Seward-bred mushers compete in 2013 Iditarod
While Mitch and Dallas Seavey maintain the family tradition of leading the Iditarod race, making an early jump into the top tier of racers, Travis Beals breaks in the trail and a dog team in his first full blown Iditarod run. As of press time the Seavey father and son were pushing toward the front of the pack and Beals was in the third wave of mushers making a strong showing as a rookie.
The 41st Iditarod Trail Sled dog race began with a ceremonial start in Anchorage on March 2 and the re-start in Willow the next day.
Born and bred in Seward, the 21-year-old Beals has been building up his local business, Turning Heads Kennel with partner Sarah Stokey. Offering dog sled rides, they have built up a stable of 40 dogs, some of whom will be Iditarod veterans come next week. After placing third in the Northern Lights 300 in January, Beals qualified for the Iditarod and put his name in the hat.
The Northern Lights 300 also gave Beals some valuable experience in managing a dog team in very cold conditions as temperatures dropped to the minus 40 degree mark. Not that he will have much used for those skills for this year’s Iditarod as temperatures are expected to remain almost too warm to be comfortable for the hard working dogs.
During the drawing Beals nabbed bib 22 and the corresponding starting position. The Seaveys, Mitch and Dallas, pulled out 36 and 19 respectively. Being at the back of the Seward pack didn’t last long for Mitch who is currently running a race winning pace with Dallas close behind.
The Seaveys have the Iditarod in their blood, with Mitch and Dallas sharing the tradition that the trailblazing patriarch of the family, Dan Seavey Sr. set with Joe Redington Sr. Based out of Seward, Dan ran the first Iditarod Sled Dog Race along with Redington, Tom Johnson and Gleo Hyuck in 1973. He has placed twice since in the race to Nome and continues work on the Iditarod National Historic Trail running the race in 2012 to celebrate the centennial of the establishment of the original trail.
With son Mitch holding down the fort in Sterling with a division of the family business, Ididaride Sled Dog Tours, grandson Dallas has made the Willow area his training ground for the past several years. Dallas took some time out after becoming the youngest winner of the Iditarod in 2012 to become co-author of a book about dog training and racing titled “Born To Mush.”
As the book makes clear, Dallas has the background, training and focus giving him every chance at making this race his second championship in a row. However father Mitch is not going to cut him much of a break as he tries to nab his own second win.
The original Iditarod Trail, known at the time as the Seward to Nome Trail, was blazed by Jujiro Wada, Alfred Lowell, Dick Butler and Frank Cotter after gold was discovered in the Iditarod area on Christmas Day in 1908, allowing supplies to be taken to the site and gold to be shipped out by dogsled. In 1925 the trail was crucial when diphtheria broke out in Nome. Mushers carried the precious serum to inoculate residents against the disease from Nenana to Nome.
It served a dogsled supply route until the 1930s when air travel became more popular. Use of snowmachines in the 1960s further lessened the use of the trail by sled dog teams. In 1978, the trail was deemed a National Historic Trail by the Bureau of Land Management. The 16 historic trails were chosen to commemorate major exploration, migration, communication and military routes.
Today, the trail is best known for the Iditarod race in which sled dog teams compete to be the first to Nome each March along the portion of the trail from Anchorage to Nome. The race has grown, though ups and downs, to be a sporting event followed by fans around the world. The 2013 race is shaping up to be an exciting contest between competitors and teams at the top of their form.