Iditarod National Historic Trail

Iditarod_Trail_Seward_500What is commonly referred to as the Iditarod Trail is actually a vast network of winter trails which first connected Alaskan villages, opened the territory for the last great American gold rush, and now plays a vital role for travel and recreation in modern-day Alaska. Multiple groups use the historic trail every year, from the hardy dogs and mushers of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to the super-fast Iron Dog snowmachiners to long-distance trekkers and modern-day explorers seeking adventure in the Alaskan backcountry.

Portions of the Iditarod National Historic Trail from Seward to Nome are open to the public, and while the northern stretches of trail are generally impassable in the summer, you can explore the lower, or southern part of the historic trail year-round on foot, by road, and even by rail between Seward and a point just south of Wasilla, where the trail turns west and the rails continue north. Trail access is easy and well-marked, especially in the Chugach National Forest on the Kenai Peninsula, and Chugach State Park right outside of Anchorage. Historic signs explain how the trail was used by early freighters, mail carriers, and travelers, beginning with the Milepost 0 tripod on the waterfront in Seward, shown above.

19. First team Nome to Seward

First dog team Nome to Seward. 

The Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance notes on their site, “While the Iditarod Trail is well known nationally and internationally due to the contemporary sled dog race, many Alaskans and most Americans are unaware of the basic history of the Trail. While parts of the Trail go back thousands of years to trade routes used by Alaska’s native people, today’s Iditarod Trail began with an Alaska Road Commission scouting expedition in mid-winter 1908. With the strike of gold in Iditarod, the ARC blazed the trail the winter of 1910, giving the Iditarod and Innoko mining districts overland access to the deep water port of Seward, and eventually, the Alaska Railroad.”

Iditarod Trail map

Click to view larger map. 

Nationally, our Historic Trails commemorate major routes of exploration, migration, trade, communications, and military actions that formed America, and only 16 trails in the U.S. have been honored as National Historic Trails. The Iditarod is the only Alaskan trail in the National system, and the only Historic Trail celebrating the indispensable role played by man’s best friend in America’s Last Great Gold Rush. Without dependable sled dogs hauling freight, passengers, mail and more, the history of Alaska and the north country would have been quite different.

For more information:

Iditarod National Historic Trail Interactive Map

Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance

Alaska BLM page on Dog Sledding

Iditarod Trail Access Points

Iditarod Trail at Wikipedia

Alaska State Trails Program – Iditarod Trail

Posted in Alaska History, Gold Rush History, Iditarod, News & Information, Sled Dog History, Sled Dog Races | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Addison Powell in Valdez


Addison Powell is second from the left. Caption from the book: “Five men pose by the float copper nugget, Chititu Creek, Nizina District, Alaska.” Photo taken in 1903 by the Miles Brothers. 

Addison M. Powell was an adventurer, prospector, hunter, and a guide for Captain William R. Abercrombie’s 1898 Copper River Exploring Expedition, one of three military expeditions organized to explore the interior of the new territory of Alaska. His book Trailing and Camping in Alaska, subtitled Ten Years Spent Exploring, Hunting and Prospecting in Alaska – 1898 to 1909, was republished in its entirety by Northern Light Media in September, 2018. An edited excerpt, photos from the book:



We landed, May 29, 1898, in the little tent town of Valdez, which is about three thousand miles north and west of San Francisco. At this time my only possessions were a year’s supply of provisions and twenty-five cents in money. The great Valdez glacier appeared to be at the edge of the little tent town, but really it was five miles away. The mountains appeared scarcely a mile from us, and from twelve to fifteen hundred feet high, yet they were from three to five miles distant and from three to five thousand feet in altitude.

About four thousand people had landed there, three thousand or more of them had crossed the glacier, and many had recrossed during the last month to return home disgusted. The hungry glacier had been the death of some of them and its cracks were gaping for more. We felt that we were up against the toughest proposition of our lives and those who had been there a month knew that we were.


Valdez as we left it. 

Those soldiers had been detailed to explore the route from Valdez to the Yukon. They were conspicuous in their efforts, and of- ten returned from exploring trips without food and with very little clothing. Every out-going steamer was loaded down with the quitters, who, as prospectors, were helpless incompetents. To avoid being ridiculed, they pretended to be returning for horses, larger outfits or more assistance from home.

