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We are delighted to be combining this year’s Mushing History Conference with the Willow Dog Mushers Association’s K9 Athletes Symposium in Willow, Alaska. For your information here is a preliminary breakdown of the weekend schedule (subject to change) and ticket prices are below:

Click here for registration form
and complete information!

WDMA K9 Athletes Symposium
Saturday, September 25, 2010

ALL DAY – Gear Swap

Bring your unwanted dog gear and other miscellaneous items to sale, but please NO live animals for sale or trade. Bring photos and pedigrees instead. Gear Swap will take place in parking lot near Old Community Center next to the Willow Community Center starting at 10 am until whenever.

ALL DAY – Mushing History Museum

Sleds, gear, photos, posters, books and more – and lots of mushers talking about the colorful and important history of mushing, located in the Old Community Center log cabin next to the Willow Community Center starting at 10 am until everyone gets tired of talking about mushing! Special Presentation by Thomas Swan on “Dog Mushing in the Historical Northwestern Fur Trade.” Time TBA.

ALL DAY – Vendor Fair

Come and check out a variety of vendors. The vendor fair is open to the public free of charge from 10 am until 1 pm.

10:00 am – 12:15 pm – Hands-On Seminars

Hands-On Seminars will run TWICE for one hour so that you can take part in at least two different seminars. You can learn more about: How to Use a GPS – Vic Stanculescu, No Snow? No Problem! “Dirt Dogs”Alaska Skijor Club, Nose Work Demo / Weight Pull – Claudia Sihler / Judy Carrick, Canine Massage & Acupressure – Susan Whiton, Extreme Weather Outdoor Survival – Kent Kantowski, John Wilber and Debbie Moderow and Trap Release – Dave Korpi. These events will take place in different areas at the Willow Community Center.

• 1:00 pm- 2:00 pm –
Official Start of Sled-Dog Mini Symposium & Mushing History Conference

Keynote Speaker, Mary Shields

• 2:30 pm – 3:15 pm –

Program #1: Tips & Hints for Stretching Your Kennel Dollar
Greg Sellentin, Gayle Wood, Perry Solomonson, Erin McLarnon

Program #2: Police K9 Unit Demo

• 3:30 pm – 4:15 pm –

Program #1: Mental Toughness – The Human / Canine Connection with Jim Lanier, Claudia Sihler, Ellen Halvorson

Program #2: Frisbee Dogs

• 4:30 pm – 5:15 pm –

Program #1: Developing Leaders – with
Ed Wood, Greg Sellentin, Roxy Wright, others TBA

Program #2: Gun Dog / Retriever Demo – Baron Rae of Wetland Retrievers

• 5:30 pm – 6:15 pm –

Program: Pioneering Women Mushers & Their K9 Athletes:
Mary Shields, Roxy Wright, Rose Albert, Sue Firmin, others

• 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm – (separate ticket required)

Fundraising Dinner / Silent Auction / Film: Mary Shields, “Season of the Sleddog,” in the Willow Community Center

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mushing History Conference

Sunday, September 26, 2010

ALL DAY – Gear Swap

Bring your unwanted dog gear and other miscellaneous items to sale, but please NO live animals for sale or trade. Bring photos and pedigrees instead. Gear Swap will take place in the parking lot near Old Community Center next to WCC starting at 10 am.

ALL DAY – Vendor Fair

Come and check out a variety of vendors.

ALL DAY – Mushing History Museum

Sleds, gear, photos, posters, books and more – and lots of mushers talking about the colorful and important history of mushing, relocated from Saturday to the new Willow Community Center, starting at 10 am.

ALL DAY – Mushing History Conference Schedule:

9:30 – 10:00 – Doors open, set-up displays, book tables, etc.
10:00 to 10:25 – Welcome, introductions, opening comments, etc.
10:30 to 11:25 – Dog Mushing in the Northwestern Fur Trade – Thomas Swan
11:30 to 12:25 – Mushing the Mail on the Iditarod Trail – Linda Chamberlain
12:30 to 1:25 – Lunch, viewing displays, visiting
1:30 to 2:25 – Women Mushers Panel – Roxy Wright, Rose Albert, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Sue Firmin, Kari Skogen
2:30 to 3:25 – Denali Park Kennels – Jennifer Raffaeli
3:30 to 3:45 – Break for 15 minutes
4:00 to 4:55 – Serum Run History – Erin McLarnon
5:00 to 5:55 – Iditarod Stories – Rod Perry
6:00 to 6:55 – Iditarod Trail History – Chas St. George
7:00 – Closing, breakdown, clean-up, visiting, etc.

