Iditarod
Alaskan Life
Boats used by Native Alaskans. When you couldn’t use boats or planes, you used dogs down the Iditarod.

I’m going to segue into the reason why Vladamir Putin wants to take Alaska back from America, in this piece, and drop a little bit of American history on you, as I normally do in this piece. It’s good to piece together the funny things of history that I experience, and tie them to current day events. Most people have no idea about American history and how things of the past are getting reversed left and right, using “the courts.” Putting sees how Asians were able to get rid of Affirmative Action for women and minorities, and how Roe vs Wade has been reversed, so, he’s going to attempt to bring lawsuits to get Alaska back since USA is in such a giving mood as of late. Wouldn’t that be funny if Russia took Alaska away from the USA and then fought us over it because he could use his US supporters of Russia (GOP) to give it back, after Trump wins in the election? The lovers of the Confederates considered it a major blunder by the Union, who won the Civil War ultimately, and of course, like history, they were on the wrong side of that take too. This year, I decided to go further north into Alaska, because there were some early storms that produced a lot of snow everywhere, early, in the more remote areas, and I wanted to see very different things this time around. What I learned, as a result of trying just 1 activity, blew my mind about my ignorance about American History, as it relates to Alaska and Alaskans, and I was beside myself with what I learned. That is a truly rewarding solo travel trip, if you can come back pumped from things you learned and experienced. Typically, I wouldn’t go to places with a lot of snow because a lot of placed don’t have fun things to do in those areas. Being from the Northeast of USA, we can get a lot of snow too, HOWEVER, when I was in Alaska, last summer, I saw some advertisements for a bunch of different things to do, in the Wintertime. I was looking at the areas that the events were in, and I was physically in one of the places (Fairbanks), and how it looked in the Winter was nothing like it was looking like in the Summer. I almost didn’t recognize the place. Then I noticed some areas like Talkeetna, a place I had been to numerous times, that place I didn’t even recognize it in the Winter. Initially, I looked at that like “PASS” because all I had ever heard of Alaska was the bad things in the Wintertime, but I had to check myself because the people who were talking bad about Alaska in the Winter, were NEW YORK CITY BORN-AND-RAISED people, who hate anything Winter. I started to look into “Activities in the Alaska” and I was shocked about how many things there were to do, in some really interesting places, such as going to glaciers, snow mobile riding, cross country skiing, and even dog sledding. If I go to the Northeast and want to use a snow mobile, let’s say, I can’t do that. There is no place that will let me do that, unless I’m the owner of a snow mobile. I can’t go on the streets with that thing, I’d get arrested. So, when I looked at it from that perspective, snowmobiling was interesting at that point and I aggressively searched for this activity and found I didn’t even have to search that hard, it was offered EVERYWHERE. Something else I saw, which I also found interesting was a chance to go dog sledding and learn about something called “Iditarod”, which when I was booking the snow mobile tours, the companies were encouraging me to go do a dog sled tour. One lady who was an attendant joked “they’re like version 1.0 of snow mobiles”. That joke went over my head initially, because when had I ever seen dog sledding other than in a Cuba Gooding Junior movie because it was part of a joke. Dog sledding, to my brain, was a childish thing to do, and because when I thought of it and saw it, I saw an image of kids in it. That all changed, as after a storm passed and the roads were mostly cleared to be traveled on, I got transport to the location to the snow mobiles and on the side of the truck, I heard a bunch of dogs going by. I was halfway sleeping, and I woke up because it sounded like a pack of wolves or something. When I checked, there was some dude, who must have bene like 6’2, 200lbs, with some packages in a carriage of sorts in front of him, while he stood behind it, being pulled along by DOGS! They were going faster than the truck, which we were not going that fast due to the roads, but it was noticeable that the dogs were FAST and STRONG.  At that point, I knew that I had to rethink this reluctance to get on a sleigh with some dogs because from what I saw, if some kid was trying to ride that contraption, they’d DIE if they didn’t know how to work those dogs. The secrets of these dogs, and the Iditarod, remained hidden with the Native Alaska for a very long time, before European descendants descended on them. I was very curious how the hell we got to the point where I didn’t see any Indigenous Alaskans in any adverts for dog sledding. That was… weird, or so I thought.

Alaskan Life
Imarnin readout
Alaskan Life
Imarnin: Alaskan raincoat made of seal intestines.

The closer we got to the snow mobiles, I started to see more of these snow dogs, being used alongside roads or on the side in the open grass areas that were filled with snow, and the people on them looked like they were having FUN! I asked the driver what they knew about this, and I got a nice little lesson on the uses of the dogs, historically, and currently.  After that talk, I HAD to get schedule myself that dog sledding tour. I was on the phone immediately and set that up the next day!  Here is what is going on with the dog sledding, first, kids DO learn to work the dog sleds, and you have to get detailed training in this. Now, why would kids have to go learn how to work a dog sled when it’s supposed to be fun by just getting on them and yelling “mush”, as we would see in movies. There is more to it than that, I learned, because those dogs are stronger that you think! If these kids don’t know how to master this, those dogs will pull that kill 60 miles an hour and won’t stop until they tire, which I’ll explain why a lot of them take a long time to tire, shortly. If you don’t know how to work the dog sled, you’re going to get hurt and lost in the woods somewhere cell phones don’t work, so you can’t play games with it. Yes, it’s fun, after you know how to work it, but if you are a novice, it’s not going to be fun if you have learned how to control those wild dogs. So, the first thing I had to learn, after I realized that dog sledding could NOT possibly be something Alaskans were using as a kid activity. I learned that there is something called the “Iditarod Trail”, which was a path through Alaska, that spanned over 1,600km or about 1,000 miles across the south of Alaska in the Seward area, to the west coast of Alaska at Nome. It was previously called “Seward-to-Nome” trail and these two locations were port cities, at the water.  The when you hear about the official name of the trail, you’ll hear that the path was created in 1908 after outsiders found out that gold may be in Alaska, curing the early gold rush; however, CENTURIES before any of these Europeans were anywhere near this, the native Alaskans, the Dena’ina and Deg Hit’an Athabaskan Natives, and the Inupiaq and Yup’ik Eskimos, were using portion of the trail, before it was an official trail, so they already used it to port themselves and good around. There were no cars back then, there were not snowmobiles – thus the joke I didn’t get earlier about they were version 1.0 of snow mobiles. Clearly, before any of the modern transportation came around, the hard-to-reach places of Alaska were traveled by dog sledding. It was the default way to get around all of Alaska in the remote places of the Arctic, because you didn’t have highways like Dalton Highway where the Ice Road Truckers are crossing.

Russians imperialists
Superior weaponry allowed the conquering of Alaska
Russians imperialists
Russian Weapons