Hundreds daily trailed into town, so foot-sore, after traveling over that twenty-eight miles of solid ice, that their crippling walk caused them to be referred to as “The Glacier Striders.” Those who came over during the melting of the snow had lost their outfits, either while boating the Klutena rapids, or before they had arrived at Klutena Lake. The snow that covered the crevasses had become too rotten to be safe, and those who crossed told of jumping cracks with spring-poles. If they had slipped they would have been put in cold storage forever, hundreds of feet below.


A Glacier Crevasse

The glacier was a succession of sharp ridges, with deeply washed erosions on each side, which made them nearly impassable. Men who crossed over claimed that all of Alaska’s gold would not tempt them to do so again. They had felt secure while crossing in winter, but had not suspected the dangers that are presented in summer.

While some people were camped beside the trail on the glacier, near the foot of the mountain, they heard the approach of an avalanche. Most of them escaped, but eight were dug out from beneath that snow-slide and two were dead.

There was a little Llewellyn puppy dug from that snowslide. He came out with his head and tail up, and has had them up most of the time since. He lived to acknowledge me as his friend and master, for he became my trail companion for years. He is retired now on a life pension in California, and when we meet he acts as if he thought we were the two best dogs that ever ascended the Copper River.


“Little Dog Pete”

Excerpted from:


Trailing and Camping in Alaska, Ten Years Spent Exploring, Hunting and Prospecting in Alaska – 1898 to 1909, by Addison M. Powell.

Originally published in 1909 by Newold Publishing Company, New York, New York. Republished September, 2018 by Northern Light Media. 300 pages, 30 b/w photos, edited by Helen Hegener, $24.95 (plus $5.00 shipping). Click here to order via PayPal.


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Dog Gone Addiction


“I have no doubt that if people want to feel the real power of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race they will be enthralled with this film.” Aliy Zirkle, Yukon Quest Champion

With the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race coming up February 2, this is the perfect time to enjoy a wonderful film which captures the unparalleled challenges and excitement of the race!

The international award-winning film by Becky Bristow, Dog Gone Addiction, follows three women as they test their personal limits, driving their dog teams through record cold temperatures and over icy mountain passes in the 2007 Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile sled dog race from Whitehorse, Yukon Territory to Fairbanks, Alaska. The film focuses on a young Canadian mother, Michelle Phillips; Agata Franczak, a 48-year-old Polish adventurer; and Kelley Griffin, a veteran Alaskan musher.

Becky Bristow’s camera records the women’s struggles to overcome minus 60 degree Celsius temperatures, mental and physical exhaustion, sick dogs, mountain passes, and the remote wilderness of the Yukon and Alaska to achieve their goals of finishing the toughest sled dog race on earth. Included in the DVD are 55 minutes of extra features, commentary from Yukon racing legend Hans Gatt, and some interesting footage showcasing many of the unique characters who help make up the Yukon Quest race each year.

During its promotional tour “Dog Gone Addiction” was shown at film festivals across North America and Europe and won numerous awards and accolades, including Best Adventure Film, Explorers Club film festival, New York; Best Adventure Sports Film, Taos Mountain Film Festival, New Mexico; and Special Jury Award, Whistler Film Festival, British Columbia.


• Filmmaker tackles a Dog Gone Addiction
Becky Bristow’s film tells the story behind the women mushers of the Yukon Quest
An in-depth article by Lynn Martel, in Pique, November 30, 2007

“On American Summit, the sun was setting, you could hear the dog teams coming from a long way away,” Bristow recalled. “I watched the sun set for a long time, there was ice on the trees. It made me realize the beauty of the place they were seeing with their dog teams, and why they do it.”

• A video interview with documentary filmmaker Becky Bristow

• Dog Gone Addiction is available from Tagish Lake Kennels

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W. T. Geisman, Photographer

BIA ship North Star at San Francisco, April, 1935

BIA ship North Star at San Francisco, April, 1935. Photograph by Willis T. Geisman for the A.R.R.C. [ASL-PCA-270, Mary Nan Gamble Collection, Alaska State Library]

In the spring of 1935 a large contingent of Matanuska Colony officials, including Colony Manager Don Irwin, architect L. N. Troast, Col. Frank Bliss and his staff, and many others, left San Francisco on the Bureau of Indian Affairs ship North Star, bound for Seward, Alaska.

They were transporting the tents, stoves, trucks, tractors, well-drilling equipment and other materials necessary for creating a new community in the Alaskan wilderness, along with the first group of 118 transient workers who would be building the homes, barns, and roads for the new colony.

Willis GeismanJoining this advance guard was a young graduate from the University of California at Berkeley named Willis Taubert Geisman, who played rugby and had lettered in Political Science. Before setting sail, Geisman photographed the Emergency Relief Administration headquarters on 4th Street in San Francisco, and the workers loading trucks and farm machinery onto the North Star at Pier 50.

As the official photographer for the Matanuska Colony Project, Geisman documented every aspect of the venture, from the kitchen help aboard the North Star to the colonists’ children playing in the tent city, from officials posing stiffly for portraits to farmers working together to build homes before winter. His photographs portray proud farm wives showing their neat tent kitchens, and a small girl sitting in an Alaskan berry patch grinning at the cameraman.

Title_pageIn the Official Photographic Album of the Alaska Rural Rehabilitation Corporation (A.R.R.C.), Matanuska Colonization Project, Geisman’s 939 photographs are notated: “Complete Album photographed and produced in the field with portable equipment by Willis T. Geisman, official photographer, A. R. R. C. Palmer, Alaska, 1935.”

Little is known about Willis T. Geisman after 1935. He was born in San Franciso in November 1, 1911, to Clarence John and Florence N. Geisman. At some point he married, and he joined the Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of Captain. He was captured by the Japanese after the fall of Corregidor, Philippine Islands, on 6 May 1942, and was held as a Prisoner of War until his death while still in captivity. Burial was at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial, Manila, Philippines. His awards included the Prisoner of War Medal and the Purple Heart.

Colony kids in a tent camp. Photograph by Willis T. Geisman for the A.R.R.C. [ASL-PCA-303, Mary Nan Gamble Collection, Alaska State Library]

Colony kids in a tent camp. Photograph by Willis T. Geisman for the A.R.R.C. [ASL-PCA-303, Mary Nan Gamble Collection, Alaska State Library]

Willis T. Geisman’s documentation of the 1935 Matanuska Colony project was a monumental achievement, and has become the most frequently referenced work on that part of Alaska’s history. Geisman’s compelling photographs have appeared in hundreds of books, magazines, news articles, on television, and in films.

His photographs played a major role in the award-winning 2008 documentary, Alaska Far Away, and they were lauded by Valley historian Jim Fox, author of The First Summer, a splendid collection of some of Geisman’s most memorable photos: “Geisman’s work is of tremendous importance in its documentation of the Colony’s history and its technical skill, artistic and documentary style.”

The complete A.R.R.C. photograph album by Willis T. Geisman can be viewed online at Alaska’s Digital Archives for the Alaska State Library.

a mighty nice placeExcerpted from “A Mighty Nice Place,” The History of the 1935 Matanuska Colony Project, by Helen Hegener. Published in November, 2016 by Northern Light Media. 276 pages, 120 photos, 6″ x 9″ b/w format. Print book: $24.95 plus $5.00 shipping. Click here to order now via PayPal

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1967 Centennial Race

oie_3sqcid7pnqgjIn 1967, a 50-mile sprint sled dog race was run from Knik to Big Lake, in two 25-mile heats over a two-day period, with the race route including nine miles of the original Iditarod trail.

The race was the brainchild of Wasilla historian Dorothy Page, who thought such an event would be an appropriate and effective way to commemorate the Alaska Purchase Centennial. With a purse of $25,000 the race would be the richest in modern times, and it drew a field of 58 mushers which included most of the best-known racers in Alaska and two from Massachusetts.

The Iditarod Trail Seppala Memorial Race was planned for February 11 and 12, 1967. 

sepp-and-togoThe name was a tribute to the great sled dog driver Leonhard Seppala, whose fame derived from his three championship All Alaska Sweepstakes races and his heroic run in the 1925 Serum Run to Nome. He passed away after a brief illness in a Seattle hospital at the age of 89, shortly before the 1967 Alaska Centennial race, and the organizers added the great musher’s name as a way to honor his memory. His wife, Constance, flew to Alaska for  the Centennial race, and while she was in Alaska she sprinkled her respected husband’s ashes along the Iditarod Trail, saying he had always felt at home on the Iditarod Trail.