Advance Registration (Saves you money! Respond before Sept. 10)

1 Day Pass: WDMA members: $20.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)
non-members: $35.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)

2 Day Pass: WDMA members: $30.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)
non-members: $50.00 (Juniors/under 18: $5.00)

Fundraising Dinner/Movie/Silent Auction Saturday Nite $10.00
(not included with either 1 day or 2 day passes)

Click here for registration form
and complete information!

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The 2010 Mushing History Conference, presented by Northern Light Media, will be held in Willow, Alaska, on September 25 and 26, in conjunction with the Willow Dog Mushers Association’s third annual Canine Athletes Symposium. The location is the beautiful lakeside Willow Community Center, in the heart of downtown Willow, Alaska.

Award-winning Talkeetna artist David Totten contributed artwork for a limited edition poster, which will be available for purchase.

David Totten

Totten, who has designed the official poster for multiple years of the Yukon Quest, and designed the poster for the 2010 Jr. Iditarod, has often used his own team of sled dogs as models for his artwork.

Mary Shields

The WDMA Symposium will hold center stage in the Willow Community Center on Saturday, September 25, with keynote speaker Mary Shields, the first woman to run and finish the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1974. Opening her kennel near Fairbanks to visitors, Mary has been sharing her 41 years of adventures in mushing, and her love of living in Alaska with her family of sled dogs, since 1984.

Complementing Ms. Shields’ address will be a panel of veteran women mushers, and attendees will also experience a wealth of canine athlete related activities, including hands-on seminars, workshops, demonstrations and more. There will also be a new and used gear swap, a vendor fair, and a fundraising dinner with a silent auction and a showing of Mary Shield’s PBS documentary, Season of the Sled Dog.

The 2010 Mushing History Conference is sponsoring a display of historical mushing items such as freighting sleds, antique harnesses, gear, posters, photos, books and more, and there will be a comfortable place for ongoing informal discussions about the history of sled dog travel in the north. On Sunday, September 26 the Mushing History Conference gets underway in earnest, with a program which includes The All Alaska Sweepstakes, the Serum Run, Dog Mushing in the Northwestern Fur Trade, Iditarod Mail Carriers, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the history of women in racing, and more.

• For information about the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association Canine Athletes Symposium and Mushing History Conference contact the Willow Dog Mushers Association, P.O. Box 858, Willow, Alaska 99688; 907-495-0671; http://www.willowdogmushers.com

• For information specifically about the 2010 Mushing History Conference, contact Northern Light Media, P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645; 907-354-3510; https://mushinghistory.wordpress.com

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The 2010 Mushing History Conference will be held in Willow, Alaska, on September 25 and 26, in conjunction with the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Third Annual Symposium. A tentative schedule has been developed for this year’s conference:

Mary Shields

On Saturday, September 25 the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Symposium will hold center stage in the Willow Community Center, and a wealth of canine athlete related programs are being planned. The Keynote Speaker will be Mary Shields, the first woman to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in 1974, and a panel of some of the first women to run the Iditarod will discuss various aspects of women and mushing. Also included will be a Gear Swap/Vendor Fair, Hands-On Seminars, multiple workshops and a Symposium/Fundraising Dinner with a Silent Auction and a showing of Mary Shield’s PBS video, Season of the Sled Dog.

From noon to 5:00 on Saturday the Old Log Cabin Community Center will be transformed into a mushing history museum, and a continuous informal conversation about the history of mushing will take place throughout the day. Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion as we explore the items on display, and share mushing experiences and adventures, tales of the trail, and more.

On Sunday the 2010 Mushing History Conference will get underway in earnest, with a full program focusing on the history of sled dogs and mushing:

10:30 to 10:45 – Welcome, opening introductions
10:45 to 11:30 – First presentation
11:30 to 12:15 – Second presentation
12:15 to 1:00 – Lunch and visiting
1:00 to 1:45 – Third presentation
1:45 to 2:30 – Fourth presentation
2:00 to 2:45 – Fifth presentation
2:45 to 3:00 – Break for 15 minutes
3:00 to 3:45 – Sixth presentation
3:45 to 4:30 – Seventh presentation
4:30 to 5:30 – Women Mushers Panel
5:30 to 6:00 – Closing

The presentations for this year already include the All Alaska Sweepstakes, the Serum Run, Dog Mushing in the Northwestern Fur Trade, Iditarod Mail Carriers, and the history of women in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, with more still under discussion.

