Image of Gary from Guts Gary Paulsen - Image of tree cover hills

Iditarod Journal

Essentially the idea of Iditarod, the dream of it, can be broken down into four distinct phases. . .

In the first phase, starting from nothing, it is necessary to acquire thirty or forty experienced sled dogs; find a place to keep and train them, acquire sleds, an old truck to haul them to Alaska; build carts to train and run them with before there is snow; find and acquire harnesses, gang lines, clothing and two or three thousand booties to protect their feet; acquire and store a ton and a half of dog food (dry food and raw meat) per month; acquire time to do all this; acquire a dozen wonderful friendly understanding people to help you in this endeavor. . . acquire, acquire, acquire. . .

My cabin

All right, for the past year and a half I have been doing all this and now have a small cabin in Alaska which is surrounded by 34 really close friends who are dogs and have gone well into the second phase:

Which is to run dogs with sleds, small six-dog teams, over and over to get miles on them to bring them into superb condition–-and to get miles on myself to see if I can actually do this thing again. So far it is going well. I have the dogs up to forty- and fifty-mile runs, all wonderful dances in the wilderness of Alaska, and there have been no unexpected difficulties. Even the occasional run-ins with moose have not been a problem. The only problem has been the overly warm weather for Alaska–-often 30° and 40° above Farenheit–-which makes the snow melt, which in turn makes the running slow.

A close friend

The third phase is to run longer, one- and two- and three-hundred-mile runs, which I will be starting soon and these will be more a test of me than the dogs. I have done some longer runs, although not quite that far, and have held together so I think it will work out. I will keep you posted with notes from Alaska as we (the dogs and I) progress. . .

The fourth phase starts the first Saturday in March. The Race. And it is way too soon to make any kind of sensible predictions. My goal right now is to start the race. Assuming that happens, I will try to finish the race, I am not going to be competitive, not going to try and stay with the front end, just hang in the middle and have a good, sane, and safe run and see that wonderful country over a dogsled one more time. . . .


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Photo of Gary Paulsen 2002 by C.E. Mitchell
Hillscape photo 2002 by The Longhouse Company

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