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.

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Kolyma

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

“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, for the Anchorage Press

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 many others. These stories, however, are not just tales of the well-known and heroic mushers, but also of lesser-known dog drivers whose day-to-day lives were spent on the trails, behind a team of trusted sled dogs.

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: True Stories of the Steadfast Companions of the North Country, 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.

Reviews:

screen-shot-2016-06-12-at-9-55-34-pm“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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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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Writing

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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Icebound

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.”

I am searching for information about this film.

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2016 Northern Lights 300

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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.

 

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.
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Before there was an Iditarod Trail there were many shorter trails used by the Native peoples of the land.

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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.

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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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2016 BLM Alaska Idita-Chat

photoThe 2016 BLM Alaska Idita-Chat was a resounding success, and sled dogs from all around Alaska answered dozens of questions with the capable assistance of their mushers and the ‘Tweet cadre’ which typed in answers as quickly as they appeared onscreen.
Joining us in the Fitzgerald Federal Building in Anchorage were two of Bonnie Foster’s veteran racing sled dogs, ‘Denali’ and ‘Skunk.’ The two hour event took place via Twitter, with schools and individuals checking in and taking part in the online conversation from around the world. The entire discussion, complete with photos, can be viewed at this link.
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Leonhard Seppala

Sepp and TogoLeonhard Seppala, who would, like Scotty Allan, win three Sweepstakes championships, became a living legend in Alaska, and in his own autobiography, Seppala, Alaskan Dog Driver, written with Elizabeth Ricker, he described a harrowing event which took place during his first Sweepstakes race: “The wind drove us on at a great rate of speed. The snow was whirling in front of my face, suffocating me so that I could hardly get my breath at times. Judging by the time we had been on our way, I figured we ought now to be close to the coast, but I knew that unless I hit Allen Creek and Topkok cabin I should run a chance of falling over the cliffs which ran in succession along the shore.

Sepp's Siberian Team“We were racing southward at a breakneck speed when suddenly there came a lull between puffs of wind and I saw that I was very close to some high, steep place, and as I peered ahead I could see way down below the ice hummocks of the Bering Sea. Suggen was close to the edge of the precipice. I jammed both feet on the brake as we sped downward headed for destruction, but the crust was icy and smooth and I was not able to hold the team. I brought out my emergency steel bar and rammed it into the crust through the hole in my brake made for that purpose, bringing the dogs to a standstill. By that time we were on a steep incline close to the edge of the cliff. I tried to call Suggen back to turn the team, but the wind, which was now blowing furiously again, made it hard for him to hear.

Leonhard Seppala

“Finally Suggen responded and tried to swing the team, but the young dogs wanted to go with the wind. My first plan was to leave the dogs and the sled and crawl up to safety, but it was so slippery on the crust that my Eskimo mukluks could get no hold, and the more I thought it over the less I could consider leaving my dogs to face such a tragic fate. I thought that perhaps by scrambling up the hillside I might be able to see landmarks, but as soon as I climbed a few feet the wind blew me back to the sled, and my several attempts proved utterly useless. Apparently our fate rested with Suggen. I saw the ice hummocks several hundred feet below, and I thought with horror of what would happen if the steel bar gave way. But the crust was hard an so far it still held. I pictured my sled, my dogs, and myself falling down the two-hundred-foot precipice to the rocks below. It had often happened that people had been lost here and were never heard of until the snow left in the spring, when they were found frozen and mangled on the rocks and ice hummocks.

LeonardSeppala“I spoke again to Suggen, still trying to call him back to me. He did his best to respond, making several efforts to turn, but still the young dogs refused. I kept shouting, and finally the four dogs behind him got the idea, and as Suggen turned the others followed. To my great relief I saw that little by little the whole team was turning, scrambling back up the hillside, digging their claws into the crust, headed toward safety. By some miraculous chance they were able to pull the sled and me up the incline, but I had no feeling of safety until I reached the top, for it seemed that at any moment the strong wind blowing against them might send them sliding back over the precipice. I kept shouting words of encouragement as every dog scratched and pulled, while I used my steel bar to push the sled along–and at that it was slow progress.”

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Alaskan Roadhouses Review

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 1.21.00 PMThe Anchorage Press features a great review of my latest book, Alaskan Roadhouses, in the January 14 issue. I love what David Fox wrote about my book: “In Alaskan Roadhouses, Helen Hegener reconstructs the scant history of these establishments and the people and dogs who made their existence possible.