Artist David Totten

We are excited to have Talkeetna artist David Totten designing a poster for this year’s combined event with the Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Symposium. David, who often used his own recreational team of sled dogs as models for his well-known “sled dog art,” has been awarded numerous placements in the prestigious “Art Show at the Dog Show” competitions, and in 1995, 1997 and 1999 was selected to paint the official prints of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race.

Information updates about the 2010 Mushing History Conference will be shared via this website and the Mushing History Discussion Group, and at the Mushing History Facebook page.

Conference Director:
Helen Hegener
• Mail: P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645
• Phone: 907-354-3510
• Email: helen@northernlightmedia.com
Northern Light Media

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Indian dog sled near Fort Clark. Watercolor by Maximilian zu Wied-Neuwied, 1833

The 2010 Mushing History Conference will be held in Willow, Alaska, on September 25 and 26, in conjunction with the 2010 Willow Dog Mushers Association’s Third Annual Symposium. The WDMA Symposium will include a broad range of canine athlete-related programs, and the Symposium’s Keynote Speaker will be Mary Shields, the first woman to run the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, in 1974.

The 2010 Mushing History Conference is still in the early planning stages, but the first Mushing History Conference, held in November, 2009, in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska, brought together many veteran mushers and a broad assortment of authors, historians, researchers, storytellers, writers and photographers for a wonder-filled weekend of exploring the colorful history of man’s travel via dogteam. Presentations traced the evolution of man’s relationship with working sled dogs, including trapline use of sled dogs in the North American fur trade, historic and present-day sled dog races, delivering the U.S. mail by dogteam, sled dog use in polar expeditions, the Centennial of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Joe Redington’s work with dogteams for the U.S. Army, the evolution of sled dog nutrition and diets, the Iditarod Trail Committee’s historic documentary about the race, and much, much more.

The friendly, happy group which closed the 2009 Mushing History Conference, photo by June Price

The speakers and presenters at the first conference included Jane Haigh, Kenai, Alaska, author of Gold Rush Dogs, and Assistant Professor of History, Kenai Peninsula College; Joe Redington, Jr., Manley, Alaska, champion musher and son of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder; Jeff Dinsdale, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada, a historian and researcher who’s been working with sled dogs for almost 40 years; Kevin Keeler, Anchorage, Alaska, Iditarod National Historic Trail Administrator; Dr. Linda Chamberlain, Homer, Alaska, scientist, author, professor, historian and dog musher; Rod Perry, Chugiak, Alaska, author and veteran of the first Iditarod in 1973; Chas St. George, Wasilla, Alaska, Public Relations Manager for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race; Carol Beck, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, musher, co-chair of the 2008 Arctic Winter Games Dog Sledding Committee; and Tim White, Grand Marais, Minnesota, inventor of the Quick Change Runner (QCR) System, winner of multiple championship sled dog races, and a Mush with PRIDE Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Historic photographs, books, maps, pamphlets, posters, slide shows, mushing films, videos, short subjects, documentaries and more were also presented.

Information updates about the 2010 Mushing History Conference will be shared via this website and the Mushing History Discussion Group, and at the Mushing History Facebook page.

Conference Director:
Helen Hegener
• Mail: P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645
• Phone: 907-354-3510
• Email: helen@northernlightmedia.com
Northern Light Media

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This post is the fourth in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska.

Joe Redington, Jr.

Joe Redington Jr. and Mushing magazine publisher Greg Sellentin, photo by June Price

Joe Redington, Jr. was raised on the Iditarod Trail and learned to mush dogs from his father, Joe Redington, Sr., who’s also known as the Father of the Iditarod. Joe is a former World Champion sled dog racer, and he and his wife Pam make their home in Manley Hot Springs, 160 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. Their Iditarod Kennels offers a tour of their kennel, sharing their knowledge about dogs, equipment, sleds and strateg, and they’ll describe their subsistence lifestyle of fishing, gardening, hunting and mushing for their visitors.

