurmountable odds.
These men were the only ones who could tell what it was like to be out there on a trail which had never been traveled in this manner, as a race route, and which many people at the time doubted could still be navigated its full length.
Over the years a mystique has developed around that first race, and most fans know the lore and the rudiments of the story, how it was Joe Redington Sr.’s pie-in-the-sky dream, how he wrangled others into sharing the dream with him and doing the groundwork necessary to make it happen. The history of how the race began can be found in almost every book about the event, because it’s a darned good story, colorful and compelling and full of true-life characters and exciting adventures. But the mushers’ unique individual stories are little-known. This book, now in a revised second edition, is my attempt to share some of their stories.
From 2007 to 2012 I travelled across Alaska to visit veteran mushers from the 1973 race who would share their memories of what has since become known as “The Last Great Race on Earth.” The bulk of my book is comprised of the verbatim words of these intrepid men who drove their teams on that first journey to Nome in 1973, captured through recorded and videotaped interviews and many notes and follow-up letters and emails. I am grateful to those who detailed their long-ago adventures, and I am equally grateful for the warm memories I brought away from our shared time together, when I would sit and listen, hands wrapped around a cup of coffee, as the years fell away and musher after musher relived that great adventure in March of 1973.
More information about the book: The First Iditarod
A post about the founder of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race: Joe Redington, Sr.
“And they still don’t know what happened, because no one’s ever asked us.” ~Ford Reeves, who teamed up with Mike Schreiber to run the 1973 Iditarod
The First Iditarod, The 1973 Race from Anchorage to Nome, by Helen Hegener, a revised edition of the 2015 book, published by Northern Light Media. 199 pages. Format 6″ x 9,″ b/w illustrations, bibliography, resources, indexed. $24.00 plus $5.00 shipping and handling. Foreign orders please use Amazon. Click here to order from the author via PayPal.
Postal orders can be mailed to Northern Light Media, Post Office Box 870515, Wasilla, Alaska 99687-0515.