Isaac Okleasik from Teller

The 1967 race was billed as ‘the biggest event in racing history,’ with an unprecedented purse of $25,000, richer than any purse offered for a sled dog race until then. It attracted mushers from all around Alaska, respected dog drivers such as George Attla, Gareth Wright, Earl Norris, Jerry Riley, Orville Lake, Herbie Nayokpuk, Dick Mackey, and even two champion sprint mushers from Massachusetts: Dr. Roland Lombard and Dr. Charles Belford. Among the 59 teams entered were three Redington teams, driven by Joe and his sons Joee and Raymie. Although many of the mushers who entered were already champions, the race was won by a relative newcomer, Isaac Okleasik of Teller, driving a team of big village working huskies. 


Joe Redington, Sr.

Joe Redington played a large part in making the first race over a short section of the old trail a reality. Besides spearheading the fundraising for the 1967 race, Joe, with the help of several friends, blazed and reopened nine miles of the long-dormant Iditarod Trail for the event. He also put his Flathorn Lake homestead on the line as collateral when raising the purse became an issue; it would later take the governor’s intervention and a state legislative act to save the Redington land from foreclosure. But the race won generous accolades in the press and at the finisher’s banquet, and reinforced Joe Redington’s belief that the Iditarod Trail could play an important role in keeping the sport of mushing alive.


Excerpted from:

First Iditarod 2nd Ed


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 AmazonClick 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.



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The Origins of Mushing


“All the tribes of the Asiatic coasts, from the Ob to the Bering Strait, to Greenland and Kamchatka, harness their dogs to their sleds, in order to make long journeys and transport cumbersome burdens.” – Baron Ferdinand P. Von Wrangell, in Le Nord de la Siberie, 1843.

There’s a historically interesting article on the Alaska Science Forum, dated March 23, 1987, noting the Yukon Quest and Iditarod sled dog races were over for the year, and adding “…but it is still interesting to ponder the origins of dog mushing.”

The contributor, Oscar J. Noel, wrote: “I am reminded of a query to the “Dear Bud” column in the Anchorage Times: ‘Did our Alaska Eskimos and Indians have dog teams before the arrival of the white man?'”

From the 1675 edition of Martin Frobisher's

From Martin Frobisher’s “Historic Navigations,” circa 1675

Noel replies in part: “Recently, I came across an illustration taken from the 1675 edition of Martin Frobisher’s “Historic Navigations.” This illustration shows, in the background, a dog in harness, pulling what appears to be a canoe-like sled, or perhaps what might be called a pulk. This illustrates that at the time of earliest contact with Europeans the Eskimos were indeed using dogs as draft animals.”

Mr. Noel continues: “I find in the book, ‘The World of Sled Dogs,’ by Lorna Coppinger, that the earliest historical records of the use of sled dogs in the Siberian subarctic appear in Arabian literature of the tenth century; in writings of Marco Polo in the thirteenth century; and of Francesco de Kollo in the sixteenth.”

team-trail-sle-dogs-1-5-10Lorna Coppinger writes a little later in her book about Eskimos with trained dogs on long leashes which would sniff out the breathing holes of seals under the ice, and migratory peoples of the north using dogs as pack animals at first, with some packs being enormous and dragging on the ground, but added that “At a walk, a dog could carry a pack equal to his own weight all day long.”

She continues that in winter the sleds the dogs pulled would result in increased mobility, and notes, “Man and dog got on so well together, each providing the other with certain necessities, that they probably migrated together across the frozen Bering Strait to North America,” and what is now Alaska.

nansen bookIn his 1911 book, a two-volume history of arctic exploration titled Northern Mists: Arctic Exploration in Early Times, the reknowned Norwegian explorer Fridtjof Nansen quotes from the fourteenth century Arabian chronicles of Ibn Batuta, a businessman trading near what is now Kazan in Russia. The Arabian dwelled with appreciation on the sight of sled dogs, noting that “Ibn Batuta (1302-1377) has no name for this people, any more than Abu’lfeda; but he calls their country ”the Land of Darkness’ and has an interesting description of the journey thither. He himself, he says, wished to go there from Bulgar, but gave it up, as little benefit was to be expected of it. That land lies 40 days’ journey from Biilgar, and the journey is only made in small cars drawn by dogs. For this desert has a frozen surface, upon which neither men nor horses can get foot- hold, but dogs can, as they have claws. This journey is only undertaken by rich merchants, each taking with him about a hundred carriages [sledges?], provided with sufficient food, drink and wood; for in that country there is found neither trees nor stones nor soil. As a guide through this land they have a dog which has already made the journey several times, and it is so highly prized that they pay as much as a thousand dinars [gold pieces] for one. This dog is harnessed with three others by the neck to a car [sledge?], so that it goes as the leader and the others follow it. When it stops, the others do the same.”

