Our correspondent, Dennis Musgraves, participated and provided us with a photo gallery of the action.
All photos courtesy of Dennis Musgraves
Cover image courtesy of Albert Lewis, seespotrun.com
This is shaping up to be a great week for Dallas Seavey. The cover subject of our March issue of Alaska Sporting Journal just defended his 2014 Iditarod title with his third overall championship.
Here’s some of the Associated Press report via ESPN:
The Alaska musher crossed the finish line in the Bering Sea coastal town of Nome at 4:13 a.m., completing the route in eight days, 8 hours, 13 minutes and 6 seconds. That’s about five hours longer than the record he set in winning the 2014 race.
“Obviously going into this race, the big hubbub was all about the new trail, right?” Seavey told a packed convention hall. Concerns were about the “warm, warm, warm winter” and conditions on the Yukon River.
In fact, a snowmobile sank on thin ice on part of the route mushers were about to take. Some were considering buying rain gear.
But then winter came back to Alaska, and the trails became much more like one would expect for the Iditarod.
“We saw a lot of 40-, 50-below zero, snow,” said Seavey, of Willow. “This was a very tough race. It was not the easy run that a lot of people had anticipated for the Yukon River.”
Seavey’s father, Mitch, finished in second place Wednesday, followed by Aaron Burmeister. Behind them en route to Nome were Jessie Royer and Aliy Zirkle.
To win this demanding race three times in four years – his dad Mitch won the other – is a testament to not just Dallas Seavey but the dogs in his team (Alaska Dispatch has video of him crossing the finish line in Nome).
Seavey’s adventures in Alaska continue this Sunday night at 10 p.m. Pacific in the season finale of his National Geographic Channel series, Ultimate Survival Alaska. Seavey’s Endurance team was in last place among the four teams, but anything can happen in the final challenge. But he’s already won the show’s season competition already, so his legacy is secure. And winning another Iditarod by the age of 28 puts him among the sport’s elite mushers, with seemingly plenty of races ahead of him.
Here’s Seavey to the Fairbanks News-Miner:
“The wins are a result of doing what we love. It takes a whole team to get us here.”
Finally, here’s our story on Dallas (Photos by Dallas Seavey and National Geographic Channel):
By Chris Cocoles
Not including Dallas Seavey’s “home” squad – with wife, Jennifer and daughter, Annie – he is a vital leader of two teams that are a huge part of his life.
Seavey, who turns 28 this month, is a veteran of the National Geographic Channel series Ultimate Survival Alaska (the season finale will air on March 22 at 10 p.m., 9 Central, with new shows on Sunday nights). He’s appeared on all three seasons, leading Team Endurance to the title in season two last year and welcomed two new teammates for season three, which wraps up this month.
“It was intriguing because we were traveling across Alaska, living out of a backpack and seeing some of the most unique and strange terrain that this state has to offer,” Seavey says. “And that always takes a level of creativity and ingenuity to work your way through that environment. And it was particularly intriguing to us because that’s what my family has grown up doing.”
And for essentially the entire year, particularly the 10 or so days of the Iditarod that define the sport starting on March 9 when the race will start from Fairbanks due to low snowfall, Seavey is carrying on his family’s distinguished tradition among Alaska’s sled dog-racing community. He’s mushed his dog teams to win the sport’s premier event, in both 2012 (when, at 25, he was the race’s youngest champion), and 2014 (when at 8 days, 13 hours, 4 minutes and 19 seconds, he won the race in record time; quite a contrast from inaugural winner Dick Wilmarth needing over 20 days to complete the course in 1973).
It’s quite the busy life, but it’s exactly the way Seavey prefers his days to go: raising and racing dogs throughout his home state, conquering mental and physical challenges in the Alaskan bush, and introducing Annie to dog mushing, which three generations of Seaveys have thrived on since the 1960s. The family has dominated the last three Iditarods, Dallas’ two titles sandwiched around his father Mitch becoming the – wait for it – oldest winner of the 1,000-mile, “Last Great Race on Earth” at age 53 in 2013, his second title. Dallas’ grandfather and Mitch’s dad Dan Sr. was one of the founding fathers of the Iditarod’s inaugural race in the early 1970s. With Seaveys winning the last three races, it’s a golden era for the family
“There something to competing with your dad. And especially since my dad and I were very close,” Dallas Seavey says. “When I was with my dad in 2013 at (the White Mountain checkpoint), only 77 miles to go and him within striking distance of his second Iditarod win, it was a neat experience.”
