Klondike Derby / Winter Camporee
The Legend of the Race !
In the winter of 1925, a deadly outbreak of diptheria struck fear in the hearts of Nome residents. Winter ice had closed the port city from the outside world without enough serum to inoculate its residents. Serum from Anchorage was rushed by train to Nenana and picked up by a sled dog relay. Twenty of Alaska’s best mushers and their teams carried the serum 674 miles (1,078 km) from Nenana to Nome in less than 5½ days along what is now the Iditarod Historical Trail. This was to be one of the final great feats by sled dogs. Within a decade, air transport replaced the sled dog team as the preferred way to ship mail. With downturns in gold mining, most of the roadhouses closed, boom towns emptied, and the Iditarod Trail fell into disuse. One hundred years after its heyday, some variation of the entire Historic Iditarod Trail from Seward to Nome is still open to the public. You can explore the Historic Trail year-round on foot, by auto, or by rail between Seward and Knik, Alaska. Winter overland travel by snowmobile, ski or dogsled is still a great way to explore the remote northern sections of the Iditarod Trail. Many community museums along the Iditarod Trail display historic photography, equipment and artifacts that depict the toils and rewards of life on the historic trail. For summer recreationists proficient in remote water travel, the rivers used by early gold seekers offer access to miles of sandbars, lonely hills, and swamps. And every February and March, racers put their minds, muscles and machines to work in epic long-distance winter races that link Alaska’s largest and smallest communities. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, named after the now-abandoned town of Iditarod, commemorates the last great goldrush in America to the Iditarod gold fields and the critical role that dogs played in the settlement and development of Alaska. It is a common myth that the Race commemorates the dogsled relay known as the 1925 “Serum Run” from Nenana to Nome. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race was first established by Joe Redington Sr. in the early 1970s to encourage the designation of the Iditarod Trail as a National Historic Trail, bring the dying tradition of dogsledding back to the villages of Alaska, and promote the sport of competitive dogsled racing. Today the race follows much of the Primary Route of the Iditarod National Historic Trail, with a segment alternating north or south, depending on the year. (These segments are also part of the Iditarod National Historic Trail). Every ‘odd’ year (i.e., 2007), the Race travels the south route from Ophir to Kaltag through the ghost town of Iditarod. On even years, the Race travels north from Ophir through Ruby and Galena to Kaltag. The 1925 Serum Run followed 500 miles (800 km) of trail (now designated as the Iditarod National Historic Trail system) between Ruby and Nome. Klondike Gold Rush The Klondike Gold Rush, sometimes referred to as the Yukon gold rush, was a frenzied gold rush that drew tens of thousands of would-be prospectors from all over the world to the Klondike River near Dawson City, Yukon, Canada after gold was discovered there in 1896. The Klondike gold rush began in July of 1897 when two ships docked in San Francisco and Seattle carrying miners returning from the Yukon with bags of gold. The press was alerted and papers carried the story to the masses. The gold rush lasted only a few years, essentially ending in 1899. In total, about 12,500,000 troy ounces (860,000 lb) have been taken from the Klondike area in the century since its discovery. Soon, miners of all shapes and sizes, called “stampeders”, were on their way to the gold fields. Within six months, approximately 100,000 gold-seekers set off for the Yukon. But only 30,000 completed the trip. The easiest and more expensive route to the gold fields was by boat upstream from the mouth of the Yukon in western Alaska. The most difficult route was the “All Canadian Route” from Edmonton and overland through the wilderness The most common route taken by the stampeders to reach the fields was by boat from the west coast of the continental U.S. to Skagway in Alaska, over the Chilkoot or White Passes to the Yukon River at Whitehorse and then by boat 500 miles to Dawson City. The Chilkoot Pass trail was steep and hazardous. Rising 1,000 feet in the last ½ mile, it was known as the “Golden Staircase”: 1,500 steps carved out of snow and ice worked their way to the top of the pass. Too steep for packhorses, stampeders had to “cache” their goods, moving their equipment piecemeal up the mountain. Stampeders who gave up often did it here, discarding their unneeded equipment on the side of the trail. Conditions on the White Pass trail were even more horrendous. Steep, narrow and slick, over 3,000 pack animals died on the trail causing it to be dubbed the “dead horse trail”. Those who made it across the passes found themselves at Bennett Lake. Here, boats had to be built to run the final 500 miles down the Yukon River to the gold fields. A three week trip, the miners had to survive many sets of rapids before making it to Dawson City. Many miners lost their lives or their possessions when their boats broke up in the rapids. Those who survived the perilous journey mostly found disappointment once they reached Dawson City. Locals had already claimed all of the gold-bearing creeks, and claims of “gold for the taking” were grossly exaggerated. Many stampeders headed home, some worked for others on the claims, and still others stayed to work in Dawson City. The work that was necessary to retrieve the gold was incredible. Most of the gold was not at the surface, but rather 10 or more feet below. To reach it, the miners had to dig through the permafrost - the layer of permanently frozen ground. The ground had to be thawed before it could be dug. Then the dirt had to be sluiced to separate it from the gold. All digging had to be done during the summer as it was impossible to dig in the winter when temperatures could reach -60°F. It was tedious, strenous, difficult work. The biggest boom to hit this part of the world was a huge bust for the vast majority of miners. The only ones to really strike it rich were the merchants and profiteers who took advantage of those who hoped to “get rich quick".
Registration and leaders guide to follow soon.