Friday, August 3, 2012

Birthday Announcement - The Next Big Challenge

Have you noticed a minor change to my profile?  Today was the 58th anniversary of my birth.  Of course I'm at work, so for practical purposes it should be just another day.

I spent part of my waking hours reflecting on the past 58 years of my life, but only a small part.  That which is done is done, it can't be changed and most of it is stuff I wouldn't change even if I could. 

What I can do is keep moving ahead into the future, and tonight I'm ready to announce the next major challenge I plan to pursue. 

I have decided try to take my Stardancer Historical Sled Dogs team from Nenana to Nome as a participant in the 2015 Serum Run '25.  That year will mark the 90th anniversary of the Great Race of Mercy, and I plan to commemorate that historical event by doing the run as a true historical reenactment, using historically authentic clothing, equipment and of course historically authentic sled dogs all while maintaining the highest modern standards of dog care and safety. 

While I might dream of holding out for the centennial of the serum run, I'm not a particularly young guy.  I'll be 60 years old for the 90th anniversary and I'm confident I'll be in sound enough physical condition to make that run quite handily.  On the other hand, I'm not so certain my body will hold up well enough to allow me to do the 2025 trip.  I figure I'd best make the journey while I'm still physically able to enjoy it.

Although the event is more than 2 years distant, there will be plenty to keep me occupied as I prepare for it.  Obviously I have to train my dogs and myself to prepare for such a trip, but there is more involved than just training. 

To do the run in a historically authentic manner, I need to research both the time period and the specific event as thoroughly as I can.  The Serum Run 25 is not a relay as was the original event, so I'll be trying to emulate a typical musher traveling by dog team across Alaska during that year.  Doing a credible job of that requires that I learn more about the technology that was commonly used by those on the trails during the early 20th century. 

Then I need to acquire a fair amount of historically authentic clothing and gear.  I already have the most expensive item, an authentic sled.  I'll most likely have to make the clothing I'll need for the trip, for sure I'll need to make a full set of authentic dog harnesses and associated gear, and probably some authentic traveling and camping gear as well.  There were considerably changes in outdoor technology between the early 19th century (for which I'm already reasonably well prepared) and the early 20th and a credible presentation requires that I learn those changes and adapt to the changing times, just as we must all continually adapt to changes in our modern technology.

As this is likely to be an expensive endeavor, I need to seek sponsors to help defray some of the costs.  That requires that I put together a reliable budget and find ways to show those who may be interested that sponsoring this effort will be beneficial to them as well as to my team and I.

Our team will also include a person providing support by snowmachine.  Back in 1925 the trails were frequently traveled, generally well packed and with the support of road houses located roughly 30 miles apart.  Today, with transportation now provided primarily by aircraft and snowmachine, the trails are not in nearly so good condition and the road houses no longer exist.  Once the person who will provide that support for our team is ready, I'll announce who it is and provide more details. 

Meanwhile, as I work toward putting this project together I'll do my best to keep you informed.  Who knows, we all may learn a thing or two. 

One can learn a lot through research.  Books, magazine articles, photographs and many other forms of media can help provide knowledge of an event.  Knowledge comes from research, but a true understanding can come only from experience - and I want to share the experience that many feel was the pinnacle of dog mushing as an everyday form of transportation in Alaska.


  1. This is really exciting news Swanny! I look forward to reading about your preparations and the trip. How many dogs do you plan to run?

  2. The musher information published on the Serum Run '25 site calls for no more than 12 nor less than 8 dogs. In the original relay, Wild Bill Shannon started the first leg of the relay with 9, but had to drop some along the way. Several of the original mushers ran teams of 7. Based on what I've learned thus far, most of the teams were betwen 7 and 9 dogs, though Gunnar Kaasen is said of have run a team of 13.