The Spirit of Adventure                                                                                    
Iditarod the first ten years

Iditarod First ten years     Iditarod Gang                                  

The Spirit of Adventure

We fell in love with the Iditarod.
It happened from thirty to forty years
ago, when everyone involved with this
book was young, and the race was, too.
We fell hard, and for keeps.
Well, how could we not?

The names alone were enough to stir the blood,
when all you’d seen of the race was a map. Rainy Pass,
South Fork of the Kuskokwim River, Farewell Burn,
Bering Sea. Names whispered, like Ophir; dreamed
of, like the Yukon. But it wasn’t until you were out on
the trail in one role or another that the magnitude
of the adventure revealed itself.

Photographer Rob Stapleton, whose work graces
these pages, recalled a brief conversation he had during
the 1979 race near the airstrip in McGrath with the
late Ace Dodson, a crack pilot who was flying the ABC
television crew along the trail. Dodson had just flown
in from a trip to Anchorage.

“What’s going on back in town?” Stapleton asked him.
“What difference does it make?” Dodson replied.
In more ways than one, the Iditarod took us to
places we had only imagined, and places we had never

Old Joe Redington—he was already “old” Joe when
he willed the first race into being in 1973—used to
smile and shake his head when people asked if he’d ever
imagined what the race would become. He couldn’t
have known. But he knew that the Iditarod would be a
wonderful adventure.

Looking back, it’s amazing how fast the race grew
and created its own lore. And by “race,” we mean
  everybody involved. Alaskans simply made it happen.
In this book, they remember how.

Mushers and dogs were its heart and purpose.
Naturally—it’s a sled-dog race. But this adventure
needed a cast of thousands, from a banker in
Anchorage to a fisherman in Shaktoolik, to a mayor
in Nome to a pilot flying dog food into Grayling, to a
veterinarian who could field stitch a wicked slash below
a sled dog’s eye at –20°F in Skwentna. From vital to
peripheral, we all had a part.

The Iditarod became a unifying force in Alaska,
bringing Bush and city, Native and non-Native
Alaskans together, creating lifetime friendships, bonds
that don’t break.

Without the race, some of us would never have
known how sweet a frozen orange would taste in a
bitter wind in the ghost town of Iditarod. We would
never have seen bone-deep weariness illustrated by
musher Joe May, who began to zip up his quilted jacket
one midnight in Koyuk, but fell asleep before he got
halfway to his collar. We would never have shared a
cold soft drink with Emmitt Peters in the wolf hours on
the ice of Golovin Bay.

But that was the thing about the race that was the
spirit of Joe Redington writ large, right across Alaska.
His spirit said this: “This Iditarod is a great adventure—
come join us!” He held out the invitation to all willing
to dare.

In that spirit, in these pages, mushers, volunteers,
artists, and writers celebrate the first ten years of the
Iditarod. Come join us.

                                                       ~ Frank Gerjevic

Iditarod the First Ten Years ™
An anthology compiled by The Old Iditarod Gang, LLC™
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