Of all the towns along the Iditarod Trail from Willow to Nome, none may be a more welcome sight for mushers than Takotna. The village of about 50 residents is located on the banks of the Takotna River, and it has become a favored stop for racers taking their one mandatory 24-hour layover during the race.

Why? It's small and welcoming, with a store and restaurant. The pies baked at the latter are famous among Iditarod mushers from one generation to the next.

Takotna took off shortly after the turn of the century, when gold discoveries in the upper Innoko Region allowed the town to prosper. By 1919, several commercial companies, roadhouses, a post office, and about 50 houses had been constructed. Two years later, the Alaska Road Commission improved the Takotna-Ophir road, and an airfield was constructed.

Mushers like taking their long breaks in Takotna because hundreds of miles of desolate trail devoid of human settlements lies ahead as the Iditarod Trail passes through the ghost towns of Ophir and Iditarod. Best to fuel up when you can.