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Posts Tagged ‘Iditarod National Historic Trail’

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 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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The 2009 Mushing History Conference is bringing together an unprecedented gathering of authors, historians, researchers, writers, veteran mushers and supporters of the colorful history of sled dog travel. Presentations will cover the evolution of man’s relationship with working sled dogs, including 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, trapline use of sled dogs in the North American fur trade, historic and present-day sled dog races, the early Nome author Esther Birdsall Darling, the evolution of sled dog nutrition and diets, the Iditarod Trail Committee’s historical documentary about the race, and much more.

Among the speakers and presenters will be Jane Haigh, Kenai, Alaska, author of Gold Rush Dogs, Assistant Professor of History, Kenai Peninsula College; Joe Redington, Jr., Manley, Alaska, veteran musher and son of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race founder; Jeff Dinsdale, Quesnel, British Columbia, Canada, writer involved in breeding and 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 of Trailbreakers and veteran of the first Iditarod in 1973; 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.

Among the presentations and media will be Alan Stewart’s half hour slide show on Scotty Allan with many pictures and details of his life from his early years in Scotland as recounted by his relatives there and more; A reissued DVD of the first Iditarod movie, 1974, with additional footage in a new prologue and following segment on Joe Redington’s legacy; and a presentation which was prepared by Thomas Swan, Two Rivers, Alaska, Stardancer Freight Dogs, on Dog Mushing in the North American Fur Trade, 1763 to 1821.

Also presented will be historic photographs, books, maps, pamphlets, posters, slide shows, mushing films, videos, short subjects, documentaries and more.

The Conference will open with an informal gathering for the presenters on Friday, November 6, from 5 to 7 pm, at the Iditarod Trail Headquarters in Wasilla, mile 2, Knik-Goose Bay Road, and the public is invited to meet the conference presenters at that time.

The Conference will begin at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, November 7, at the Commons Conference Room 107A, 3700 Sharon Gagnon Lane, from 9 am to 5 pm. The Conference will reconvene at the Grand View Hotel in Wasilla on Sunday, November 8, from 9 am to 3 pm. Both events are free to the public, donations appreciated but not necessary, and families are encouraged to attend. Maps and directions to both venues can be found at the Conference website, https://mushinghistory.wordpress.com or call the Conference Coordinator, Helen Hegener, at 907-354-3510 for information.

Conference Director Tim White, 881 County Road 14, Grand Marais, MN; email: twhite@boreal.org; or Conference Coordinator: Helen Hegener, Northern Light Media, P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645; (907) 354-3510; email: helen@northernlightmedia.com

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Dog-Sled-TeamThe Mushing History Conference is coming together nicely in these final weeks, as we work toward bringing together authors, historians, researchers, writers, advocates and supporters of the colorful history of sled dog travel.

The conference is scheduled for the first weekend in November, with a gathering for the presenters planned for Friday, November 6th, and the conference to be held on Saturday and Sunday, November 7th and 8th. A sampling of the confirmed speakers to date:

• Iditarod National Historic Trail, by Kevin Keeler

• Mushing the Mail on the Iditarod Trail, by Linda Chamberlain

• Esther Birdsall Darling, by Jane Haigh

• Trapline to Finish Line, by Carol Beck

• The Disney movie, Nikki: Wild Dog of the North, and mushing history, by Jeff Dinsdale

• Mushing in Alaska during the ’50’s and ’60’s, Joe Redington, early Iditarod, by Joee Redington, Jr.

• Pioneering Alaska’s Iditarod, by Rod Perry

• Stories and History of the Taltson River Trappers, by Scott McQueen

• Evolution of Working Sled Dog Nutrition and Diets From Prehistory to Present, by Tim White

Also presented will be photographs, books, maps, pamphlets, posters, slide shows, mushing films, videos, short subjects, documentaries and more. For information about the conference, and if you’d like to bring materials or make a presentation, contact:

Conference Director: Tim White, 881 County Road 14, Grand Marais, MN; email: twhite@boreal.org

Coordinator: Helen Hegener, Northern Light Media, P.O. Box 759, Palmer, Alaska 99645; (907) 354-3510; email: helen@northernlightmedia.com

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