Tandem sledding on Big Trout Lake
FALL 2010


Welcome friends of SUOMI HILLS KENNEL. The dogs and I returned from Juneau, Alaska, this fall on September 23, 2010. We had a good summer giving about 300 cart rides to cruise ship passengers. The dogs and I both worked very hard and are very happy to be home in Minnesota. Being gone all summer means we are far behind on home chores, but we have been working very hard to catch up.

Training dogs is one of the top priorities in the fall. Other than that we are preparing for our winter tour season, trying to work on a few trails, and doing a little home improvement. Also, I am flying whenever possible to become a better pilot.

I expect to start giving tours around Christmas if not before and continue into March. Then we will be preparing for another trip to Alaska. The plan is to spend another summer at the Sheep Creek Dog Camp operated by Alaska Icefield Expeditions and Temsco Helicopters. The following article is about one part of the tour we give up in Alaska: The History Tent.

Thank you for your support of SUOMI HILLS KENNEL

Happy Trails to You, Joel


NOTE: This was written in Alaska for a deaf group coming to take a tour. It is written the way we tell it as we are giving the sled dog tour in Alaska. As part of the tour, customers enter the Introduction tent, then take a sled dog cart ride, go through the history tent, race tent, and “Lilly’s Place” where they are served hot chocolate and cookies, and finally visit the puppy pen.

We don’t really know when sled dogs were first put into use by humans, but some evidence suggests possibly 10,000 years ago. The native people in Alaska have been using sled dogs for hunting, fishing, and general transportation needs for a long time.

Most of the photos in this tent are Alaskan Gold Rush era photos. During the Alaskan Gold Rush, which peaked in 1898, thousands of people came to Alaska hoping to become rich. It didn’t take them long to realize the sled dog was the best means of transportation. Sled dogs were so valuable during these days that people would steal dogs from places like Seattle and San Francisco and bring them up to Alaska where they could get a hundred dollars a dog.

In the winter of 1925, in the little gold mining town of Nome on the western end of Alaska, sled dogs saved the day, or actually saved the town, when a diphtheria epidemic hit the town. In 1925 travel to and from Nome was primarily by ship during the summer. Once winter set in, most people in Nome were stuck there until spring.

History Tent

When diphtheria broke out in the winter of 1925, it was feared that the whole town would perish unless somehow they could get a delivery of serum to vaccinate the entire town. Eventually the serum was ordered from Seattle. It came up to Seward, Alaska, by ship, and then it went to Nennana in the interior of Alaska by train. From there it was still 700 miles across the Alaska wilderness to Nome. A relay of 25 dog teams was set up so each musher would carry the serum for 20 to 80 miles before passing it on to the next musher waiting with a fresh team of dogs. The dog teams covered the 700 miles in five and a half days and were credited with saving the entire town. This became a huge story all around the country; it even made the news in Europe. As usual with news reporters though, they put their own slant on the story. They made a big hero of the last musher and the lead dog of the last team to come into Nome with the serum and neglected the other 24 mushers and hundreds of dogs. The lead dog of that last team was a dog called Balto. We have his picture on the end of this tent. Today there are children’s stories and books written about Balto. There are movies about Balto, and there is even a big statue of Balto in Central Park in New York City.

As time progressed, snowmobiles and airplanes came of age and sled dogs started to become less and less popular. In the 1960s a man by the name of Joe Redington decided that something had to be done to insure that the sled dog not become extinct. He decided that running a race from Anchorage to Nome to commemorate the serum run and the importance of sled dogs in Alaskan history would help to keep the sled dogs around. Joe ran into a lot of opposition. People felt that the 1,000 miles between Anchorage and Nome would be too far for the dogs and the mushers. Joe refused to be stopped by all the opposition, and in 1973 he mortgaged his house to guarantee the purse for the first race. The race was run successfully. Dick Wilmarth won it in 21 days, the last place team finished in about a month. The race is known as “The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race” and has been run every year since. Today the winners finish in 9 days and the last place teams usually finish in about 14 or 15 days. Joe Redington is known as the father of the Iditarod.



Cedar is the off-spring of Star and Amos and littermate to Willow. Whelped in the spring of 2005, he and Willow were too young to work on the Glacier in Alaska that summer, so they stayed in Minnesota and were raised by Sara Lubesmeier until I returned in the fall.

Cedar started working in lead several years ago and has gradually built up the confidence to become a main leader. He loves his job as a lead dog and works very hard at it. He always wants to make sure he is doing what I want and is a little uneasy when he is not sure what to do.

Cedar has a pretty, reddish smooth coat and is a little shorter than most of my dogs. He has always been a very healthy and happy dog. Cedar likes to show his affection by jumping into my arms. My favorite trait of Cedar’s is his happy, happy attitude.

Read my Journal "To Alaska Again - Spring 2010"

Past Newsletters: Fall 2008 | Spring 2009 | Fall 2009 | Spring 2010