Another thing most Americans do not know is that RUSSIANS occupied Alaska, centuries before, because they owned it long before any Americans came into play. Given proximity, that was not a shock to me, but to many I told, they had NO IDEA! If you look at an old map, you will see all of Alaska written as “Russian America”, seriously, and it was the Russian controlled part of the land renamed to “America,” and extended into some areas inside of California and Hawaii due to having forts there to trade with Spaniards (who the Brits and Americans took over for). That last part, I did NOT know at all and had to fact check when my driver told me this. Russian America existed from 1799 to 1867, 2 years after the end of US Slavery. Russia sent a Danish explorer to thoroughly examine Alaska so that they could claim it came to claim Alaska as part of Russia, as early as 1741. There was a second expedition by the explorer, but he died of scurvy after being shipwrecked. This was unofficial claiming of Alaska when a fur trader took over Three Saints Bay, to claim it as their first settlement. However, what I learned that I didn’t know, and most people don’t know, is that the people who are the Natives of Alaska look “Asian” to a lot of people, and that’s because it’s really the same people from the Gengis Khan times. Russia took Siberia from Gengis Khan’s grandson and after that kept going East to see what else was for the taking, which lead them to California and Alaska, IN 1581! So, Russia knew of this land since that time but sat on that info until 1741. After the sailors fixed the boat, they did that hunting and took everything moving, back to Russia, and from then they knew there was big money to make with trading. Now, when they got there, there were already 100,000 Native Alaskans there. The Russians terrorized the peaceful Natives and pillaged everything they saw to get rid of the Natives, kidnapping kids, destroying any way possible for the Natives to hunt and fish like destroying all the boats and destroying their hunting equipment, which then the men couldn’t feed their families, which hurt their prides and families to not be able to provide. It was psychological warfare out of nowhere, no attempts were made to be peaceful when Russians came. What could the Alaskans do? Russians already had guns, cannons, boats, swords, experienced modern warfare warriors. If Russians didn’t kill the Aleut Natives, then they raped the women to create “creoles” or they enslaved Aleut Native Alaskans on the Aleut Islands! The population of Native Alaskans fell to only 1,500 after Russian occupation because of war, European diseases and people couldn’t handle the slavery work in those brutal environments of Alaska, so many died. Russians enslaved Aleut 4 years after first stepping on the Alaskan soil. The Russians were lazy, they didn’t want to hunt, so they’d kidnap and rape the women and children and force the male to go hunt and bring back furs to spare their lives. They were savages to the Native Alaskans. In some places, some people had kindness and traded with some groups, that is of course until Russians found a new island with inhabitants, then they went back to killing, enslaving and raping again. What’s worse is by the time Americans took over Alaska, they didn’t see Native Alaskans any different from Native Americans they were just killing off or forcing into Reservations and sticking them on welfare. So, if they met Alaskans, they were treated as hostiles. So, they got hit by Americans and Russians, that is a terrible history that they have faced since encountering white people and it shapes the mentality of people towards any European descendants, after that.

Russian imperialists
Russian Orthodox religion

After that Russia claimed that Russia’s borders ended at that 55th parallel North for all land that was part of Alaska, due to the Ukase of 1799. AT that point, they set up companies and churches and if you weren’t authorized, you couldn’t do any fur trading in the area. They just took the land from the Native Alaskans, expanded, and then by 1799, that Russian American Company (RAC) granted Russia full claim to all of Alaska. At their height, only 800 Russians were operating in Alaska. As Russia tried to take the Pacific Northwest, they got beat back by Americans/British and then chased back to southern Alaska, where they stayed and until they went broke fighting the Crimean War and wanted to sell it to America because they wanted out because by that point, Russia has pillaged and purged the land of too many animals, from over hunting, so they thought the place was done for. The US already took Oregon by 1840 and the Settlers were coming, as I wrote about here. Russia wouldn’t be able to defend it against greedy US Settlers if they decided to just intrude and take the land, not with 800 Russians to defend. So, Russian had to offload it. America was a little BUSY at the time, starting the Civil War in 1861. After the war though, Secretary of State William H. Seward wanted that land, he wanted to take more and more land, he was a land greedy person, so he was coming! 2 years after, the Civil War, the country was broke,  so Seward signed a treaty with Russia and paid $7.2 million for Alaska ($115 million in today’s money), which was a move clowned by a lot of Americans, and they called the purchase of Alaska “Seward’s Folly” . Americans felt Alaska was a waste, but of course, they hadn’t even been there. So, when you see that name Seward, on highways and towns, that the Secretary of State who helped purchase Alaska. Of course, all morons shut up when that gold and oil were found up there, and then he looked like an amazing GENIUS, as Alaska is still the number 1 grossing state to date (oil/petroleum, animal biproducts, precious metals, fish, fur)! It was one of the smartest moves EVER that America did because the natural resources from Alaska STILL earn American amazing amounts of money. You know the Russians were kicking themselves in their butt ever since, and with the advancement of technology, transportation, and proper management, Alaska began to flourish again and replenish itself under US control.