For the Mushing History Conference Joe brought an amazing slideshow and a video of his family’s colorful history in Alaska. On Saturday, at the UAA in Anchorage, he shared the slideshow and explained the photos of his dad’s early days in Alaska, his fish camps and boats, dogteams and airplanes, the Redington boys growing up in Knik and at Flathorn Lake, both on the Iditarod Trail; Joe Sr. working for the Army salvaging wrecked airplanes, and summiting Denali with champion musher Susan Butcher and the reknowned mountaineer Ray Genet; and Joe Jr. winning the 1966 World Championship Sled Dog Race at the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous. After the slideshow Joe answered questions and an interesting discussion ranging over many different topics ensued.

Joe Redington Sr., Father of the Iditarod

For Sunday’s presentation at the Grand View Inn in Wasilla Joe had brought a video he’s put together which combined many of the same slides with some additional images, but the narrator was his father, Joe Sr.! It was fascinating for those who were able to attend both the slideshow and the video showing, to hear father and son each talking about the family photos, commenting on things which happened over the years, ways of doing things, making observations and sharing laughs with the viewers. The stirring tribute to Joe’s father, “Redington’s Run,” by Alaska’s State Balladeer, Hobo Jim, ended the video. It was a delightful presentation, and certainly a highlight of the conference.

Jeffrey Dinsdale

In the early sixties Walt Disney Studios made a feature length film titled Nikki, Wild dog of the North, about a half-husky, half-wolf separated from its owner during the gold rush in Canada’s Yukon Territory. What many people don’t know is that Joe Redington Sr. bred the dog who played in the title role, and the story behind that dog, and all the dogs used in the film, and how they ended up in the kennels of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and what happened after that, is a fascinating tale!

Jeffrey Dinsdale, right, talking with conference organizer Tim White, left

Jeffrey Dinsdale has been involved in breeding and working with sled dogs for almost 40 years, as he and his family have lived in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the Yukon and Northern British Columbia. Throughout this time Jeff has maintained a keen interest in sled dog history; he was involved in the organization of the first Carcross, Yukon to Atlin, British Columbia Mail Run in 1975, and since 1992 he has been involved with the organization of the Gold Rush Trail Dog Sled Mail Run from Quesnel B.C. to Barkerville and Wells B.C. In the 1970’s and 80’s Jeff worked with the Canadian Kennel Club and the Eskimo Dog Research Foundation during a period when attempts were being made to ensure that these dogs, which are indigenous to the Canadian Arctic, would continue to thrive, and Jeff has published many articles in various sled dog-related publications.

Jeffrey’s interesting, engaging, and often humorous story of the Disney Dogs and the RCMP is available on his blog, titled simply Mushing Past. A very brief excerpt:

Nikki was bred by Joe and Vi Redington of Knik Alaska.(3). He was originally named Polar and was born February 4, 1958. At six months of age he was sold to Bill Bacon. His sire was Tok, a Malamute show dog and a fair working animal. His dam was Chena, also a Malamute, of Earl and Natalie Norris stock.(4). Nikki (Polar) had no Siberian Husky blood in him. The Redingtons later sold six other dogs to Bacon, three males and three females. Three were Chena’s pups, but three were sired by Tok of a ½ Siberian Husky ½ Eskimo Dog named Belle. Belle’s sire was from Greenland and was brought to Alaska by the U.S. Air Force 10th Rescue Unit of Elmendorf Air Force Base. In all it should be noted that over 200 different sled dogs were used in the movie “Nikki –Wild Dog of the North”, which was released in 1961 (5).

Jeffrey’s excellent article is well-referenced, and additional information is documented. As an example, here are the notes for the paragraph above:

(3) This is the same Joe Redington who went on to become the Father of the Iditarod.. There is a very interesting account of Bacon’s dealings for Polar in the book Father of the Iditarod, the Joe Redington Story, by Lew Freedman, Epicenter Press, Box 82368, Kenmore, WA, 98028, U.S.A. Go to page 71 for the story of Polar.

(4) The Norrises are well known for their Anadyr Siberian Huskies. It is perhaps not as well known that throughout most of the existence of their famous “Alaskan of Anadyr” kennels, Natalie Norris has also maintained a small breeding program of purebred Alaskan Malemutes. At one stage, Natalie also bred purebred Eskimo Dogs with breeding stock from both Greenland and Igloolik in the Canadian Arctic

(5) Have any readers ever seen this movie? Any comments would be appreciated, please reply using the contact email address on this site.

