The IRON DOG Tracks Alaska’s Iditarod Trail

 Iron Dog Participants See More to Win by Helping Alaska’s Youth

The longest, toughest, snowmobile race in the world, has taken place in Alaska since 1984. It is called the Tesoro Iron Dog. In February of each year this competitive race heats up to produce a most challenging course, modeled after the Iditarod Dog Sled Race begun in 1972. The IRON DOG has grown in popularity primarily among Alaska residents but is now attracting adventuresome snowmachiners from other states as well. 

Snowmobiles, commonly referred to as snowmachines in Alaska, provide essential transportation in the Alaska bush country. Many sportsmen utilize this mode of transport especially during Spring brown bear hunts. Polaris, Artic Cat and SkiDoo, are three of the more popular brands used in the Last Frontier State. Wide tracks, short tracks, studded tracks and long tracks are descriptive of this staple mode of transportation. Some are made for speed while others are built for hauling heavy loads. These machines have special utility value in remote areas.

Imagine temperatures of -60 degrees and speeds up to 100 miles per hour over the fiercely rugged terrain of Alaska. The faster your speed the smoother the ride! Rather than riding the ups and downs of each mogul you merely skip the tops of the moguls. There is even one point along the final stretch into Nome where most Pro Class contestants opt to make faster time by cutting across the edge of the frozen over Bering Sea known as Norton Sound. Some say that up to five miles out from the shore the ocean surface freezes over, providing an exceptional iced over highway where speeds of over 100 mph can be achieved. 

When racers begin to skip over the open water, noted for the deep black color in contrast to the white overflow, they find that their throttle is their best friend. As long as you do not reduce your speed to below fifty or sixty mph, there should not be any danger in sinking hundreds of feet to the ocean floor. The greatest challenge is then trying to find a smooth transition area where you can come off the open water onto the land’s surface again. Of course, for the weak at heart there is always the safer roundabout land route where much valuable time can be lost and several dead-end turnarounds may be encountered.

Dr. Jack Hickel, (former Gov. Wally Hickel's son) an avid snowmachine rider, serves as an medical practitioner in the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage where he treats patients for a wide range of needs, including young Native Americans who have been injured from terrible snowmobile crashes due to alcohol and drug related impairment. Broken bones, severe fractures and neck injuries are common occurrences stemming from the operation of motorized vehicles while under the influence of controlled substances and alcohol. Substance abuse has destroyed or permanently maimed many young lives. 

Dr. Hickel’s unwavering commitment to medical and preventative treatment for young people stems from his 16 year stint as a Christian missionary in Swaziland on the African continent. His dedicated commitment to providing medical service to those who are often overlooked, qualified him to receive the prestigious David Livingstone Award presented by Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship during the 2001 Safari Club International Sportsmen’s Prayer Breakfast. 

One of Hickel’s close friends, Randy Comer, an IRON DOG veteran, recently brought together a core group of avid outdoorsmen who are considering the challenge to join him in entering the 2018 IRON DOG Trail Class. His desire is to help bring further public attention to the growing family crisis in so many Alaska families due to dysfunctional father/son relationships or in some cases the total lack of father figures in the lives of young boys and girls. 

“Of course, we want to complete the Trail Division (you cannot be out there and not have a competitive spirit) but it is more important that we are careful to give back to our nation’s Native Americans to show our appreciation for the rich heritage and vast resources that are now shared together in Greatland Alaska”, Comer commented. 

“The plan is to work together in advance of the event to contact community leaders who would encourage teenage boys and girls to participate in an essay contest to win, along with their father or mentor, an all expense paid trip to one of the father/son youth camps promoted by CSF’s Alaska Wilderness Missions©,” stated Comer. 

Each teenage boy or girl aged 13-19 can qualify by sending their two page essay to CSF headquarters stating what is most endearing about their dad, uncle or mentor and why they would like to attend a week long summer youth camp with their dad, uncle or mentor. The camp experience will include outdoor activities with other father/son teams. Of course, the greatest need among our youth today is the bonding experience with an adult role model, especially their own dad. Young boys are especially vulnerable to negative peer pressure in our secular American culture. 

