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Photos: Iron Dog 2013 racers along Alaska's Iditarod Trail

  • Author:
  • Updated: June 30, 2016
  • Published February 17, 2013

One of the world's truly great road trips left Big Lake, Alaska Sunday as 38 teams blasted off on the famed Iditarod Trail in the start of the Iron Dog -- the world's longest, toughest snowmobile race.

Forget about the latter for a moment. The pro-class racers in the Iron Dog -- including Todd Palin, husband of national political celebrity and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin -- will get more than enough attention in the days ahead as 38 teams vie for $210,000 in price money along a 2,000-mile-plus, sled-bashing, body-pounding, potentially bone-breaking dash from the starting line on a frozen lake 60 miles north of Anchorage. Driving west, they'll reach the remote historic, gold-mining town of Nome near the tip of a peninsula in the Bering Sea by mid-week. After a short rest, they'll turn east towards Fairbanks, the self-proclaimed golden-heart city near the center of the 49th state, where they'll finish on Saturday.

Consider, instead, what lies ahead for these 29 forerunners on the trail:

  • The windswept and snow-drifted muskegs of the Alaska Range foothills.
  • The wild-and-serpentine trail through the beaver ponds and big-spruce forest on the climb up the rugged valley of the inappropriately named Happy River toward Rainy Pass.
  • The towering peaks of the Alaska Range.
  • The bison-filled regrowth of forest on the Farewell Burn, the site of what once was the largest wildfire in North America.
  • The smooth, frozen (hopefully) surface of the Kuskokwim River leading into the Interior.
  • The land gone lonesome in what was once the gold-rich "Inland Empire'' of the Alaska territory.
  • The mighty Yukon River, so big and so full of history, that flows west through the Interior toward the Bering Sea coast.
  • And the coast itself, a place beautiful in its desolation on a sun-blessed day and downright intimidating in a storm.
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