Saturday, March 14, 2009

Lets Give This Race ITs dues.....

Iditarod? What does it mean? Where did it come from? Most of all why would one chose to spend countless long hours in the freezing cold alone?

So lets go on a brief history tour, many believe Balto and a vaccine carried on a sled from Anchorage to Nome is where this race came from, yes my friends Balto did make an amazing run when others failed to save the village from a deadly disease, but the Iditarod trail was established even before Balto.

Many people rushed to this country when they heard of the gold being dug from the lands. California raced to Oregon then on the Seattle, where most people abandoned that town for the mine fields of Alaska, where riches were said to be found for everyone. Leaving Seattle on steam boat many arrived here not knowing how much the weather changes between Seattle and Anchorage, let alone Anchorage and Nome.

At the time of the gold rush roads and automobiles had not quite made there way this far north, with exception of the a few political and rich people most people moved around by horse and cart or dog team. The Iditarod trail was originally designed in 1910 to move dog sleds in and out of the North in the winter months when steam ships could not get up the many rivers, A route for mail, supplies, and gold miners with big dreams. With the twenties came airplanes and an increase on automobiles and the Iditarod trail began to grow over, fewer people used dog teams as a mode of transportation and for years this trail went extinct.

The original Iditarod trail began in Seward wound through the mountains to what is now Girdwood, up Turnagain arm and back into the mountains following what is now a popular hiking trail from Seward to Eagle River. Now the military had staked their lands and the trail did go up the East side of what we now call the Glen Highway until it reached Palmer, where it shot over and joined up where the Willow start is now. With the introduction of automobiles and planes this trail was only used for a few short years before it began to over grow until...

The Centienial of 1967 when Dorthy Page resurrected the idea of a race along the original trail to remember the old ways supplies and mail were delivered. She presented her idea to Joe and Vi Reddington Senior and the dream began.

Donating an acre of their land they sold it off in square feet to raise the purse for the first race that covered just 72 miles from Anchorage to Iditarod.

In 1973 the military backed off the land and the trail was again opened up by the Aurora Dog Club and the birth of the Great Race from Anchorage to Nome began. That first race was won by a new comer from Teller named Isaac Okleasik.
This very first full length Iditarod has great importance to todays race as the founders children are now the contestants.

Lance Mackeys father Dick was a friend of the Reddingtons he helped put the race together and raced the first five races. After his muzzle to muzzle finish he passed the sled on to his son Rick and eventually Lance.

The Reddington name has been a major part of almost every race since this began. With Joe Reddington Sr, on to his son Joe Jr...and now on to another Reddington Jr who currently is running tenth in this race.

Many more names and faces have come and gone over the life span of this race, but for me it is knowing that the great names that began it are passing on their heritage and I hope for many years into the future we see the Mackeys, Reddingtons, and Swensons running for Nome.....names this race may someday lose, but will never forget.

Comments on "Lets Give This Race ITs dues....."


Blogger jd plumma said ... (8:12 AM) : 

Good educational! Imagine how much the sleds, alone, have changed since '67. The lot of competitors together probably didn't have the money between them to purchase a 2009 sled.


Blogger Stan said ... (12:57 PM) : 

Very few people know that the original trail started in Seward. Also, somehthing that you did not mention, and very few people know is that famed U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp did not move to Nome via the Iditirod Trail. I can imagine making the trip from Seward to Anchorage, let alone to Nome.


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