Life of a Long Distance Sled Dog Musher


An Alaskan Wilderness Adventure, Mushing Dogs and Racing Iditarod



By Sherry Ellis, Book ReviewMat-Su Valley Frontiersman                                                                                                                                                                Frontiersman, Palmer, Alaska

Friday, May 10, 2013

PALMER -- Burt Bomhoff is a sled dog musher who finished seven Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Races and has been recognized for a great understanding and care of his dogs and the deep passion he has for the sport of sled dog mushing.

In his recounting of the Iditarod races, Bomhoff describes the mindsets and racing tactics of the mushers, the grandeur of the alaska wildernes along with the near-life-threatening encounters in this same harsh Alaska wilderness.

This book, "Iditarod Alaska: Life of a Long Distance Sled Dog Musher," is a sweet, informative, humorous and, in some instances, a sad description of life as a musher. However, as the author states in the book, it was important to him to show all aspects of being a musher, not just the good times.

Through his personal insights and stories ranging from the psychology involved in the training of his sled dogs through adventures along the iditarod Trail and friendships made, the reader gets to experience the thrill and heartache of what it is like to live a lifelong dream in the Last Frontier.

The book is written and reads as if he is telling stories sitting around the campfire while you drink coffee and pet his dogs. You feel as though you could be one of his best friends being let in on many private jokes and touching stories from days gone by.

Even though those days are not that long ago, it definitely is a different race now than it was in the 1980's. There are times where some information seems to be repeated, but that is due to the fact that the book is not a novel, but a depiction of specific events and times in the author's life.

What I found endearing is that Bomhoff was a professional engineer, surveyor and commercial pilot and more who then decided he wanted to live his lifelong dream and become a sled dog musher. So he did it!

Not many of us can say we actually follow our dream. Yes, he probably had a little more money saved up than most in order to finance those races that he entered and had his own plane, etc. Still, he actually left the comfortable lifestyle he was used to in Anchorage and ventured out into the unknown territory of training and racing sled dogs for a living. The author was not just a participant in the Iditarod, but eventually served on the board of directors, and while he was president of the board was instrumental in the creation of the Iditarod Headquarters.

Those of us who recognize the mushers of old can really appreciate the anecdotes told and those of you who do not know the names of these veteran sled dog racers will wish that you had seen them race after reading this book.

The behind the scenes look at the preparation, knowledge and tenacity these mushers must possess is absolutely a treat for the reader. The "chicanery" (a term Bomhoff often used) that several of the mushers would pull off is a fascinating read in itself, and then the fact that the author honestly never held it against any of his buddies over the years is amazing. The only regreat I had in reading this book is that Bomhoff never revealed the secret ingredients to his special pancake.
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