Hatcher Pass & Musher Signup for 2011 Race

The Little Su, as it's nicknamed, in Hatcher Pass

 Before going to the musher picnic and signup for the 2011 race, I had the chance to go on the Hatcher Pass road. This road leads to the Independence Gold Mine which is closed, but you can visit it. The day was overcast and we ended up driving through the clouds, but it was beautiful. The Little Susitna river is glacier fed, so the water has a green/blue cast to it.    

At the picnic, mushers paid their race entry fees, turned in paperwork, and race fans had a chance to get autographs and photos of the mushers. Bob Story of New Zealand is a rookie training with veteran musher Vern Halter. A rookie is a person who hasn’t finished the Iditarod. Bob will have several long distance races under his belt by the time Iditarod 2011 begins in March. 

Bob Story, rookie, pays the race entry fee.

Check the photos for a few other mushers who signed up for the 2011 race. I’ll be seeing them on the trail! 

Kristie Berington, veteran, & Angie Taggart, 2nd grade teacher and rookie, sign up.





Paul Gebhardt signs for a fan.


Hugh Neff worked with the Alaska NEA to promote reading in the 2010 race.

Exploring Native Alaskan Cultures

Native Alaskan cultures fascinated us on Thursday.  Native Alaskan cultures are the people first found in  Alaska who have the same language and customs. There are four Native cultures in Alaska, the Aleut, the Athabascan, the Tlingit, and the Eskimos.   At the Native Alaska Heritage Center in Anchorage, Native Alaskans told us about these four groups, demonstrated native games of skill, told a story of a grandfather and growing up, and performed dances in Aleut regalia. I didn’t move for an hour and a half except to lift the camera to shoot pictures. An outdoor walking trail provides the oppportunity to see and go inside replicas of living spaces of the various cultures. Craftsmen carve totem poles, sew fur parkas (or parkys, as it may be pronounced), and explain the daily household items of the cultures.  On the dancer’s dress, the swinging tails whisk rain off the clothing as the Aleut live in a rainy area. The man drilling walrus ivory bites an ivory mouthpiece against which the drill is held, then uses the small bow to spin the drill, drilling into another piece of ivory.

Dogs, Dogs, Dogs

Enjoy the dog pictures! These super athletes live at Dream a Dream Dog Farm or the Van Zyle’s kennel. Mouse over the picture for more information. I met Aurora three years ago when she was a pup. Now, she’s running as a wheel dog. Answer this question–where is Aurora in the team lineup, if she’s a wheel dog?

What an Adventure!

Today on the first ATV run behind the 16 dog team, the gangline separated from the harness on the ATV and, since sled dogs love to run, that’s what they did. They ran all the way to the turnaround where we, the second group of riders, were waiting to ride the ATV home. They surprised us because we were turned looking down the hill, cameras ready to shoot photos as they came running up. Instead, the team appeared running around the curve behind us. Everybody scattered like startled birds to get out of the way, and the team stopped to Vern’s cries of “Whoa! Whoa!”

The first rule of mushing is, “Don’t let go of the sled.” It’s also the second and third rules of mushing. We experienced firsthand the dogs running, regardless of whether the sled is attached or if the musher is on the runners.

Here is what a run behind 16 dogs looks like. ATVs are the sleds when there’s no snow. The driver maintains the right speed to keep the gangline taut. 

16 dog team through the mudhole


Iditarod 101

Rest stop on the puppy walk

First day of summer camp for teachers, and there were lots of firsts for us. First puppy walk, first ride behind a 16 dog team, first day of dog chores. We learned the basics of the Iditarod from Vern Halter, and Bob, who plans to run the 2011 race, told us about the race from a rookie’s viewpoint.  From Vern and Bob, I got some great quotes about the dogs which we can take to the classroom. “Form good habits early, you’ll do well” and  “Everything you do in the environment gets them ready to move forward” (Vern). Bob, explaining training the dogs to run long, steep hills, said,  “After the run to the top of the hill, a little further on, stop, rest, snack them, and praise them.” It struck me that “resting, ‘snacking’, and praising” our students after struggling with the hard work or skill they’re learning would go a long way to encourage them to continue for the long haul throughout their year. Forming good habits and preparing the students’ environment are two more things for teachers to keep in mind in getting students down their trail to the finish, their learning goals.

Beautiful day in Alaska! Sunny, warm, 22 hours of daylight! Start making plans now to come next summer!

Iditarod as a Teaching Tool

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race™ as a teaching tool in the classroom captures students’ interest and maintains that interest so that the teacher has the opportunity to teach skills and objectives to engaged students. Teachers know that engaged students are easier to motivate, are more focused, and absorb the skills taught. The professional article here provides information regarding using the race as a tool in the classroom.  Iditarod in the Classroom