Leaving Shageluk and mushing on toward Anvik, the teams will have fewer miles to go than they have covered. Anvik (AN-vik) is the first checkpoint of the southern route on the famous Yukon River. No one would be so bold as to say that it’s downhill to Nome from Shageluk because the Yukon River and the Bering Sea Coast present many challenges for the mushers and dogs. Tradition has it that the church bell is rung to announce to all that the first team has reached the mighty Yukon.
Whether it be the northern or southern route, there is a special award for the musher reaching the Yukon River first. In past years the award has been sponsored by the Lakefront Hotel, race headquarters in Anchorage. After the dogs are fed and bedded down, the musher is treated to a delicious multi-course meal prepared and served by the Lakefront Executive Chef. In the rustic checkpoint building, a formal dinner table is set then the chef prepares the gourmet meal on a two burner camp stove. The musher winning the award has the option of inviting a guest to also enjoy the meal. Most often the musher invites a village elder. Keep checking the sponsor’s section of the Iditarod website to see who the sponsor will be and what’s on the men/u for the First to the Yukon dinner in Anvik this year.
Over the years, Anvik has been known by different names – American Station, Anvic, Anvick, Anvig and Anwig. These names more than likely came from Russian Explorers. Way back in 1887, an Episcopal Mission/school and church was built near where the Anvik River flows into the Yukon. Anvik’s first post office was built around 1900. Sad to say that there were two flu epidemics back in 1918 and 1927. Many children were orphaned and were taken in to live at the Anvik Mission. At that time, the population of Anvik was around 700. Today, there are 70 people that live in the village. Twenty students attend the K-12 Blackwell School. Like other bush villages, there are no roads leading to Anvik but the Yukon River is a major water or ice highway. People and supplies travel by boat or bush plane to the village.
The people of Anvik experience roughly 100 days of precipitation each year. Eighteen inches of rain falls on the village along with seventy-six inches of snow during the year. Summer temperatures are pretty cool – the July high is 67 degrees. The average January temperature in -7 degrees. While that doesn’t sound as cold as some of the previous checkpoints, the Yukon River can be blasted by wind so on any given day, they windchill can be severe.
The trail from Shageluk to Anvik is a well-used village to village snowmachine route. Most of the trail runs over lakes, swamps, sloughs and a little tundra. The trail is considered easy but there are a few steep climbs up banks of sloughs and some narrow trail in the heavy timber along the Yukon River. Upon reaching the Yukon river, Anvik sits on the far side behind a high bluff. At the crossing, the river is a mile wide. Teams travel down the main street of Anvik to the community center where the checkpoint is located. All of this information is courtesy of Don Bower’s Trail Notes. He also says that hospitality in Anvik is excellent but it’s only 18 miles north to Grayling so many teams continue on through.
Well, there you have it – information about the First to the Yukon Award, the history and climate of Anvik and the trail leading from Shageluk to the mighty Yukon. Next Handler will tell us about the checkpoint of Grayling. Stay tuned and remember in everything do your best every day and always have a plan.
Born to Run,