It wasn’t the first time Seaveys had shared the stage.
WHAT’S A PRODUCER’S dream? Cast two brothers in a live-action series where contestants are thrown into the middle of nowhere and given a challenge to get to a destination faster than their opponents. At 26, Dallas was already a household name in Alaska based on his 2012 Iditarod win and, when approached by National Geographic to do Ultimate Survival Alaska, convinced older brother Tyrell, then 28, to join him.
Surely, the siblings would provide compelling conversations and, maybe, if the show was lucky, some epic arguments as they decided on a plan of attack for whatever rivers needed to be crossed or mountains needed to be climbed. Except it wasn’t quite a family feud.
“We’ve always worked together,” says Dallas of his and Tyrell’s jobs at their dad’s kennel. “And that’s a different relationship when you work with somebody rather than having to co-habitate in the same building. And a lot of siblings are, I suppose. They don’t force you to interact beyond a certain degree. But we were always solving problems and being forced to work together. So I think we hatched out most of our differences by the time we were 12.”
Dallas called it “silent communication,” when conversations about how to approach the tasks at hand would almost become telekinetic mojo between he and Tyrell. Dallas considered this as two battle-tested Alaskans who knew exactly what problems lay ahead in the area’s topography, potential weather issues that confront them or the odds of accomplishing the goals with the limited tools and supplies they were given.
So in sync with each other were the Seaveys, when they plotted their course, they were encouraged by the cameraman to interact a little more. But that “we may not be flashy, we are effective” technique fit well into the equation. Bring together a small group of alpha-type personalities who all feel like their way is the best way, and you’re sure to get disagreements.
“It’s the Seavey way to just get the job done; not a lot of flair, not a lot of extra conversations,” says Dallas, who came back the next season. As one of three members of Team Endurance, Dallas and his mates, Eddie Ahyakak and Sean Burch, beat out the other three-person teams to win the competition with complete strangers he’d never met before filming began. For season three, there’s another entirely new team in place – mountaineer Ben Jones and heli-ski guide Lel Tone. But for Seavey, the spirit of the show as far as he is concerned is intact.
While everyone has a background in some semblance of adventure sports to, in theory, handle the terrain – an earlier third-season episode saw the teams try to cross the swift currents of the Talkeetna River – it’s as much a mental as it is a physical grind. Seavey went so far as arguing the psychological effects can sink you more than having the fitness to traverse the Alaskan bush.
“Yes, you have to have the physical talent to do this stuff. And that’s not easy, but we almost take that for granted. The people who are out there are outdoor, active people,” he says. “But the real game comes down to the mental side. One of the major factors that gets often overlooked in these group situations: Here we are, warm and well fed and watered. But now let’s try it when we’re cold and miserable, and probably haven’t slept properly in several weeks, and are severely malnourished. Hunger is one of the biggest attitude changers out there.”
All the factors combined provide a thinking player’s game that has brought Seavey back for more of his second career on Ultimate Survival Alaska on top of success as a professional dog musher.
“Creativity and challenges are what I thrive on. That’s what I do when racing the Iditarod. We try to recognize a problem, break it down to its most basic elements and solve it,” he says. “Whether it’s building a new racing sled or coming up with new strategies in the Iditarod, it’s problem solving. There’s definitely a mad -scientist aspect for when you come to a crossroads of a problem that you don’t have an answer for.”
DALLAS SEAVEY WAS at a crossroads once. Though his promising wrestling career was pinned by injuries, he knew the family business of rigging up dogs to a sled and traveling fast through the snow. Grandpa Dan did it; his father Mitch did it. It was what the names Andretti and Unser were to motorsports, Sutter to hockey, Williams to tennis and Manning to football. A Seavey is expected to successfully race dogs through the treacherous Alaskan wilderness.
