On Sunday, March 6th, our Alaska tour group said goodbye to Anchorage and drove out to Willow where I experienced one of the highlights of my Alaska trip…the official start of the Iditarod dogsled race.   Yay,  time to see more sled dogs!  Much to my surprise, traffic had jammed the two-lane highway and buses filled the parking lot!   I expected crowds in the city but not the festive atmosphere of Willow.

Willow Lake

We followed other spectators in, around, and down the slope to Willow Lake.  Wow, when did all these other people get here?

Iditarod fans line the course as it travels across Willow Lake

Iditarod fans line the course as it travels across Willow Lake

The folks gathered along the fencing must have been about four rows deep.  I didn’t have a chance to see much other than the top of a musher’s head as he raced by.  A new approach was needed.

Out onto the Ice

As we walked back up the slope to solid ground, we could see the mushers shoot out from the start.  I confess I was mainly interested in their sled dogs.

A team takes off and is coming out toward the lake!

There was still a mass of people in front of us, but that little hill did help one’s view. What a thrill to see the team come dashing around that curve!  Still, I wasn’t satisfied; I wanted a better vantage point.

The Better View

My plan was to hike up and around the start gate and come down to the lake on the other side of the course.  I quickly discovered that was impossible because security had the area sealed off.  It was too close to the start of the race. Not to worry; a new treat caught my eye…dogs!

Let’s get going! What are we waiting for?

Organizers staged the waiting teams in one area.  I parked myself next to the fence and photographed the behind-the-scenes excitement.  These dogs don’t look like the traditional, fluffy Siberian Huskies or even an Alaskan Malamute.  They’re slim and appear to weigh about forty to fifty pounds of doggie energy.  Nonetheless, huskies they are, and they can pull twice their own weight.  Did I mention they love to run!  Their excitement as they were brought out was evident.

Sled Dog Fun!

Some dogs were content to stand quietly; others just had to bark and howl.  Here’s one example.

Can you hear me now?

The booties come in all colors and protect the dog’s paws from cold and abrasions. After all, I wouldn’t want to pull a dogsled and run barefoot through the snow.

I’ve written far too much about the sled dogs.  For the record, they will make the 1049 miles to Nome in about eight or nine days.  To see a few more dog pictures, please click here.

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