It's not a book, but it might as well be. The authors are many. Mushers racing to Nome are known to the world. But there were also indigenous people. Explorers. Prospectors. Railroad workers. Telegraph linemen.
Last night I attended a kick-off function for the four-year celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Iditarod Trail. One hundred is an arbitrary number, given archaelogical digs unearthing evidence of prehistoric use of parts of the route. But on Christmas Day in 1908, gold was discovered in the Iditarod Fields, ending the debate about which route was best for hauling supplies overland from the port town of Seward to the bustling gold rush metropolis that was Nome.
Ghosts must roam the trail. Dreams were chased, tackled, and lost here. Wilderness is quick to erase the human footprint. The once booming town of Flat, a regular stop for Pan American and Alaska Airlines in the 1930's, is now no more than a rag-tag collection of falling-down buildings, barely a comma's pause in the expansive forests, tundra and mountains that surround it.
Like all good books, the National Historic Iditarod Trail whispers of fleeting forms, wild dreams, and desperate souls.