Sled Dog Tales

This story is excerpted from the book Alaskan Sled Dog Tales, by Helen Hegener, published May 14, 2016, by Northern Light Media. $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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1911 Iditarod Sweepstakes

14. Iditarod_Alaska_Kennel_Clubs_3rd_annual_Feb_22nd_dog_race_1914

Geo. May’s team in Iditarod, Alaska Kennel Club’s 3rd Annual Handicap Dog
Race, Feb. 22, 1914. 22 miles in 1 hour, 59 seconds, 1 minute.

On New Year’s Day, January 1, 1911, 62 years before the inaugural run of today’s race, the First Annual Iditarod Sweepstakes Race was held over a 20-mile course which started in front of the Miners and Merchants Bank in the town of Iditarod. The route passed the Summit Roadhouse, through Flat City, back to the Summit Roadhouse and ended at the starting point in Iditarod. The temperature was reportedly near zero, but high winds created blizzard-like conditions along parts of the trail.

23. Iditarod dog team 1911

Iditarod dog team, 1911

Five teams entered; Claude Shea won with his five-dog team in a time of 2 hours, 28 minutes, and 54 seconds, for a first prize of $350. Dan Campbell drove a team for the Northern Commercial Company and placed second with a time of 2 hours, 58 minutes and 29 seconds, winning $100. Third place went to Slim McRae, driving a team for the Northern Saloon and showing a time of 3 hours, 12 minutes, and 19 seconds. Fourth and fifth place teams, out of the money, were Sam Adams and Tom McMahon.

Sled dog races were popular winter entertainment all across the territory at the time, and many such events were held in towns along the Iditarod Trail. In January, 1916, the first sled dog race was held in Anchorage, under the auspices of the Anchorage Kennel Club. The 54-mile route started in front of the Crest Hotel on Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage, and the teams ran to Old Knik, which was near present-day Eklutna at the head of Knik Arm, and back to Anchorage. The winning team of five dogs, driven by Frank Dixon, made the trip in 7 hours and 52 minutes. The second place team, seven dogs driven by Walter Howard of Knik, was seven minutes behind him.

First Iditarod 2nd Ed

Excerpted from:

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 AmazonClick 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.


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The First Iditarod, 2nd Edition

“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

First Iditarod 2nd Ed

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.

imageedit_37_2063624493From 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.

First Iditarod 2nd Ed“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 AmazonClick 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.

Posted in Alaska History, Book Reviews, Books, News & Information, Sled Dog History, Sled Dog Races | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

All Alaska Sweepstakes

3. All Alaska SweepstakesThe historic All Alaska Sweepstakes is the oldest organized distance sled dog race in the world, with records kept by the Nome Kennel Club dating back to the first race in 1908. The race, which was held from 1908 to 1917, and commemorated with 75th and 100th anniversary races in 1983 and 2008, is the subject of All Alaska Sweepstakes: History of the Great Sled Dog Race, by Helen Hegener. Hundreds of beautiful photos by Jan DeNapoli, Joe May, Donna Quante and others tell the story of the sixteen Alaskan mushers who entered their teams in the 2008 commemorative running. Each musher was hoping to have their name engraved on the Sweepstakes trophy beside the great mushing legends “Scotty” Allan and Leonhard Seppala. And, of course, they were racing for the richest purse ever offered for a sled dog race: $100,000.00 winner-take-all!

1983posterThe route from Nome, on the south side of the Seward Peninsula, to the small community of Candle on the north side and return, is 408 miles, following the telegraph lines which linked camps, villages and gold mining settlements on the Peninsula. This route’s established communication lines allowed those betting on the outcome to track the race more easily from the comfort of saloons like the famed Board of Trade in Nome, where the Nome Kennel Club had been founded.

A.A. “Scotty” Allan describes the route to Candle in his classic book Gold, Men and Dogs (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1931): “It was selected because the trail to it from Nome goes over all kinds of country, from sea ice to high mountains, with rivers, tundra, timber, glaciers, and everything else in the way of mental and physical hardships en route. We knew there wouldn’t be any doubt about the excellence of a dog or driver that covered it.”

