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November 23, 2006

Mush – Following the Iditarod

March 3 – 17, 2006. Since 1973, the world’s top mushers have gathered in Alaska to tackle the Iditarod’s 1,150-mile trail, which stretches from Anchorage to Nome.

IditarodThe Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, known as the “Last Great Race”, is an annual dog sled race in Alaska, where mushers and teams of dogs cover more than 1,000 miles in less than two weeks, frequently through blizzards causing whiteout conditions, and sub-zero weather and gale-force winds which can cause the wind chill to reach minus 100 F.

This year keep an eye on some of the women competitiors including DeeDee Jonrowe who has been mushing for over 20 years; Judy Currier, a member of the Two Rivers Dog Mushers; Aliy Zirkle winner of the Yukon Quest in 2000; 23 year old Jessica Hendricks, Oregonian Rachel Scdoris who is legally blind; and Lynda Plettner who is competing in her 12th Iditarod.

Fast Facts

  • Teams average 16 dogs, which means over 1,000 dogs leave Anchorage for Nome.
  • There are 26 checkpoints on the northern route, the first in Anchorage and the last in Nome. On the southern route, there are 27 checkpoints.
  • The largest number of mushers to finish a single race was 77 in 2004.
  • Only two women have ever won the Iditarod… Libby Riddles was first, and then Susan Butcher won four (1986, 1987, 1988 and again in 1990).
  • Mush Talk

    Big Su
    Big Susitna River
    A type of sock that is made to protect the dog’s feet from small cuts and sores made of various materials, i.e., denim, polar fleece, trigger cloth, etc.
    Burled Arch
    The finish line in Nome
    Come Gee! Come Haw!
    Commands for 180 degree turns in either direction.
    Dog in Basket
    Tired or injured dog carried in the sled
    Double Lead
    Two dogs who lead the team side by side.
    Dropped Dog
    A dog that the musher has dropped from his team at a checkpoint. The dog is cared for at the checkpoint until it is flown back to Anchorage to the musher’s handlers.
    Command for right turn
    Command for left turn
    Any northern type dog.
    Lead Dog or Leader
    Dog who runs in front of others. Generally must be both intelligent and fast.
    Line Out!
    Command to lead dog to pull the team out straight from the sled. Used mostly while hooking dogs into team or unhooking them.
    Term often used by old timers for any sled dog. Larger husky
    Mush! Hike! All Right! Let’s Go!
    Commands to start the team
    Pushing the sled with one foot while the other remains on the runner
    Collection of lines to which dogs are attached. Includes tow line, tug lines and neck lines
    The two bottom pieces of the sled which come in contact with the snow.
    Siberian Husky
    Medium sized (average 50 pounds) northern breed of dog, recognized by the American Kennel Club. Siberians usually have blue eyes.
    Thin strips of wood which make up the bottom of a wooden sled basket.
    Swing Dog or Dogs
    Dog that runs directly behind the leader. Further identified as right or left swing depending on which side of the tow line he is positioned on. His job is to help “swing” the team in the turns or curves.
    Tether Line
    A long chain with shorter pieces of chain extending from it. Used to stake out a team when stakes aren’t available.
    Small pieces of ivory or wood used by Eskimos to fasten tug lines to harnesses
    Request for right-of-way on the trail.
    Tug Line
    Line that connects dog’s harness to the tow line.
    Wheel Dogs or Wheelers
    Dogs placed directly in front of the sled. Their job is to pull the sled out and around corners or trees.
    Command used to halt the team, accompanied by heavy pressure on the brake.

    Did You Know?

    Iditarod dogs are not driven with reins, but by spoken commands. The leader of the team must understand all that is said to him and guide the others accordingly. An intelligent leader is an absolute necessity. At times it appears that there is ESP between musher and lead dog. Don’t be surprised if you hear a musher have an in-depth conversation with her lead dog.

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