"Quality time together with adult family members can have a long term effect on a young man’s character and determination to succeed in his life ambitions. In addition to such quality time, it would serve all of us fathers to invest 'quantity time' together in molding young impressionable hearts and minds. Healthy, loving, family environments serve as the foundation for the very survival of our culture and society." Comer added. 

Randy knows the importance in training children in the Christian faith because he has three boys who demand much attention within his own busy schedule. “Yes, today’s youth need healthy recreational activities like snowmachine riding which is excellent for physical wellness, but an even greater need has emerged among the millennial culture that seems to sometimes be turned upside down. We must take the time to invest in our children”, stated Comer. 

Just as the many contestants who enter the IRON DOG race must apply training, discipline and a lot of hard work together as a team, our families must purpose to train and encourage young teenagers to strive for excellence in building quality family relationships, educational pursuits, careers and Christian character. Such goals are not easily attained without a team approach. The team building approach starts with the family then expands to influence future generations as we pass our Christian heritage down to other young impressionable sons and daughters. 

Comer’s team scored first place in the Trail Class division on a previous Iron Dog race, when he joined together with several GCI executives led by Wilson Hughes, the telecom company’s CEO and president. “Hughes was my original IRON DOG trainer and remained relentless in admonishing me to spend ‘Time in the saddle’, in preparation for our first win. To finish this Great Race, for many, is to win this Great Race!” Comer commented.

Sometimes referred to as the “Trophy Class”, the recreational class remains just as challenging but a little less competitive. The primary requirement to place in this division is to complete at least 200 miles each day.  Comer and Hughes along with other team members in their IRON DOG run would train each weekend with practice days consisting of long, hard rides over a two month period until achieving 300 mile trips. Mandatory requirements for survival gear include such items as a sleeping bag, emergency stove, and appropriate outer wear. Most snowmobiles are retrofitted with special shocks, oversized gas tanks and Global Positioning Satellite equipment. 

The brutal Iditarod Trail can be treacherous, if not impossible, for IRON DOG contestants to traverse without the assistance of the many residents along the strenuous route which includes at least fifteen check points. Just having clean gas and oil available in some of the most remote locations on the planet is huge. Some of these communities are populated mostly with Alaska Native residents who extend the warm hospitality to a fellow American caught up in the enthusiasm and excitement of the moment. 

Plans are now underway to construct another Alaska Wilderness Mission father/son youth camp as a transitional outpost for housing construction crews and their families during the Spring, Summer and Fall seasons. Sportsmen from across the United States are being asked to join together with Alaskan residents to support Alaska Wilderness Missions. Pledges of financial assistance can be in amounts from 50 cents and up to $5 or more for every mile that your CSF team attempts and/or actually travels by snowmobile during the 2018 IRON DOG Challenge across Alaska’s terrain from Anchorage to Nome. The course extends just over 1,100 miles for the avid outdoorsman to conquer the longest, toughest snowmobile race in the world. 

Please join with other supporters of CSF’s Alaska Wilderness Missions in promoting this project that is designed especially for the youth of Alaska as we ultimately plan to construct a father/son youth camp on the Kenai Peninsula called Legacy Mountain Wilderness Camp. This transitional outpost will accommodate construction workers and their families while completing short-term mission projects within the state. We hope to extend CSF's construction team presence throughout the Spring, summer and into the fall seasons. 

The purpose of Alaska Wilderness Missions© is to come alongside of existing youth organizations in Alaska who need the critical resource of skilled and unskilled laborers to construct and renovate essential facilities to accommodate youth in attending Bible institutes and colleges as well as youth camps in the summer. There remains over 100 Alaska Native villages across the state of Alaska with no evangelical church influence whatsoever!

As a service arm of Christian Sportsmen’s Fellowship, International, Alaska Wilderness Missions ultimate goal is ...  Bringing Hope to the Next Generation of Alaska’s Youth.

Won’t you help us by calling 770.772.6749 to make your pledge today?