Or, go right on down the page to the story: The Trail
So, how do you travel when you go on vacation? We're not just talking vacation, but vacation...like FAR AWAY VACATION.
Heading across the neighborhood? Often, we'll take our bicycles for a trip like that. Across town? The car. Halfway across the country? Sometimes, we'll take a plane. Always, we're on a road, highway, or in the comfort of our seat (and the bottom seat cushion can be used as a flotation device in case of emergency!). In each case, we usually get to be comfortable and warm.
So, what's it like to travel by dogsled along the Iditarod Trail? WHY do people do it at all?
by Gary Paulsen
Imagine you're in Minneapolis and you decide to go to El Paso, Texas. Or you're in Columbus, Ohio and decide to go to Denver, Colorado. Or you're already in Denver and decide to go to Seattle, Washington.
Except that you have to cross several mountain ranges, fight high winds, bitter cold, white-outs, lack of sleep, deep overflow, more wind, more cold, and take care of sixteen wonderful dogs while you do it, putting their welfare before your own, feed them better food than your own, give them more rest and sleep than you get....
It is of course impossible.
Can't be done.
Every year since 1973 scores of people set out from Anchorage and try it; thousands of people in the thirty four years have tried it and while only something just over five hundred have finished it and gotten the coveted brass buckle finishers are awarded (more people have now reached the summit of Mt. Everest than have finished the Iditarod Trail) it is hard to understand why so many try until one thinks of the trail itself.
There have been many ways to describe the Iditarod trail. It is beautiful, ugly, exhilarating, terrifying, enormous and infinitely small in that only the snow around your sled counts. It leaves men and women proud, shattered, laughing, in tears, explosively joyous and wondering if they can survive another mile and twenty seconds later absolutely taken by the beauty laid out before them.
There are so many aspects of the trail that it is almost impossible to limit a description to one phrase or thought and depending on who you ask, and when you ask it, the answer could be all of the above at the same time.
Perhaps the best answer came from someone who didn't exist. One musher was crossing Rainy Pass in the middle of the night, with a full moon, and because of sleep deprivation he was hallucinating and his vision took the form of a man sitting on his sled, staring ahead at the peaks in the moonlight going by on either side and the musher leaned down and asked the imaginary man what he thought of the trail.
"Magnificent," the ghost person said, "Absolutely magnificent!"
And so it is.
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