A long and colorful history of the RCMP in northwestern Canada is part of Jeffrey’s post, as is a detailed accounting of what happened to the Disney dogs.

Still to come are the presentations by author Jane Haigh, and Chas St. George of the Iditarod Trail Committee, and contributions sent for presentation by Thomas ‘Swanny’ Swan and Alan Stewart.

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This post is the third in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska. The first report in this series included the presentations of Tim White and Carol Beck. The second report described the display panels on mushing history from Denali National Park, and the presentation by Kevin Keeler, Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

Dr. Linda Chamberlain

Dr. Linda Chamberlain of Homer, Alaska, is a scientist, author, professor, historian and dog musher, and she lives with her 20 Huskies and her husband, Al, on their 45-acre Howling Husky Homestead outside of Homer, Alaska. An epidemiologist specializing in childhood exposure to violence and brain development, Dr. Chamberlain has combined her public health career with her passion for dog mushing and rural living. During the summer months, she leads narrated tours of a circa 1910 wall tent, the sled dog kennel, and a living museum of dog mushing on their homestead. For her first book, Arctic Inspirations, she traveled from Alaska through the northern Canada and on to Siberia to gather stories of women starting businesses in the Arctic. She is currently working on a book called Mushing the Mail on the Iditarod Trail that traces the history of mail delivery by dog team in Alaska.

Collection of Linda Chamberlain

For the 2009 Mushing History Conference Dr. Chamberlain brought a presentation which traced the history of mail delivery by dog teams along the Iditarod Trail and the Kenai Peninsula, based on historical documents from the National Archives and Records Administration, the U.S. Postal Museum, the Alaska State Library, universities, museums and historical societies, interviews, private collections, and an extensive literature review.

While details on dog team mail carriers were sporadically and sparsely documented, Dr. Chamberlain has found many rich stories describing this dominant mode of transportation to deliver supplies and mail in Alaska from the late 1800s through the mid-twentieth century. Dr. Chamberlain described life on the trail of a Star Route Contract mail carrier and their dog team, and included many details about the types of dogs and equipment used, distances traveled, and the loads they carried. Her riveting stories of heroic deeds and tragedies on the trail provided a panoramic portrait of these postal pioneers and the Iditarod Trail that served as a lifeline between communities.

Rod Perry

Alaskan author, musher, filmmaker, adventurer and self-proclaimed raconteur Rod Perry brought a colorful exploration of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to the Conference, beginning with an impressive freehand drawing of the state of Alaska, which he filled in with rivers, mountain ranges, towns and cities, and of course, the Iditarod Trail. Rod was one of the intrepid mushers making the 1,000 mile trek to Nome in the very first Iditarod in 1973, with his media darling of a lead dog, “Fat Albert,” showing the way. Rod has been chronicling the rich history of the race for his two-volume set of books titled Trailbreakers. He describes Trailbreakers Volume I on his website:

“…Daring men and dynamic events that force the lock and break of the silence of the unknown North. Gold rush leads to gold rush, trail leads to trail, until it culminates in the last, glorious, hell-bent-for-leather gold rush and the final great gold rush trail in North America.

Trailbreakers Volume I is the most-complete, most-accurate telling of how the fabled Iditarod Trail came to be. As it relates the 1840-1930 progression of events establishing the “Last Great Gold Rush Trail in North America,” the book educates and corrects long-standing myths and misinformation that have grown up.

Amongst the misinformation that has come down through the years, the very beginnings of the Iditarod Trail constitute some of the most interesting, and Rod addresses this at length in his book Trailbreakers, Volume 1. Rod explains how there were trails running north from Seward for about 200 miles to the Alaska Commercial post at Susitna Station, a steamboat stop on the Susitna River; and trails which coursed south from Nome, 300 miles to Kaltag on the Yukon river, over a popular route between Nome and Fairbanks; but in between the ends of those routes lay over 400 miles of little-used and rarely traveled terrain:

Did the natives of the trail route at one time or another travel every foot of the country over which the trail passes? Of course. Did they trade with one another? Absolutely. But were any of their trails of a character to constitute ready-made, connected, serviceable platforms for a direct trail between Susitna Station and Kaltag? Any close look into the situation strongly indicates that that is a most fanciful stretch.

