Life of a Long Distance Sled Dog Musher

ADN Book Review

An Alaskan Wilderness Adventure, Mushing Dogs and Racing Iditarod

Ex-Iditarod president pens a tell-all memoir

Published: July 20, 2013

By RON HOLMSTROM — Anchorage Daily News correspondent


Of the many books out there about the famous race and mushing in general, "Iditarod Alaska: Life of a Long Distance Sled Dog Musher" by Burt Bomhoff (Publications Consultants) is the one to give you an insight into what it actually took to start as a rookie and evolve into a serious, experienced musher.

It also is a great, warts-and-all, look behind the scenes at the machinations and politics of the race itself, with honest insights into the personalities of some of the early racers and Alaska characters that built the sport and the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race into what it is today. Bomhoff's credentials include serving on the board and as president of the race for many years and running it himself seven times.

After a forward by Libby Riddles, the first woman to win "The Last Great Race," Bomhoff opens with a nostalgic look back from his retirement from racing.

All the familiar faces are here from the author's years of friendships, associations, rivalries and sometimes acts of downright skullduggery throughout the history of the race.

From Iditarod founder Joe Redington to adventurer Colonel Norman Vaughan; Riddles and Susan Butcher to DeeDee Jonrowe.

The sometimes cantankerous, but wily champion Rick Swenson, Emmit "Yukon Fox' Peters, Martin Buser, Jeff King -- they are all here, companions and trail mates, certainly, but always deadly serious competitors.

Some of the stories leave one laughing out loud; mushers tricking each other into terrible mistakes on the trail, shady deals in dog-trading swindles that border on felonies, seeming acts of kindness actually designed to stop you in your tracks for precious minutes or hours.

Beneath all of the under-handedness of some of the tactics, there is always the understanding that out there, where the slightest mis-step could quite simply kill you, there is an ever-present sense of camaraderie, a feeling that -- no matter the importance of winning -- the mushers are still all in this together.

These athletes are a tough breed of cat unlike those in any other sport on earth.

Much of the book deals with Bomhoff's early adventures in the sport.

The hours, days and months of preparation with one goal in mind: At some point you will be taking off into an unforgiving wilderness with only your dogs, yourself and whatever you can carry on your sled to keep you and your team safe and healthy on a thousand mile trip to Nome.

Bomhoff promises to "tell you the story."

And what a story it is! Iditarod Alaska is a well-written and very entertaining journey along the trail of "The Last Great Race on Earth," by a guy who lived the life.

The index, interviews and the appendices at the end of the book are a value in themselves.

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