Hougen Group

Iditarod

It’s more than 110 miles across some of the toughest country in the world. It zigs and zags past snow clad mountains, frozen rivers, tundra, and wind swept coast from Anchorage to Nome. It is the Iditarod dog race. The Iditarod trail began as a mail and supply route from the Alaskan coast to the interior mining camps. Mail and supplies went in, and eventually, gold came out. On a Christmas Day in 1908, prospectors discovered gold on a tributary of the Iditarod River. The news spread, and in the summer of 1909, miners arrived in the goldfields. Iditarod boomed with hotels, cafes, three newspapers, banks, telephones, and even automobiles. In 1925, the trail became a life-saving highway for the people of Nome when a diphtheria epidemic threatened the community. Serum had to be delivered by dog team. By the 1930s, the gold was gone. Iditarod became a ghost town.

Then, renewal when the Iditarod trail sled dog race first ran to Nome in 1973. Over the years there have been many memories. Twenty-two mushers finished in 1973, and since then there have been more than four hundred finishers from Canada, the United States, and around the rest of the world. Rick Swenson of Two Rivers Alaska, the only five-time winner, and the only musher to have entered twenty Iditarod races. He has never finished out of the top ten. The most improbable winner was Dick Mackey from Nenana, who in 1978 beat Rick Swenson by one second after two weeks on the trail. Then there was Norman Vaughan, who at the age of eighty-eight has finished the race four times. And there is Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985. The Iditarod, which became known as The Last Great Race, fittingly features competitors from around the world.

A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin