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Coronavirus: The Elephant on the Iditarod Trail

Well, actually that’s not quite true. While the rest of us are stocking up on toilet paper, I am confident that COVID-19 is pretty much the last thing Iditarod mushers are thinking about. Part of the joy, the beauty and the down-right reason for mushing is for many, the opportunity to clear the mind and think about nothing else other than those furry butts in front of you.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, shit is getting real – and fast. Just last week, hundreds of people packed into the Dena’ina Center for the annual musher’s pre-race banquet. A few days later thousands of people were gathered along the streets of Anchorage for Iditarod’s ceremonial start. Now the tiny coastal community of Shaktoolik is asking mushers and volunteers to stay away, and it’s rumored that more checkpoint communities will join suit. (Don’t worry, mushers will still have access to essentials like straw, cooker fuel and their drop bags.) As for the big race finish? The city of Nome is requesting tourists to stay away. Many public buildings are closed. And each musher has been asked to have only one handler/loved one meet them in town to help pack up dogs and then leave ASAP.

Let me be clear that of all the potential over-reacting there may be going on out there, the response of these villages is (in my opinion) totally warranted. We all know how diseases from the “outside” have historically ravaged native communities. The Spanish Flu of 1918 was the most recent to have devastated Alaskan Native villages. According to the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, when the second wave of the Spanish Flu hit western Alaska, 80% of all deaths in the state were of Alaska Natives. In some cases entire villages died out. You can read more here if you’re into this sort of depressing, factual information:

If cold, hard facts aren’t your style, check out The Raven’s Gift by Don J. Rearden. It’s realistic fiction based on the premise of a pandemic striking western Alaska. It’s real enough to scare the crap out of you. And hey, you’re going to need some light-reading while you’re quarantined inside your house for the next few weeks, right? I wonder if the Amazon fulfillment center in Seattle is still functioning…

But I digress! In addition to COVID-19 throwing a nasty wrench into Iditarod festivities, it’s also effecting our tour business. Today alone I received a dozen emails from parties wishing to cancel their dog sledding tour reservations. And again: no blame, no shame coming from over here. We get it. But it will hurt, too. Some of you have already realized this might be a thing for us, and you’ve asked us how you can help. (You’re all so sweet, I wish I could just come right through this computer and kiss you all! But it’s not recommended by the CDC so I won’t…) If you’d like to donate to our kennel, please check out this link:

Our Everyday Sponsorship options come in at a variety of giving levels, and each level includes a gift for YOU, as well as an End-Of-Season Letter in the mail from Jeff and I. (You all know how long-winded we are on social media, can you even imagine all the things we put down into good ol’ fashioned snail mail!?) Again, thank you so much to everyone who has asked about lending a helping hand during this strange time.

And now, back to looking at dog butts…

a sunset over a body of water

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