Iditarod
This little one here can drag you for miles!
Iditarod
Industrialization in Alaska

By the time coal and then gold was discovered, the Eurocentric Americans came in force to take all the mines over, 1880s to 1920s. You have to remember how starved people were for any kind of money, post Civil War, and these were desperate times for Americans. They’d intrude into Native American lands if they knew there was gold available, as I reported here with a look back at the time of George Armstrong Custer invaded the Native lands of the Black Hills and sealed the fate of Native Americans forever, in the USA, all for the pursuit of Gold. How would one transport things when there was no great way to do this considering that there is crazy terrain and valleys and mountains between the two points of that trail? They used these dogs and the sleds because it was the only reliable method of transport over that crazy snow and iced over landscape. In the late 1800s, after people discovered gold in Nome, anyone south would get themselves into mushing, because they HAD to get up to Nome and this was the only way to do it. The most profitable areas were in the Kuskokwim Mountains and there was no way to get in there, one had to master dog mushing. All kinds of industry popped up so must like the railroad systems, to the east, this predated it all as the way to get in and similar to the railways, right on the side of the railways, people setup their roadhouses and dog kennels/farms. This was the official at this point, the US had control of Alaska, Russia was long gone, the population of Native Alaskans were growing again. After people were not seeing any results looking for gold in Alaska, they disappeared and then a lot of the industries dried up in the early 1920s, and the paths became more open again, but that was only because nobody cared to travel up to Alaska anymore since there was no promise of gold. That lead to many people forgetting about these paths that were paved after some time, but in 1925, there was a diphtheria outbreak in Nome, and nobody knew how to get the serum up to Nome, except for Native Alaskans, who realized that the Iditarod trail was a way to get all the way there. 20 drivers in various teams of dog mushers traveled the Iditarod trail over 674 miles (1,085 km), which took over 5 days to get there. The mortality rate for Native Alaskans, after being infected, was 100%! The disease was spreading fast, and this is why event that sledding on the Iditarod in celebrated still. The weather was brutal, planes couldn’t get there, trains couldn’t get anywhere near due to subzero temperature, which was worse on machinery back then and dogs and the Iditarod trail came through going low tech saved Alaskans. Due to this feat, and the importance that husky dogs played, along with sledding mastery, this has become a tradition to have Iditarod races along the Iditarod trail, to see who can make it to the end. Now, the Iditarod is officially a US National Historical Trail!

Iditarod
Just starting peeing right there wtf
Alaskan Life
Americans poisoned Natives with radioactive iodine!

In 1920, we had airplanes, so there was no need to use the Iditarod trail or dog sledding anymore, because planes covered much more area in short time and could take more cargo. In terms of carrying mail to people, that also another thing that Iditarod and dog sledding was no longer needed for. The final nail in the coffin was the invention of snow mobiles. By the time 1960 came around, nobody, even local Alaskans, had any idea what the Iditarod trail even was, nor the importance the Iditarod trail and dog sledding played in establishment of Alaska! Most believe, even today, that dog mushing was some sport that only Native Alaskans did, but that truth is that white Americans in Alaska were into it well into the 1920s due to the industries there! Of course, people were still doing dog mushing, but it was spread out mostly all over the northern areas of Alaska. A woman decided to go find these dog mushers to bring back the remembrance of Iditarod and the importance Iditarod played, along with dog sledding and in 1967, helps encourage races in only 9 miles of it. By 1973, the buzz to recreate the travel of the whole Iditarod trail came to Alaska, and the races were a serious thing, with many serious dog sledding teams popping up all over the place, and for good money prizes! One would have to make it successfully, all the way to Iditarod- well you couldn’t go further because the land was retaken by nature and there was no path until US Army Core Engineers help re-path the way to Nome from Iditarod and the full trail was back in swing. This was a good thing because pretty much all of the Eurocentric people deserted the whole practice of dog sledding so the popularity of it died down almost immediately. These old school skills were lost, by and large, although the skills were kept up by many Native Alaskans, especially with the people who were closer to the Arctic circle. The Arctic circle is very tricky and dangerous, so much so that today, we even have TV shows about people trying to navigate travel through the Arctic circle with semi trucks instead of dog sleds.

Balto
Balto’s statue is also in Anchorage, Alaska, not just NY.

