Did you know there are two different starts to the Iditarod, the ceremonial start and the restart. Though we had hoped to attend the restart this year, we have only ever attended the ceremonial start.
The ceremonial starts begins in Anchorage and has done so since 1983. Starting at 10am on the first Saturday in March, racers leave the start line and go on an 11 mile run to Campbell Airstrip. This run does not count for their official race time. The restart begins at 2pm the following day in a town called Willow, about 70 miles north of Anchorage.
This year I had decided we would attend the restart. However, mother nature and Alaska had different plans. Around a foot of snow was dumped on Willow the night prior to the restart and it continued to fall (hard) during the day. We made it all the way out to the turn for parking and were informed by some friends that my (very sturdy) mini van would probably not make it in the parking lot. Apparently the plows that were suppose to clear the parking lot NEVER SHOWED UP! I was told that the snow was up to mid-calf and only 4 WD vehicles would make it through. My poor mini van just wasn’t up to the task and I wasn’t prepared to risk it this far away from home, on a VERY snowy afternoon. I promised my son we would try again next year. He was very disappointed at not being able to see his friends or the dogs. I took the sting away by taking him to the playground instead. There we found a “dog sled” he could climb on.
The Iditarod race can be run on three different routes, ranging between 975 miles – 998 miles. These are estimates and do not account for turns, weather issues, and other obstructions in the trail. The Iditarod Trail Committee accounts for these “obstacles” when they say that the Iditarod is 1049 miles long. That would be 100 miles with an additional 49 in honor of the 49th state.
This year there is an exceptional amount of snow (not just within the last 24 hours) and it is predicted that the race will be slower due to this. Snow machines are used as trail breakers. However, when the snow is deep, like it is this year, moose are known to gather on packed areas of snow created by breaking trails, creating issues and dangerous situations for the racers.
This year the mushers will be following the northern route. The mushers will hit a total of 24 checkpoint with Cripple being the halfway point. This race will take the dogs and their mushers through two mountain ranges, on top of the frozen Norton Sound, and along the Yukon River.
These dogs WANT to run. They WANT to pull the sled. You can see how excited they are. Please don’t let PETA fools you. These animals LOVE what they do. The dogs get breaks about every hour in which they are supplied with snacks and water. 48 hours prior to the race, each dog is examined throughly by a veterinarian. In addition, there are vets at every checkpoint to examine the dogs. Over 50 veterinarians will be working during the 2020 Iditarod. Dog booties are provided for each dog.
The Iditarod Air Force drops packages of food (for both the mushers and dogs) and supplies at checkpoints along the trail. The Iditord Air Force consists of volunteers who fly bush planes. In addition to supplies for the racers, the Iditarod Air Force moves veterinarians and race officials to different locations along the trail.
The Iditarod ends when the final musher crosses the finish line in Nome. This is likely to happen within two weeks of the restart.
Though I am pretty disappointed that we didn’t make it out for the restart this year (not for lack of trying), there will always be next year!
Are you interested in learning more about the Iditarod? Check out my friend and fellow Alaskan’s FREE unit study at the Explore Fam blog!