Eye on the Trail: Chapter 53!

Picnic and Musher Sign-up at Iditarod Headquarters (Photo: S. Lamont)

Officially the first paragraphs  of the 53rd chapter of Iditarod were penned on Saturday, June 29th at Iditarod Headquarters during the Volunteer Appreciation Picnic and Musher Signup event.  It was a sunny, blue-bird day in Wasilla – perfect for honoring the volunteers who make the race possible and welcoming the next field of racers.

Jr. Iditarod registration opened on the same day.  Four veterans registered for the 48th running of their 150 mile event.  Avid hockey player, Mckena Hanson returns for her second run to Yentna Station.  Arien Sanderson, who has been mushing since she was three-years-old is back for her second Jr. Iditarod contest.   Mushing is a real family affair for AddieAnn Randall and family, she’ll bring her Rock Stars for a second Jr. run.  The most experienced musher of the early signees is 4th generation musher, Isaac Redington, who’ll head to Yentna for his third time in 2025.  Enjoy the 48th chapter of this celebrated Junior mushing event!  Keep an eye on the Jr. Iditarod Facebook page or their web page, jriditarod.org, to stay on top of the entries as they come in.

Rookie Jenny Roddewig and Veteran Josi Thyr signup for 2025 Iditarod (Photo: S. Lamont)

Prior to the much anticipated drawing for two entry fees at the close of the picnic, 24 mushers had signed on the dotted line for the 2025 Iditarod.  Shortly thereafter the 25th musher, Robert Redington added his name to the roster. 

With fourteen veterans entered, 12 are mushers returning from the 2024 race.  Four mushers from the 2024 top ten – 2nd place Matt Hall, 3rd place Jessie Holmes, 6th place Travis Beals and 7th place Mille Posild all have their eye on the prize in 2025. 

Anna Berington Signs Up While Kristy Looks On (Photo: S. Lamont)

Besides the top ten finishers from 2024 listed above, other 2024 finishers returning for back to back runs are Rookie of the Year Josi Thyr, Riley Dyche, Jason Mackey, Gabe Dunham, Nicolas Petit, Matt Hall, Anna Berington, Deke Naaktgeboren and the 2023 Champion Ryan Redington  Currently Ryan is the only former champion set to run in 2025. 

Veterans re-joining the race are Canadian Michelle Phillips and Alaskan Robert Redington.   Michelle’s first run to Nome was in 2010.  She’s finished 12 runs to Nome, the last being in 2022.  Robert who earned veteran status in 2017, last attempted the race in 2020.   

Second year rookies, Trumpet playing Isaac Teaford who ran in 2024 but scratched and Quest International veteran Brenda Mackey who ran in 2021 and scratched are both back as rookies again with an eye on finishing what they attempted previously  – standing under the burled arch in Nome and earning the coveted finisher’s belt buckle.

Iconic Burled Arch is prepared to welcome mushers (Photo: T. Hanke)

Speaking of the burled arch – version III is in the making.  It’s been known for some time now that version II of the arch was starting to decay.  The arch collapsed in April after being moved from Front Street to its resting place in front of old St. Joe’s Church.  Raymie Smyth is crafting a new arch to mark the finish line in Nome.  Smyth, a 27 time veteran of the Iditarod, earned his finisher’s belt buckle in 1994.  Since then he’s finished in the top 10 in twelve races which includes four top 5 finishes.  Smyth’s father, Bud Smyth ran the first Iditarod and his mother, Lolly Medley completed the second Iditarod.  The Smyth family has been building log homes for 70 years.  Ramey plans to construct the new arch out of spruce.  We anxiously await the completed product which should be ready for the finish of 2025.

As part of the 2024 Humanitarian Award and Most Inspirational Musher Award, Wally Robinson and Jessica Klejka respectively received entries to the 2025 race.  Last year Wally indicated there’d be a Robinson in future races but didn’t claim the spot for himself.  Jessica, Sam and Lucy will have welcomed a new family member by the time March of 2025 rolls around.  Will we see them on the trail in 2025?  Only time will tell.

The final and most exciting event of the picnic – the moment everyone is waiting for –  is the drawing for two free entry fees for the race.  Mushers who have signed up and are present at the picnic are eligible.  Now would be the time for a drum roll!  The winners, both veterans with top ten finishes are Nicolas Petit and Travis Beals.  Now that’s the way to start your Iditarod!

The coming year marks the 100th anniversary of the life-saving Serum Run of 1925.  The feat of the dogs and relay drivers who carried the serum from Nenana to Nome is a remarkable piece of Alaska’s history.   Joe Redington, Sr’s. purpose in starting the Iditarod was to bring the sled dog back to Alaska and the gain recognition for the Iditarod Trail.  It was never his intention to commemorate the Serum Run but certainly this year, mushers and race fans will take time to remember the selfless and heroic measures of the 20 drivers and their dogs that delivered the serum to Nome, covering 674 miles in 5 and a half days saving the children of Nome.  For your information and reading pleasure, I recommend Togo and Leonhard by Pam Flowers and The Cruelest Miles by Gay and Laney Salisbury.

Comeback often to see who signs up to run the 53rtd Iditarod and keep up on other news.  To get to know who will be on the trail in 2025 access the complete list of mushers.  The race will start in downtown Anchorage on March 1st with the restart of real start the following day in Willow.