Alaska Dogteam b:w“She tells us as much about the travelers who foraged from one roadhouse to the next as the roadhouses themselves. These pioneers were beyond hearty. Braving sub-arctic temps and trails that defied logic, they walked along with, or ahead of their dog teams, 20 to 30 miles per day, without surcease. They pushed past blistered feet (treated with coal oil) twisted ankles and fingers and toes frosted just this side of hypothermia. What shines through—one indelible portrait after another—is their sheer exuberance for life. Their words leap from the page, so vibrant their zeal for life you can hear them as you read their words.”

David Fox then includes one of my favorite quotes from the Reverend Samuel Hall Young, who was known all across Alaska as the “Mushing Parson.” You can click on the link above to access the entire review and read that wonderful quote.

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Click to continue reading this review, or visit this link to order your own copy of Alaskan Roadhouses.

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BLM IditaChat

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Northern Light Media is co-sponsoring the 2016 IditaChat from BLM Alaska:

@BLMAlaska will host a “Sled Dog Tales: Talk with Alaska Sled Dogs”  Tweet Chat on Wednesday, Jan. 20, from 9 to 11 a.m. AKST (1 to 3 p.m. EST).

This year’s BLM IditaChat mushers include Aliy Zirkle, Zoya DeNure, Jodi Bailey, Dan Kaduce, Cindy Abbott, Bonnie Foster (with her dogs!) and Julie Capps!

Beringia dogYou can ask sled dogs what they really think and experience, translated by the person who knows them best — their musher.

Anyone with a Twitter account can “tweet” live questions and comments for the dogs during the #BLMIditaChat Twitter conversation. Simply use the #BLMIditaChat hashtag in your tweet and follow the conversation at @BLMAlaska on Twitter.

During the Tweet Chat the history and culture of Iditarod National Historic Trail and recreation opportunities will be covered. Mushers and their dogs will answer questions from the public and classrooms.

You can read the bios of the IditaChat participants, the Tweet Chat Cadre!

Resources for Tweet Chat

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The Yukon Quest Trail

Susan Roggan into Dawson

Sled dogs coming into Dawson City photo: Scott Chesney/Talespin Media

Update: A good commentary on the 2016 field of 25 mushers from two-time Yukon Quest Champion John Schandelmeier.

The 2016 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race will start February 6, 2016, in Fairbanks, Alaska, when 25 mushers and their dog teams will start the 1,000-mile journey to the city of Whitehorse in Canada’s Yukon Territory. Known as ‘The World’s Toughest Sled Dog Race,’ it’s an event like no other, crossing four mountain ranges, including the dangerous and intimidating 3,685-foot Eagle Summit, as it loosely follows the course of the mighty Yukon River.

The Yukon Quest Trail, by Helen Hegener, takes readers checkpoint by checkpoint from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, an extraordinary journey in which the author shares the incredible history of both the race and the wild and beautiful land it crosses. Over 180 photographs by the author and by noted photographers Eric Vercammen and Scott Chesney provide an unparalleled look at the trail, the mushers, the dogs and more. Also included are Trail Notes for Mushers, detailing the route in both directions, compiled by two-time Yukon Quest Champion John Schandelmeier.

YQ Front CoverThe Yukon Quest Trail: 1,000 Miles Across Northern Alaska and the Yukon Territory, text and photographs by Helen Hegener, additional photos by Eric Vercammen and Scott Chesney; with Trail Notes for Mushers, by two-time Yukon Quest Champion John Schandelmeier. Published December, 2014 by Northern Light Media. 151 pages, 8.5″ x 11″ full color format, bibliography, maps, indexed. $29.00 (plus $5.00 shipping and handling). Click on the cover image to order or visit the Northern Light Media website. Postal orders can be mailed to Northern Light Media, Post Office Box 870515, Wasilla, Alaska 99687-0515.

 

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BLM Alaska Sled Dog History

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.23.12 AMAn in-depth and interesting series of articles about the history of mushing in Alaska can be found at the BLM Alaska web site, including the article, From Babiche Webbing to Kevlar Runners—An Intro to Alaska Dog Mushing History. The emphasis is on the Iditarod Trail, as under the National Trails Act, the Bureau of Land Management  is the designated Trail Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail, “a 2,300-mile system of winter trails that first connected ancient Alaska Native villages, opened up Alaska for the last great American gold rush, and now plays a vital role for travel and recreation in modern day Alaska.”