“My granddad moved to Alaska in the 1960s to be an ‘Alaskan.’ When he helped start the Iditarod, it was as much fun to plan the race as it actually meant to go do it,” Dallas says of Iditarod Hall of Fame inductee Dan Sr., who as recently as 2012 competed in the race, at 74 years old. “They were trying to figure out if it was possible to run 1,000 miles across Alaska.”
The race has now gone international after its early years usually featured Alaskans only. Most of the members of the Seavey family, including Dallas’s wife Jennifer, have competed in at least one Iditarod. The Seavey kids were home-schooled, mostly so they could have access to the tasks of maintaining the Seward-based family business of raising and racing sled dogs (it’s now known as Seavey’s Ididaride Racing Team and Sled Dog Tours). Mitch cared for more than 100 dogs at his kennel, and oldest brothers Danny, Tyrell and Dallas – they also have a fourth brother, aspiring singer Conway Seavey – were given various duties to make sure the dogs were fed and exercised.
Dallas made his Iditarod debut in 2005 at just 18 (the minimum age to compete) and was the youngest musher to finish the race, coming in 51st. But it wasn’t until 2009 that he was actually “competitively” racing in the event. He still seemed like a longshot to win the 2012 race, given that most previous winners were in their 30s, 40s or even 50s (Seavey said the average age of the previous 20 winners was 42). Conversely, his kennel, made up of dogs he purchased from his dad and other fellow mushers, was just 3 years old at that point. So it wasn’t as if he was known for grooming championship dogs.
“I was competing with these teams that had been going for 20 or 30 years. It’s a refining process, where you’re continually breeding from the best to the best of the best for the dogs. These dogs are just insane athletes. We were way behind the eight ball there,” Seavey says.
“It certainly seemed like from the outside, a 25-year-old racing in his fourth competitive Iditarod saying, ‘I’m going to win it and become the youngest winner ever,’ must have seemed either extremely arrogant or naïve; probably both. Maybe I was just naïve enough, just dumb enough, to believe that I could win the Iditarod. It doesn’t mean we have a lock on this race. But this was the first team I had that I knew had the potential to win – if we did everything right.”
Check. Seavey’s win was remarkable given the historical odds were so against him. This had been a sport where Father Time – like his dad – was an advantage over youthful enthusiasm. But here was the 25-year-old, a year before his father was dismissing the trend of mushers his age, winning the Last Great Race on Earth. He sat below Nome’s famed Burled Arch, sharing the stage with two of Seavey’s five lead dogs from the race, Diesel and Guinness. They were covered in yellow roses and showered with cheers from the crowd on Nome’s Front Street. Man and dogs were exhausted after such a grueling race (talk about ultimate Alaskan survival). He hugged both dogs, feeling as though winning the race was simply a bonus for appreciating what they accomplished.
It’s what this race is all about and carrying on the family’s legacy as some of Alaska’s storied sports’ personalities.
“It’s an incredible feeling. For 355 days a year I’m a dog musher, and to develop these dogs to their highest potential and to make each dog the best athlete that their genetic potential has allowed them and help them maximize that potential. That’s what a dog musher is, in my mind,” Seavey says. “For the other 10 days a year, give or take, we are focused on not necessarily winning the Iditarod, but running the best possible race. And if I run the team to the best of their ability, that is a goal met.”
In this month’s issue of Alaska Sporting Journal we have a package on the University of Alaska Fairbanks rifle team, which has quietly been a dynasty with 10 national championships. The Nanooks were ranked second in the nation when they hosted the NCAA Championships last weekend in Fairbanks.
UAF finished second to No. 1 West Virginia:
Alaska won the smallbore championship last night, holding off West Virginia by an impressive twelve shots, but it was unable to overcome the top air rifle team in the nation, as the Mountaineers rallied to defeat the Nanooks by two overall shots, 4,702 to 4,700.
“Coming in we knew that we were probably the top smallbore team in the country,” said head coach Dan Jordan. “We shot really well yesterday, but we came up just short today. West Virginia shot a phenomenal air gun today. We can’t do anything more than what we did. Both teams shot really well this weekend.”
