November 17, 2017

Eye on the Trail – Back of the Pack by Terrie Hanke

“It was always Joe Redington’s hope that the media would recognize and report on all the mushers in the back of the pack. Joe felt that each musher who entered the race was just as important as the fastest. Each musher and his dogs were undertaking a feat that required courage, strength, endurance, ingenuity, brotherly kindness and a great sense of adventure. Each musher had a story to tell, and each musher in his or her own way was promoting Joe’s vision of keeping the Alaskan husky and dog mushing alive preserving a vital part of Alaska’s history for Alaska and the world,” wrote Katie Mangelsdorf in her book, Champion of Alaskan Huskies. Mangelsdorf also quotes George Attla, a well-noted sprint dog musher and winner of many races in Alaska said, “One thing the race has done for the outlying villages where the race passed through is that the people have started thinking dogs again instead of snowmachines.”

Iditarod XLI is in the books. The lead changed many times as did the position of Red Lantern as did the positions of mushers 2 through 53. Recalling musher’s comments under the arch in Nome summarizes the race for those of us who didn’t stand on sled runners but watched and followed the race through technology. DeeDee Jonrowe said, “Tenth place this year was a whole lot harder than tenth place last year.” The 44th musher to finish, Jodi Bailey said, “It’s the same red line on the map, just different weather and different luck.” James Volek said, “I had a strategy all worked out for the young dogs but had to adapt because of Mother Nature.” When Red Lantern musher parked her team under the arch and all sorts of folks wanted to talk Christine Roalofs said, “Hey folks you have to wait, I need thank my hero’s.” Christine went forward to love-up every dog, especially Night Crawler, the leader who found the trail in white out conditions between Safety and Nome.

For me Iditarod starts with the Junior Iditarod on the last weekend of February. The juniors are the future of The Last Great Race. Their starting banner is located on Knik Lake. It’s within shouting distance of the Redington Homestead. It’s a great way to annually remember Joe Redington, his work in founding the race and his desire to honor and remember the role of the Alaskan Husky in the history of the Last Frontier. Joe would agree with cyclist Lee Waldman, “The thrill is not just in the victory, but in having the courage, the tenacity and the risk-taking mentality to join the race.” It’s about ALL the contestants, not just the first one to cross the finish line. There’s only one champion but anyone who dared to plan and try is a winner.