BLM Alaska maintains about 150 miles of the Iditarod trail, including five public shelter cabins. A good explanation of trail ownership and management can be found on this page. In short, “No one entity manages the entire historic trail – management is guided by a cooperative plan adopted in the mid-1980s.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 10.39.56 AMIn conjunction with their caretaking responsibilities, BLM Alaska maintains a wonderful page relating to the historic Iditarod Trail. An in-depth historic overview includes details about the surveying and improvement of the trail, early roadhouses and mining camps, use of the trail as a winter mail route, and some of the colorful mushers who traveled it such as Bob Griffis and Harry Revell.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 11.16.10 AMThe section on dog mushing history includes a sidebar highlighting places along the trail such as Seward, Anchorage, Knik, Iditarod, and Nome; brief profiles of mushers such as Oscar Tryck, Jujiro Wada, and the Nollner Brothers; travel via dogteam, riverboat, and airplane; and a good explanation of the race behind the birth of sled dog racing, Nome’s famed All Alaska Sweepstakes, a 408-mile event which patterned itself after the Kentucky Derby and made household names of champions Scotty Allan and Leonhard Seppala.

Most interesting to this reader is the Iditarod Oral History Project, with recordings and transcripts of many people who have lived and worked along the historic Iditarod Trail. From the early days of the mining camps at Flat and Iditarod to the mushers who ran the 1925 Serum Run, from working on the riverboats to running the roadhouses along the trail, these first-hand accounts are the purest form of history.

Be sure to also check out BLM Alaska’s page on the 2016 Idita-Chat!

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Along Alaskan Trails

AATCOVER-241x300Along Alaskan Trails, Adventures in Sled Dog History, by Helen Hegener, is a collection of true stories about Alaskan sled dogs and the role they played in the development of the north, with dozens of historic photos from the archives of the Alaska State Library, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and other sources.

The history of Alaska was in large part written behind a team of sled dogs. Or, more accurately, thousands of teams of sled dogs. Man’s dependence on these canine workhorses of the north can be seen in photo after photo: A dog team carrying passengers on the Richardson Trail, a dog team hauling freight across the Iditarod Trail, two dog teams loaded with the U.S. Mail and bound for Anchorage from Seward, a dog team on patrol from Fort Gibbon near Eagle, a dog team making its way along the frozen Yukon River to the next missionary stopover…

U.S. Mail team on the Yukon River. Photo: University of Alaska Fairbanks, John Zug Collection UAF 1980-68-252Among the tales shared in this book is the story of an intrepid Japanese musher who blazed a wide swath across Alaska, an Archdeacon who wrote the classic Ten Thousand Miles with a Dogsled, legendary mushers such as Scotty Allan and Leonhard Seppala, Arctic explorers like Ernest de Koven Leffingwell, and intrepid adventurers like Slim Williams and Mary Joyce.

And the dogs! From Baldy to Balto, Togo to Wolf, Chinook to Rembrandt, these are the dogs who blazed across Alaskan trails and into the history books. From the fiercely-argued conflict between sled dogs and reindeer, to the spooky apparitions along the Iditarod Trail, this book captures the fascinating stories of the dogs of the north.

Ben Atwater arriving at Lake Bennet from Circle City with U.S. Mail, 1909.The history of Alaska would be very different without the criss-crossing trails of thousands of sled dog teams. Sifting through hundreds of photos of Alaskan dog teams makes clear their important role in the history of the northland. Before cars and trucks, there were sled dogs. Before ships, trains, and airplanes, there were sled dogs. In every part of this great land, from the misty fjords of southeastern Alaska to the farthest northern tip of the continent, sled dogs were the most dependable – and often the only – form of transportation. The dog team made travel and moving loads over otherwise impassable trails possible. In The Cruelest Miles (2003, W.W. Norton & Co.) Gay and Laney Salisbury wrote: “On the Alaskan trail, sled dogs becsme partners in a game of survival. Drivers depended on their dogs so that they could make a living as freighters, mailmen, and trappers, and relied on the animals’ skill and intelligence to get them safely across the rough, dangerous terrain.”

Along Ak Trails Buy NowNow their stories are gathered and shared in this splendid collection of well-researched essays and historic photographs.