Dog sledding, in Alaska, was necessary in the Arctic Circle, and was invested by the First Nations in Canada, who are the people who inhabit Alaska, as well. This dates back to at least 1,000 A.D., if you believe some, and others say 6000 B.C.E, in Siberia. Then, they’d have smaller cargo so would only use 1 dog, but for bulk, more dogs started to be added and the sled began to morph due to the cargo, but they maintained up to 6 dogs max. You may be underestimating these dogs if you think they can’t pull cargo, just looking at them. When I did the dog sledding, I saw that those dogs were tiny looking, and I didn’t think they would be able to haul 2 people around, but they DID pull us. If you don’t know how to work the dog sled, then those dogs would take off without you! They are FAST and can 4 dogs can pull 300+ lbs. alone. This whole practice of using dog sledding, in Canada, caught the eye of the French in Canada, and other European Settlers I mentioned earlier, and it’s actually a known fact that the French Canadian military had dog sled teams when they fought the Seven Year’s War, because dogs cost less than horses, were easier to maintain, dogs proved to be more effective in cold weather but could carry the same loads and heavier! Norwegians were very much fully on board with dog sledding because that trip up the Iditarod Trail, to address the issues of that diphtheria outbreak that I spoke about in Nome, was headed by a Norwegian native named Leonhard Seppala, who delivered that serum! So if you go to NYC, and you go to Central Park, you’ll see a statue of a dog there named “BALTO”. Balto was the lead dog of that dog sledding team to deliver that emergency serum, up the Iditarod Trail. See how this Iditarod is more important to history than you knew? I’m ashamed to say that I saw this dog, many times, and didn’t even bother to go inspect it, and they put that statue in Central Park in 1925! If you want to check it, and you’re in town, go to his location 40.769957928626994, -73.97100897248266 . Or, if you’re in Anchorage, the location of that statue is 62.818462091423605, -140.60492859423243. For some reason, when you look up that statue, online, you will only get the reference to the one that is in Central Park, and never the one that is right there in Anchorage, Alaska, and it’s been there since 1989. The story is that it’s because Kevin Bacon did a photo with that statue in the New York City, when he was doing a voice over for Balto in a cartoon. So, if you go to touring sites, you’ll also see the pointers to that statue in Central park. So, there, you now know how to find it if you are in Anchorage.

Iditarod

When doing the Iditarod races, normally, you’ll see the teams have 12 to 16 dogs, and each team has different strategies for how to swap dogs out and how to feed them. If we’re talking about races, then it’s definitely for your strategy to know how to breed, feed and how their strengths and weaknesses, because these dogs can’t go the whole Iditarod, that’s impossible to do it without rests. So, your game must be on big time. 1910 is the year when the first known Siberian Huskies were introduced to Alaska as they were the best dogs for racing, and that has largely been established. There is a debate about which dogs are better, but you’ll mainly hear Siberia Huskies, which were bred by the Chuckchi people of Siberia, Russia, be said to be the better of the dogs to use for sledding because they were smaller but faster and can be used for other purposes such as herd dogs for animals like reindeers up there in Alaska. The cousin to the Siberian Husky is the bigger Malamute, which take their name from the indigenous groups Mahlemiut people who bread them, because they were the preferred the dogs for those who wanted larger and stronger dogs that could pull cargo over longer distances. Today, since the dogs are bred in Alaska, they’ve dogs that are a combination of both types of dogs, with others depending on other features wanted to get the maximum powered, best endurance and fastest dogs. The dog sledding teams must know how to properly take care of the dogs, there are too many dogs and too long of a distance to cover, so each musher must know how to last over multiple days, where the rest up at safely, how to feed and get the dogs to regenerated and rested, etc. Animal care is very important. I had an opportunity to investigate a guy who has won the most of these races so far, Dallas Seavey, who has 5 Iditarod titles and is a young dude who got experience from his dad, who himself was a 2 time Iditarod champion. He is the guy you’ll see pictured in the informational pages on sledding, but you’d have to go out a few hours from Anchorage to reach his HQ area in Talkeetna. When I was doing the research to find a dog sledding operation, I was just lost because there were too many different operators, so I was lost there, but I did see adverts with videos featuring Dallas Seavey- I just booked with his location 2 hours away.

