What else is in the sled? Personal items on the Iditarod trail

Published: Mar. 13, 2021 at 8:54 PM AKST
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MCGRATH, Alaska (KTUU) - Inside the sleds of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race are the essentials: warm clothes, supplies to take care of the dogs, wilderness gear and more.

As the race goes on, the sleds get lighter as the mushers try to increase their speed toward the finish line. However, some items the mushers keep with them from start to finish.

For example, Anna and Kristy Berington brought their music players with them this year. However, when they were at the McGrath checkpoint headed south on Saturday, they said the weather had been so cold they couldn’t use them anymore.

Rookie musher Hal Hanson has a tightly bound collection of significant items with him: a lock of “his best girls hair,” a medallion of St. Christopher — patron saint of travelers — his father’s crucifix medal, a bronze star from the 101st Airborne Division from Vietnam and a dog tag with the name Tanner on it.

Veteran musher Cody Strathe began the race with a cowbell that he uses to get the dogs going. However, by Saturday, it was sent home to cut back on some weight.

Sometimes the mushers just bring a good snack for themselves. Although, rookie musher Chad Stoddard’s favorite trail treat of dried salmon could easily be mistaken for one of his dog’s treats in the incredibly cold weather of the trail. But he said “that’s just Alaska for you.”

What about the legends of the trail? Veteran musher Martin Buser has run the Iditarod 37 times and is currently going for 38 finishes. He’s been the champion under the burled arch four times.

Buser keeps things simple. The only personal effects he had to show were two drinking utensils: an insulated water bottle for cold drinks and a thermos for hot ones.

But he said the cup for his thermos was too frozen to use, so he’s been using an old Pringles container for the past couple days.

Whether they be significant, symbolic, for comfort, or special, most mushers will tell you it’s not about what they bring or even leave behind, but appreciate what’s gotten them to the finish line.

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