Along Alaskan Trails, Adventures in Sled Dog History, by Helen Hegener. Published in July, 2012 by Northern Light Media (ISBN 978-0-9843977-2-3). $19.00 postpaid (US only, foreign orders please use Amazon). To order via check or money order, mail to Northern Light Media, PO Box 870515, Wasilla, Alaska 99687. To order via credit card or Paypal, CLICK HERE and or on the book image and send payment to helenhegener@gmail.com

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NLM Books at IndieBound

Screen Shot 2015-12-23 at 11.06.55 AMAll eleven of the books published by Northern Light Media are available at your local independent bookstore or bookseller, easily found through the online search engine at IndieBound, a marketing program of the American Booksellers Association.

IndieBound supports independent bookstores across North America. Simply enter your zipcode and IndieBound will search for and present local independent bookstore addresses, and will also offer an option to purchase the book online. In addition, IndieBound offers the monthly Indie Next List, drawn from bookseller-recommended favorites, epitomizing the heart and soul of passionate bookselling, and the weekly Indie Bestseller Lists, the most current snapshot of what titles are selling in indie bookstores nationwide.

 

 

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The All Alaska Sweepstakes

team-trail-all-alaska-sweepstakes-map-12-14-09The colorful history and the enduring legacy of the All Alaska Sweepstakes, the oldest organized distance sled dog race in the world, includes records kept by the Nome Kennel Club dating back to the first race in 1908. The race route was from Nome, on the south side of the Seward Peninsula, to the small community of Candle on the north side and return, 408 miles over desolate terrain, following the telegraph lines which linked the precious few 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 the previous year.

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Scotty Allan

A.A. “Scotty” Allan described 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.

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Jeff King, 2008 Sweepstakes

Several of Alaska’s best-known mushers entered the Centennial race, including 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.”

Mitch Seavey won the $100,000 purse for the 2008 race, and organizers and the Nome Kennel Club announced that would be the final running of the epic race, an event now consigned to the pages of Alaska’s colorful mushing history. In 2013 Northern Light Media published The All Alaska Sweepstakes, History of the Great Sled Dog Race, which told the story of the race and the sixteen Alaskan mushers who entered their teams in the Centennial running, each hoping to have their name engraved on the Sweepstakes trophy beside the great mushing legends John ‘Iron Man Johnson, ‘Scotty’ Allan and Leonhard Seppala.

Sweepstakes Buy NowAll Alaska Sweepstakes, History of the Great Sled Dog Race. Softcover 8.5″x 11″, published in 2013 by Northern Light Media. 160 pages, over 350 full-color photos. ISBN 978-0-9843977-0-9 • $24.00 plus $5.00 shipping from Northern Light Media.

Also 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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2016 #BLMIditaChat

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Northern Light Media is co-sponsoring the 2016 IditaChat from the Bureau of Land Management:

@BLMAlaska will host a “Sled Dog Tales: Talk with Alaska Sled Dogs”  Tweet Chat on Wednesday, Jan. 20, from 9 to 11 a.m. AKST (1 to 3 p.m. EST).

You can ask sled dogs what they really think and experience, translated by the person who knows them best — their musher.

Anyone with a Twitter account can “tweet” live questions
and comments for the dogs during the #BLMIditaChat Twitter conversation on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Simply use the #BLMIditaChat hashtag in your tweet and follow the conversation at @BLMAlaska on Twitter.

We also are inviting educators to submit their student’s  questions in advance (before Jan. 6, 2016) and do not need to be online to participate. Email questions to blmalaska@blm.gov. Some of the conversation and photos will also run on the BLM Alaska Facebook page during the event. Links to the full #BLMIditaChat conversation will be posted on the agency’s social media and website after the #BLMIditaChat.

During the Tweet Chat the history and culture of Iditarod National Historic Trail and recreation opportunities will be covered. Mushers and their dogs will answer questions from the public and classrooms.

Remember to come view the Ceremonial Start of the 2016 Iditarod Sled Dog Race with other mushing enthusiasts at the BLM Campbell Tract in Anchorage, Saturday, March 7, 2015, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Tweet Cadre

Read the Bios of all our tweeting mushers and dogs and BLM Iditarod National Historic Trail coordinator Kevin Keeler. Additional Bios coming soon!

Resources for Tweet Chat

 

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