With colorful drivers like “Scotty” Allan and Leonhard Seppala, who each won the race three times, the All Alaska Sweepstakes was an eagerly anticipated annual event until the gold mining dropped off and Nome’s population dwindled, along with local interest in sled dog racing. In 1983 the Nome Kennel Club sponsored the 75th Anniversary race, and Rick Swenson took home the $25,000.00 purse. Then, in 2008, for the 100th Anniversary of the event, the Nome Kennel Club offered the richest purse ever for a sled dog race: $100,000.00 winner-take-all.

Jeff King in Council. Photo by Jan DeNapoli.

Jeff King in Council. Photo by Jan DeNapoli.

All Alaska Sweepstakes, History of the Great Sled Dog Race begins with a look at the colorful history of the race, tracing its gold rush roots and highlighting the stories of intrepid mushers like Leonhard Seppala and “Scotty” Allan, “Iron Man” Johnson and Fox Maule Ramsay, and the heroic dogs like Baldy, Togo, and Fritz. For the Centennial Race some of Alaska’s best-known mushers entered: Lance Mackey, Jeff King, Mitch Seavey, Sonny Lindner, Ramy Brooks, Jim Lanier, Cim Smyth, Aaron Burmeister, Ed Iten, Hugh Neff, and Mike Santos. And then there were the mushers who entered simply to be a part of the history of the race: Kirsten Bey, Cari Miller, Fred Moe Napoka, Connor Thomas, and Jeff Darling, whose musher profile noted that he’d entered “for the historical value and a chance to see some countryside he might not otherwise be able to see by dogteam.”

AAS mapThe photo-rich, full color book covers the race from the preliminary festivities such as the crowning of the Sweepstakes Queen, Janice Doherty, and the mushers’ bib drawing, to the historically-themed finisher’s banquet and the awards, not only of the beautiful championship trophy, but also the Alec “Scotty” Allan Humanitarian Award, and the Percy Blatchford “Spirit of the Race” award. Descriptive commentaries by Race Marshal and Lead Judge Al Crane; leaderboard designer and champion musher Jodi Bailey; and dedicated race fan Marcia Claesson, who shared how the race was tracked by mushing enthusiasts from around the world, add depth and perspective to the exciting narrative of this iconic race.

“One of the pilots in Candle asked me if I’d seen any wolves, and I said no, and he said there was a big pack of wolves headed this way. I was about two hours out of Candle on my way to Gold Run and I see all these green eyes about fifty feet off the trail, a hundred yards ahead of me. So I had my headlight on bright and I’m looking at these eyes… My .44 was in my sled so I unzipped my sled bag and I’m looking, there’s a lot of sets of eyes looking at me…” ~ musher Aaron Burmeister sharing tales of the trail at the Finish Banquet.

Sweepstakes Buy NowAll Alaska Sweepstakes, History of the Great Sled Dog Race. Softcover 8.5″x 11″, published in 2013 by Northern Light Media. ISBN 978-0-9843977-0-9 • 160 pages, over 350 photos. $29.00 plus $5.00 shipping from Northern Light Media, PO Box 298023, Wasilla, Alaska 99629. For credit cards and PayPal please click here.

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Sled Dog Tales

COVER Alaskan Sled Dog Tales

“These trustworthy creatures could be relied upon to do the heavy work, while remaining—as Hegener eloquently reminds us—our most treasured friends.” David Fox, Anchorage Press

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.

Alaskan Sled Dog Tales shares the important history of sled dogs in Alaska, highlighting legendary mushers such as Leonhard Seppala, Scotty Allan, and ‘Iron Man” Johnson, and explaining how sled dogs were an integral part of early explorations, the gold rush era, and historic events such as the 1925 Serum Run to Nome.

True stories include 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. Fascinating stories of Alaska’s history as seen from the runners of a dogsled!

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.


“Relying upon material written from the late 1890s through the early ‘30s, [Hegener] catalogues how sled dogs provided Alaskan residents the ability to traverse enormous distances, deliver critical supplies and maintain communication from within and outside Alaska. The episodes she recounts are stirring, filled with human and animal bravery. Some are simply mind-boggling, filling the reader with awe and enormous respect for dog and driver alike.” David Fox, in the Anchorage Press

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