In third place overall was Texas Christian University, who matched Nebraska’s 4,667 points, but hit 13 more 10x-shots to clinch the tiebreaker. The Cornhuskers did place in the smallbore competition, as they were in third place after last night’s action. Jacksonville State was the Championships’ fifth-place team and also went home with a trophy, as it finished in third place in the air rifle portion. Kentucky’s tally of 4,657 was good for sixth-place, while the United States Air Force Academy and Murray State placed seventh and eighth, respectively.
Alaska’s Tim Sherry placed eighth overall after finals, to lead the Nanooks, following up on his fifth-place individual finals in smallbore, last night.
Maren Prediger of West Virginia was the top individual following finals, as she topped a full contingent of Mountaineer medalists. West Virginia’s Michael Bamsey placed second overall and Garrett Spurgeon was the third best shooter. Spurgeon was also named the NCAA Championship’s Top Overall Performer.
Sherry’s 596 was the highest shot total of any Nanook, qualifying him for finals. Mats Eriksson and Ryan Anderson were Alaska’s next best shooters, as they each scored 592 points. Lorelie Stanfield and Sagen Maddalena rounded out the Nanooks, with respective shot totals of 589 and 588.
Here’s our story on the team’s coach, Jordan, who was paralyzed in a climbing accident but does not let his physical limitations slow him down from coaching or enjoying the outdoors:
By Chris Cocoles
University of Alaska rifle team coach Dan Jordan says he really hadn’t been challenged much by the time he’d reached the summer after his sophomore year at the same school.
In May 1999, Jordan had just completed his sophomore year on the Nanooks rifle team when he and a close friend and teammate, Amber Darland, went rock climbing north of Fairbanks.
“I was climbing and my safety pieces broke out, so I fell about 60 feet,” says Jordan who was asked by rescuers, was he allergic to anything. In a Denver Post story from a few years back, he recalled deadpanning an answer that would reflect on his ability to handle such a life-altering tragedy: “Rocks.”
He was paralyzed throughout his lower body.
JORDAN GREW UP in rural Franktown, Colo., not far from Colorado Springs. His family wasn’t into hunting or guns, but young Dan “was infatuated with hunting and shooting from the time I was a little kid.”
His parents put Jordan into the local 4-H club so he could learn gun safety from those who did know something about firearms
He would spend endless hours shooting targets attached to hay bales in nearby cow pastures. He’d hunt with a fellow football player and his father, who was their high school coach. Jordan referred to his coach as a “mountain man” who took the boys on an epic elk and deer hunt and slept in teepees; they wore buckskins and lived out a Grizzly Adams/Jeremiah Johnson experience.
“In the winter we shot in cow and chicken barns at the fairgrounds,” Jordan says. “When I went to the state fair and saw Olympic-style shooting, I was enthralled by it.”
Jordan went to Alaska for college and was an All-American in both smallbore and air rifle in 1998 and 1999. He didn’t have a care in the world – until May 23, 1999, the date of the accident.
“I’ve always looked at it as my life was very easy before that,” he says. “I was pretty athletic and school was always easy for me. I never had to work hard at anything. So I looked at it as I finally had a challenge in my life; it’s something I’m going to have to work at.”
THREE DAYS AFTER his fall, Jordan was flown closer to home in Colorado, but after surgery and spending almost two months rehabbing in a Denver hospital – “I got tired of being there,” he said – he told his parents he wanted to return to school in Fairbanks that August. Mom and Dad understandably wanted him to delay going back so soon and adjust to life in his wheelchair and skip a semester.
“My kind of mentality was, I would rather come up in August or September and learn how to negotiate my way around, rather than come back up in January where everything was snowy and cold,” Jordan says.
“I came back somewhere around Aug. 26, got all settled in and told my parents I was leaving to go moose hunting. So one of my teammates took me and we went moose hunting and slept in the back of his Suburban. So I guess you can say I got right back into it.”
That included training for and competing in the Paralympic Games. At the 2004 Athens Paralympics, Jordan left Greece with a silver medal in the smallbore three-position shoot.
The drive to regain the post-fall form and be accurate enough to compete in the Paralympics, let alone make it to a medal ceremony, became an obsession, much like every other obstacle he suddenly had to dodge.