Alaska 1915

This post is the third in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference, which took place Nov 6-8 in Anchorage and Wasilla, Alaska. The first report in this series included the presentations of Tim White and Carol Beck. The second report described the display panels on mushing history from Denali National Park, and the presentation by Kevin Keeler, Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail.

Still to come are the presentations by Joe Redington Jr., Jane Haigh, Jeff Dinsdale and Chas St. George, and contributions sent for presentation by Thomas ‘Swanny’ Swan and Alan Stewart.

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This post is the second in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference. Click here for the first report in this series, which included the presentations of Tim White and Carol Beck.

Denali Park Kennels Display Panels

sleds panelConference organizer Tim White had procured the wonderful display panels on mushing history from Denali National Park, filled with historic images and explanations of sled dog travel down through the ages. The panel shown here, titled Native Sleds – Form and Function, for example, shows several types of sleds such as an Athabaskan Buckskin Toboggan made of bent wood covered with skins, “ideal for traveling through the deep snow and narrow trails of Interior forests;” a “Built-up sled by Fred Akmalik of Tulugak Valley,” with the explanation, “Heavy runners and a raised bed held up well when traveling throughout the arctic coast of Alaska.” There is an illustration of the heavy Greenland-style sled, which could be pulled by either dogs or a snowmachine; and a “Siberian Yupik hauling sled made of whale baleen and walrus hide line.” The bottom of the panel shows a Malemute Eskimo Family in 1878 with their large sled.

Kevin Keeler

old dogsThe third speaker on Saturday morning at UAA was Kevin Keeler, Administrator for the Iditarod National Historic Trail, which commemorates a 2,300-mile system of winter trails that first connected ancient Native Alaskan villages, opened up Alaska for the last great American gold rush, and which now plays a vital role for travel and recreation in modern day Alaska.

Kevin KeelerKevin brought a wealth of information, beautiful posters, booklets, flyers, and other materials to share with the conference attendees, and he explained how January, 2008 marked the 100th anniversary of efforts to open the now famous overland route from Seward to Nome, and to commemorate this epic achievement, January 2008 to October 2012 has been designated the official Iditarod National Historic Trail Centennial.

audienceKevin also gave a powerpoint presentation which provided an overview of the history, route selection and development of the Iditarod Trail, the sleds and types of teams used, discussed the variations in routes, trail marking, a few of the old roadhouses, and explained a bit about what’s being done to preserve and protect the current day Iditarod National Historic Trail.

INHT bookletOne of the many resources available free from the BLM Alaska site for the Iditarod National Historic Trail is a downloadable PDF of the beautiful and informative full-color, 24-page Visitor Guide, which details the route, the history, and the current projects along the trail. Of special note are the numerous easily accessible sites of interest along the present-day trail, especially between Seward and the Mat-Su area, and the wonderful old historic photos and interesting descriptions:

Sled designs proliferated, with manufactured sleds joining the ranks of toboggan-style handmade sleds. Most every sled at the turn of the twentieth century was equipped with a “gee pole.” The gee pole was a stout pole lashed to, and projecting from, the front of the sled, which the driver could use to leverage and steer the sled. Most dog drivers still did not ride the sled, instead running beside or riding skis or a sort of early snowboard between the dog team and sled. Riding the sled-runners was used only by drivers of light and fast mail and race teams.

There is also information about the Iditarod National Historic Trail at Iditarod100.com, the site for the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, including a full-color PDF of a four-page flyer detailing the Centennial Framework, with additional details from history:

For the past century, wooden tripods have been placed at close intervals along treeless sections of the Iditarod Trail to guide travelers safely through blizzards. A 1912 article titled “Trail Making in Alaska” described how Colonel Goodwin, leader of the Alaska Road Commission expedition to mark the trail from Seward to Nome, constructed the tripods:

tripod“…tripods…consisted of three sticks of timber each, two of which were eight feet long and the third ten or eleven feet long. They are so fastened together that the longest of the tree sticks projects two or three foot over the others and directly above the trail.”

The same design is still in use today, with volunteer groups and public land managers working to provide these safety markers over hundreds of miles of the trail.

Next: The presentations by Rod Perry and Linda Chamberlain. Still to come: Joe Redington Jr., Jane Haigh, Jeff Dinsdale, Chas St. George and others.

This post is the second in a series of reports on the 2009 Mushing History Conference. Click here for the first report in this series.

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