Leading an adventurous life
Life takes some interesting turns now and again, doesn’t it?
I have done some adventurous things during my sixty-two years of life – backpacking in the Rockies, canoeing in the Canadian wilderness, New Year’s Eve campouts on top of the tallest mountain in Massachusetts, patrolling in the DMZ between North and South Korea, swimming in the Panama Canal, graduating from the US Army Jungle Warfare School, building transmission powerlines in seven states, repelling, practicing and teaching martial arts, etc. I have come way to damn close to dying on more than one occasion, but I have to say I have no regrets. To me, a life without adventure and a little risk is no life. I have always liked a good challenge and hope to take on several more in the years I have left. For instance, I have often thought about how cool it would be to compete in something like the Eco Challenge, or maybe the Iditarod. I mean, how awesome would that be?
I remember seeing the movie, Iron Will, in the late 90s. Iron Will is a fictionalized account of a 1917 dogsled race sponsored by the Great Northern Railway, and the forerunner to what is now the Iditarod. The movie’s hero, Will Stoneman, is a character based on two real-life participants in the 1917 race. In the story, Will Stoneman’s father dies, and he is left alone to take care of his mother and their land. Needing money to manage things, he decides to enter a cross country dogsled race in hopes of winning the prize. This race is a test of determination, strength, and endurance – requiring several days of racing for long hours, through extremely harsh Alaskan weather and terrain. Will Stoneman will need a lot more than courage and a good dog team to even finish this race; he will need an Iron Will.
The first actual Iditarod was run in 1973. The idea originated with historian Dorothy Page and the race was brought to reality by Joe Redington Sr. and other volunteers – including the US Army. Redington wanted to save both the sled dog culture and Alaskan huskies (a non-AKC breed), that were quickly being replaced by the invention of snowmobiles, as well as preserve the historic Iditarod Trail between Seward and Nome. In addition, he wanted to highlight a historical event that took place in 1925, when a life saving diphtheria serum was delivered via a relay of 20 different mushers and their dog teams from Nenana to Nome, almost 700 miles, in just over 6 days. This heroic effort exemplified the spirit and determination of those who continue to race today, as well as the grit and determination of the Alaskan husky and their mushers. These same traits are carried into the future by the courageous dogsled teams racing in the Iditarod today. Clearly, the Alaskan husky is truly an amazing breed of dog. Oh, and the mushers must be pretty tough as well.
Colleagues and Coincidence
Yesterday, I was talking to a colleague of mine from the University of Tennessee. Ben Jones has an interesting hobby. He designs and builds top quality watches. Because we occasionally have some interesting conversations, I have known about this hobby for a while. But today, Ben mentioned that he was shipping a watch he’d made to Alaska. He had built it for his cousin who needed a specialized watch because she is competing in the 2023 Iditarod. I said …. “Wait a minute … What?”
And, it was a very cool watch!
Jennifer LaBar and Rocking Ridge Kennel
Iditarod 2023 will be Jennifer LaBar’s first 1,000 mile race. And that is a big deal! Beginning in 2011, Jennifer “dreamed of racing 1,000 miles across Alaska” and set several goals for herself after she got her first sled dogs in 2014. Her goal was to do this by the time she turned 40 (Jennifer will turn 41 a couple of weeks after the 2023 Iditarod). She also wanted to run the race with dogs she’d raised herself. I understand that completely. Nothing beats that bond between loyal dogs and their owners. Most of Jennifer’s dog team were born at her house. A few were given to her as pups from other mushers. And her team of dogs have competed in several shorter dogsled races in preperation for the 2023 Iditarod.
Her husband, Andrew LaBar supports her in this goal one-hundred percent, and through their kennel, they also offer others seeking adventure the chance to experience a genuine dog sledding trip.
Alaska is on my bucket list, and when I get there, I may have to check this out. I really think I would enjoy a dogsled adventure.
Perhaps Ben will hook me up, and I can do a follow up post on Jennifer LaBar and her dogs. And just maybe, I can swing a post about his watch making. I was really impressed with the Iditarod watch! Time will tell …
In the meantime …
Rocking Ridge Kennel & Outer Range Dogsled Tours
Check them out! Visit and explore their website.
And if you want to sponor a very cool team in a very cool race, you can. I’m going to … simply because this is so freaking awesome!