“I never did it for anyone else,” he says. “I love shooting.”
And now he regularly hunts and fishes around Alaska from his wheelchair.
“One of the biggest things in life that makes me happy is just being outside,” he says. “Even when I was in the hospital days after surgery, my parents would get me in a wheelchair and just take me outside just to sit and see some sunshine.”
Steve Jordan would take his son fishing in the months after the fall, so you can imagine how emotional even a stoic Dan became on that first Alaskan moose hunt.
“Being able to come back and get back into hunting again, that’s what recharges my batteries.”
GET TO KNOW Dan Jordan and you hope you can come away thinking similarly to his attitude. To hell with the challenges his condition might have prevented. To hell with the “why me” reaction so many of us might have screamed out if something of this magnitude was inflicted upon us.
“I never had a depression phase; I never went through any kind of anything,” Jordan says. “After surgery when I woke up, nobody had to me that I was paralyzed. You knew it. It was just, ‘OK, now what?’”
It started with the friend who watched his fall in horror. Amber Darland and Dan Jordan were already close friends, and it was Dan who had been futilely “kind of chasing her at the time” before the accident.
“Then when I got hurt, she kind of started chasing me and I didn’t want anything to do with her,” says Jordan, who was a year ahead of her in school and moved back to Colorado after graduation. They were separated again for a time being, but eventually their paths crossed back in Fairbanks for good.
“It took about 10 years of chasing each other,” he says.
Now they’re married, and Jordan has happily accepted that his accident wouldn’t define who he is.
“Things may take a little bit longer and I may have to get creative with how I do some things,” he says. “And there are some things I just flat out can’t do. But that’s part of it. So be it.”
Sorry to slip in a California-ish story on the blog, but if you’re going to be in California at the end of the month, check out the Lake Isabella Fishing Derby, which is put on by our friends at the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce. The folks there provided us with this press release with some information on the trout derby at the Kern County Lake near Bakersfield. and scheduled for March 28-30.
Despite the drought and a lower lake level, the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce and ReelChase are happy to announce that there will be a fishing derby this coming year. The 2015 Isabella Lake Fishing Derby will be held on March 28, 29 and 30!
According to the Chamber’s Fishing Derby Committee, some adjustments to the profile of the derby have been made, but they are confident that everyone who enters will have a great time. One of the changes this year, are a number of guaranteed winnings. According to the committee, the Chamber is looking forward to having the opportunity to give away some very good prize money. As always, Lake Isabella will have some of the largest trout in the area for the Derby and whether yours is a moneymaker or not, it will still prove to be a good diner size trout for you to enjoy.
This year’s big money prize trout will be worth a guaranteed $18,500! There will be 10 Longest Trout awards starting with the highest at $5,000 and descending to a $500 10th Longest Fish! The prizes will be structured in the following order; (1st Longest Trout) $5,000, (2nd) $4,000, (3rd) $3,000, (4th) $2,000, (5th) $1,000, (6th) $900, (7th) $800, (8th) $700, (9th) $600, & (10th) $500. That $5,000 catch will be worth $10,000 if it is caught by an angler wearing n official 2015 Derby T-shirt!
Measuring will be taking place during Derby hours at Derby Headquarters only, which will be at the Lake Isabella Moose Lodge located at 6732 Lake Isabella Blvd. Along with these prizes, there will be a possibility for anglers to win in the always popular, Bobber Bowl Sweepstakes. Several, huge one pound plus trout with an official 2015 Derby tag will be worth up to $100 each, generously sponsored by local merchants, organizations and individuals.
Also this year, any registered fisherman will be able to win a Vacation Voucher worth $6,000 if they have the winning ticket! Tickets for the Voucher are only $20 each or six for $100.
More prizes and drawings that will be available at Derby Headquarters during the three-day event will be announced as March approaches. This year the entry fees will be $30 per individual and $65 per family. The Derby will start at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Mar. 28 and continue until 4 p.m. on Monday March 30, and the winners will be announced shortly after that the close of the derby.
