Want something seriously different yet absolutely spectacular? Then attend the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska.
This is an annual long-distance dog sled race run in early March from Anchorage to Nome in Alaska. Basically, there is a team of, from 12 to 16 dogs led by their driver who is called a “musher.” The race requires the team to cross a distance of 1150 miles in the roughest terrain at ridiculously cold temperatures – we are talking seriously minus zeroes. During one race, the wind chill factor ‘assisted’ the already arctic temperature to -73 Celsius, or – 100 Fahrenheit. They must also cope with shocking winds, lack of visibility due to whiteouts, and the cover of darkness. And, they are attempting to get it done in less than 15 days. To date the winning time is 8 days, 19 hours, 46 minutes, and 39 seconds. Imagine that in itself, through those conditions.
The dog sled teams goes up precipitous mountains, across frozen rivers, through totally desolate areas in a bid to be the victor. This is not only hard for the dogs but the musher as well. The mushers are a competitive lot – each with his or her own secrets to maintain and encourage the pack until the end – they only need 6 dogs at the finish line to win! So food, snacks, rest periods, rotation of the pack etc, are all carefully planned.
In such an unpredictable situation, there is always something to re-assess. And often quite quickly. The musher needs nerves of steel and the dogs must have total trust and faith in their musher, in order to be a team to be reckoned with. The mushers and the dogs train in preparation for the Iditarod race for a long long time in order to have a fighting chance in such a pressure cooker environment.
The Iditarod began in 1973 as an event to test the best dog sled mushers and teams of dogs and has continued to develop and grow, and is now known as an international event – extraordinaire. Dogs, sleds, arctic conditions, bravado, and mental agility are all associated with the Iditarod Dog sled race and indeed the Alaskan people. Spectators and commentators come from all over the world to be a part of this, and Alaska goes off during this major event.
There are celebrations at the start, during and at the end of this super event. You are actually totally caught up in the entire race and you do establish favourites and follow the course of their journey fanatically. There are celebrations at all levels and you cannot be but consumed with it.
The race is man and animal against nature, which in itself defines wild Alaska. The event is steeped in history and is an event of immense national pride and international intrigue.