Iditarod

When I finally got to the place, I got to get a tour of the operations, the dog kennels/houses, and first thing you should know is that those dogs are on leashes and that means they cannot go far so they piss all over the place and jump on you. If you go there in the Winter, as opposed to the Summer, you should remind yourself that snow is wet when it melts. These dogs have the worst wet-dog smell possible, and you can see them jump all in the pissy snow. LOL You better have the heart to do this if you go, so if you bring a chick, you better have a good talk with her before you hit that snow because many will NOT want to do this event if they visit the dog houses. They really stink and you cannot get that smell out of your clothes until after 2 washes of your clothes! I saw a couple have an argument and the lady was turned off after the dog smell, and I saw her head back to the office, to throw up. Just a warning. What’s really cool about where I went is that if your partner doesn’t want to drive the dog sled, then you can just make them sit in the chair and you will go you can stand to control the sled. The breaking mechanism is built into the back of the sled where you slightly press on it to dig spikes in snow, which will put up resistance and will force the dogs to slow down. When you slow down the dogs too much, they will look back at you like “dude, fukisyoudoin?” lol but if you do NOT stop those Huskies, they will send you flying to your death somewhere. They are deceivingly fast, and if you fall off the sled, the dogs will keep going with your sled. My run was a controlled run but imagine that in an open area for real, those dogs are going FAST! I These runs will have 5 dogs, 2 pairs in the rear and 1 leader. The leader for my sled was the champion racing dog, GAMBLE. Gamble was put into Iditarod when he was a 2-year-old and won as lead dog! He didn’t like to be touched much but he gets to work and wins- who can’t relate. The dog team is led by Lead dogs (1-2), followed by Swing dogs, who together are directing, setting the pace and steering around corners. Team dogs are after Swing dogs, these are the powerful dogs, because they’re bringing up the weight, as they’re in the middle of all dogs. Wheel dogs are the last group of dogs, and being that they’re directly attached to the sled, they are the strongest of all dogs. The sleds being pulled used to be all wood but today, they can be titanium steel and even Kevlar. The lighter the better, but also the better to slide on snow/ice the better for speed. Looking that the dog operations, as with other dog operations for dog sledding the Iditarod, the dogs are chained so they don’t runway crazy. Those dogs are filled with energy, and I doubt they’ll come back if they were let go. I heard one lady complain about how the dogs were “enslaved” and then I wondered if PETA would complain about how the dogs are treated. I found out that PETA is a major hater of dog sledding.

Iditarod
Sunsets on Dog Sledding
dallas seavey
Snow Mobile vs Sledding

Apparently, because the dogs go long distances, some of them DIE. They’re out in the coldest times of the year, in the coldest state (subzero temperatures), in the snow, with winds that can run 80 miles and hours against them – FREEZING WINDS. Dogs run so much, it makes sense that some would die given that, and that is why PETA protests the races. Also, if the dogs are not performers, what do these mushers do with the dogs? Some abandon the dogs, and some beat the dogs, but PETA only has power against non-European descendants, like Michael Vick, who they got to go to jail for mishandling of dogs. When it comes to these sledding dogs, PETA has NEVER had power against those European descendants in Alaska who run that race – not many of the leader of Iditarod are non-European descendants, and, on their website, they claim that most of the dog handlers kill the puppies for over performing. So, either it’s all lies by PETA, or they can’t push European descendants around like they can do minorities. Whatever the case, if the dogs that died, according to them, 136 dogs died since the Iditarod trail was used in races. I do know that they claim about muscle problems, dehydration, pooping and pissing all over the place, that does happen, and the dogs are trained to piss while pulling the sleds – I saw it firsthand while on my dog sledding tour. Apparently, the problems can be many other internal problems like bleeding ulcers and such, like crazy things, but it’s competition. What today’s mushers will do is they have techniques the let dogs rest while other dogs are performing, and they swap the dogs out to limit those issues. Dallas Seavey is a master at that, and people accuse him of cheating because he knows how to swap out the dogs to limit chances of harm to dogs. This is what just about all of the racers do today, so that’s why the deaths of dogs are low, and they are required to report all deaths. So of course, since PETA is ineffective, that let me know that there must be big money involved in this too. Turns out these winners can get like $25k a race! If you fly into Anchorage, you can get on many different dog tours from there, which will cover transporting you to the north, you don’t need to fly into Fairbanks to do everything, as many people suggest you do online.

As always, the finished products can be found on the main site of www.drunkphotography.com.