Thank you in advance to all of the anglers from across California and beyond who will be coming out to the Kern River Valley for the derby. We welcome you and your families, and warmly invite you to have a great family weekend. Updates on the Isabella Lake Fishing Derby news to follow in the coming months before March! We’d also like to thank all of our sponsors for their support! This derby would not be possible without your continued generosity.
For additional information or to join the rest of us in registering call (760) 379-5236, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or friend us on the Lake Isabella Fishing Derby Facebook page for the latest posts.
We’ve dived into the wild salmon versus farmed salmon debate among restaurants and grocery stores in previous Alaska Sporting Journals. It’s a critical issue in terms of long-term effects on the Pacific fishery and it’s very important and dear to the hearts of many Alaskans who have worked hard to preserve wild salmon and question the potential impact of salmon farms that have popped out throughout nearby British Columbia, Canada.
This weekend in Seattle, a rally will bring together pro-wild salmon supporters to send their message. Here are the details:
A broad coalition of progressive groups, concerned Costco customers, and fishermen will demonstrate this Saturday at the Seattle Costco to challenge the grocery chain to publicly commit to not sell GMO salmon. Due to a campaign by Friends of the Earth and local, regional and national allies, more than 60 retailers, including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Safeway and Kroger, representing more than 9,000 grocery stores across the country, have made commitments to not sell this genetically modified fish. As one of the largest retailers of salmon and seafood in the U.S., and headquartered in the Northwest region home to Pacific wild salmon, Costco’s stance on GMO salmon will factor heavily in national retail decisions.
Nearly two million people — including scientists, fishermen, business owners and consumers — have written to the FDA in opposition to the approval of genetically engineered salmon due to the risks GMO salmon pose to human health, environment and wild salmon. Despite this outcry, the FDA is still considering GMO salmon’s approval. If approved, this would be the first genetically engineered animal allowed by regulators to enter the U.S. food supply, and it will likely not be labeled.
What: A rally and petition delivery of more than 50,000 petition signatures demanding that Costco commit to not selling GMO Salmon.
Where: In front of the Seattle Costco (Sodo neighborhood), 4401 4th Ave S, Seattle, WA
When: 2-4 p.m., Saturday, March 7
Who: Representatives of Alaskan Native American Tribe, UFCW Local 21; fishermen; members of the Washington environmental community; and Seattle residents will speak at the rally.
Visuals will include people holding banners, and salmon art and boxes of petitions.
Background on GMO salmon and market rejection of the GMO salmon is available at www.gefreeseafood.org
For more information, contact Danielle Friedman, organizing director at the Community Alliance for Global Justice, and Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner for Friends of the Earth.
Here’s the Alaska Dispatch:
The Alaska Board of Game, which sets wildlife regulations, a year ago approved regulations blocking hunters from using remote-control aircraft to locate big game, and the Board of Fisheries has now moved to prohibit commercial fishermen from using drones to spot schooling salmon.
The latest action came Sunday at the Fish Board meeting in Sitka. Board members shot down the use of drones for economic reasons.
“I’m for keeping pilots employed and not using unmanned aircraft for fish spotting,” the station reported him saying.
Board chairman Tom Kluberton agreed, according to KCAW, saying he tends “to look very hard at existing patterns of areas and fisheries, and I do like — whenever possible — to promote economic stability. We’ve had aircraft in this region for a long time. There are folks who stake their livelihoods and contribute to local economies flying their aircraft. I feel it’s just an unnecessary move” to allow drones.
(ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO)
I’m a sucker for inspiring stories about dogs, and this is a remarkable one out of the Fairbanks area:
A blind dog who wandered away from her Ester, Alaska, home during a cold snap has been reunited with her owner.
The 11-year-old Labrador retriever named Madera ventured away from home on Feb. 6, when the temperature dipped to 40 degrees below zero.
Her owner, Ed Davis, said he didn’t expect to find her alive. “My best hope was to walk those trails and look for a track that might be hers,” he said. “My best hope was to find a frozen dog.”
A man riding a bike accompanied by a bell-wearing dog located Madera in the woods last week, about a half-mile from the Davis’ home, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. Madera let out a whine when she heard the dog’s bell.
Here’s the Peninsula Clarion with more:
The river will be closed to king fishing downstream of Slikok Creek through June 30 to protect early run king salmon.
