The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ended last year for 2004 champion Mitch Seavey when he nearly sliced off one of his fingers while opening a bale of straw for his dogs.
If the 52-year-old veteran Iditarod musher runs into trouble on the trail this year, he can count on family.
His father, 74-year-old Dan Seavey, ran in the first Iditarod in 1973 and can provide inspiration. And his son, 25-year-old Dallas, can provide a competitive push, if he can keep up with Dad.
"My goal is to win the Iditarod," Mitch Seavey said.
Dan Seavey is running in his fifth Iditarod to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail. His trip to Nome is being sponsored by the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance to highlight the rich history of the trail.
The Iditarod Trail was designated by Congress as a National Historic Trail in 1978. The winter trail between Seward and Nome served a string of mining camps, trading posts and settlements founded between 1880 and 1920 during Alaska's Gold Rush era. By the early 1900s, there were four major trails in Alaska used by dogsled teams in the winter. The longest, running from Seward to Nome, was called the Iditarod.
During the race, Dan Seavey will make special presentations at more than a dozen communities along the trail.
Dan and his wife, Shirley, moved to Alaska from Red Wing, Minn., in 1963 and settled in Seward, where Dan worked as a high school teacher. He bought his first husky within a few months of arriving, and as he added more dogs, it became time to put the children to work.
Mitch remembers helping care for the dogs and using his wagon to carry food and water in two buckets to the dog lot. Before he got his own proper sled, he hooked up a small dog team to a toboggan. By the time he was 4, he was mushing his own small team.
He grew up saturated in Iditarod culture. His father, one of three people to plan the first Iditarod, finished third out of 34 teams in the inaugural race in 1973. Dan finished fifth in 1974, 35th in 1997 and 44th in 2001.
Mitch is running his 19th Iditarod. Dallas, who in 2005 was the youngest musher to run the race, is in his sixth Iditarod and finished fourth last year.
Another of Seavey's sons, Dan, competed in the 2001 Iditarod and a third, teenaged Conway, won this year's Junior Iditarod.
"It is an understatement to say (Iditarod) has been a great thing for our family," Mitch said.
By MARY PEMBERTON