Managers have also closed the river to king fishing upstream of Slikok Creek through July 31 to protect spawning early run kings, said Fish and Game Sport Fish Division Area Management Biologist Robert Begich.
While the king salmon management actions are largely similar to the 2014 preseason actions, anglers will have an opportunity to harvest Kasilof River king salmon during the early run.
Anglers will be allowed to keep a naturally produced or hatchery fish on Saturdays during May and June, Begich said, but the fishery will be restricted to a single-hook and no bait.
“Based on what we’ve seen at the weir, at the assessment site on Crooked Creek the last few years … they’re not producing well enough to do three days of harvest,” he said. “We feel that we can allow some harvest down there and still meet the needs for achieving escapement and then also a brood stock program for stocking.”
We’re hitching up our huskies and taking a dog sled journey in the upcoming March issue of Alaska Sporting Journal. Following up on our December profile of the dog mushing Berington twins, we’ll have an Iditarod preview this month with among other stories an interview with defending champ Dallas Seavey, whose second win in the “Last Great Race on Earth” followed his 2012 championship when he became the event’s youngest winner.
If he’s to win his third title in four years, Seavey will do so from a different route. In most races, the Iditarod’s dog teams shove off from Nome – the route is alternated a bit in odd and even years, but almost always from Nome. But circumstances – read, low snowfall totals – have changed this year, and Fairbanks will mark the official start of the race on March 9 after the ceremonial start in Anchorage.
From the Fairbanks Daily Miner:
Members of the trail committee’s board of directors met Tuesday and voted unanimously to change the course due to low snowfall in some of the most treacherous sections of the trail’s roughly 1,000 miles.
Similar conditions forced the race’s restart to move from Willow to Fairbanks in 2003, bypassing the Alaska Range but keeping it roughly the same distance. The move to Fairbanks was considered in snow-starved 2014, too, and after the board’s decision kept mushers on the traditional southern route, the bruised and beaten up dog drivers criticized officials for not avoiding what some of them described as a catastrophe.
This year’s Iditarod will be 19 miles shorter — 968 miles versus 987 — than the traditional northern route that teams would have taken in an odd year and will pass through two new checkpoints in the Interior: Huslia and Koyukuk. In 2003, mushers had to backtrack on the Yukon River to make more miles, so the jaunt north to the villages means a snaky yet flowing route that still goes about 1,000 miles total to the finish in Nome.
First, though, Iditarod’s ceremonial start is scheduled for March 7 in Anchorage in an 11-mile untimed trip through the city’s party atmosphere, on streets and trails. Then it will restart in Fairbanks on March 9, a Monday instead of the usual Sunday restart in Willow, to allow kennels enough time to drive dog trucks north 360 miles.
This Alaska Dispatch report stressed how communities must adapt to the change of the course:
After word came Tuesday night that organizers would re-route more than 600 miles of trail because portions of the original trail were deemed impassable, communities and commercial interests along both the old and new trails were regrouping.
Steve Perrins, owner of the Perrin’s Rainy Pass Lodge on Puntilla Lake, said he suspects he’ll lose $25,000 worth of business this year.
“That’s just quick math,” he said. “That hurts this time of year, but what can you do?
“We take it in stride and go on to the next step.”
Takotna checkpoint manager Nell Huffman said Wednesday the tiny community of 50 had been preparing for the race, with some supplies purchased and more than $4,000 raised to help fund the checkpoint. She said Wednesday residents have already received boxes of donated supplies for the famous Takotna pies from schools in South Carolina.
The villagers will hold on to those supplies until next year’s race, but Huffman said some money and food will go toward school activities. Pies may show up at an array of community events in the next year.
“We half expected (the restart decision),” Huffman said. “We hoped it came here and understand why it’s not. This is the highlight of the year for Takotna.”
McGrath Mayor Dustin Parker said while the community understands the safety concerns behind the move, it’s still hard to swallow for the hub community of about 400. Many residents look forward to the seasonal jobs the race brings, from picking up extra shifts on the airport baggage ramp to helping bag groceries at the Alaska Commercial Co. store.
“Those are all the jobs put on hiatus,” he said.