The following post (part 1 of 2) was supposed to run yesterday, but due to a severe electrical storm that knocked out our Internet, has been pushed back to today 🙂

Part 1

It took me a very long time to write Ballad of the Northland. It first came into my mind to create ‘Ballad’ when I was eighteen years old. I had volunteered my services to the Iditarod as a checker, and the first place they sent me was Finger Lake. This was back in 1990, when Gene Leonard had a cabin out there, and long before there was any lodge.

I and a number of other fellows and fellowettes (including Montana’s Jack Beckstrom and Norman Vaughan’s wife Caroline) were charged with setting up a camp/checkpoint, figuring out where to park all of the incoming teams, and organizing a mountain of mushers drop bags. We had about a day and a half before the first teams were to arrive to get all of this done, and we worked day and night to make it happen. For a kid like me, this was all terribly exciting. Just looking at the surrounding forest was enough to give me chills (even 20 years later), and the mountains! Simply awe-inspiring. And this was before the drivers even showed up, legendary drivers like Joe Runyan, Joe Garnie, Jerrie Austin and Dewie Halverson; Susan Butcher and Rick Swenson, and tons more. Yeah, you could say I was a bit overwhelmed.

 The first driver in was Runyan, and watching his team break out of the woods on the far side of the lake and come motoring towards us like a freight train gave me a feeling of awe which I never forgot. By that night, our little rustic checkpoint was filled to overflowing with all of the teams and drivers who I had grown up looking up to as if they were gods. It was glorious pandemonium.

It took several days for the race to pass us by; right after the tenth driver departed for Puntilla Lake deep in the Alaska Range, a great cloud of ash and grit descended upon us, and by daybreak, over an inch of the stuff covered the ground. Mount Redoubt in southern  Alaska had blown its top (we later learned), and was belching out a continual plume of smoke, steam, and ash.  This left us, and somewhere around 50 dropped dogs, stranded for almost a week. All in all, I spent about ten glorious days there, and it was during this time that the ‘Ballad’ began to germinate in my head.

Thanks for tuning in–more to follow….


One Response to “Inspiration”

  1. Glorious pandemonium is right. It reads like such a grand adventure; as if it just happened yesterday. Thanks for writing about this so we can all share it again with you.

    Lost electricity here too-the crash when the lightning hit and thunder rumbled simultaneously shook the walls-Xena and I slept sandwiched together–even tonight looking out my loft window the upper level black clouds are really moving-Hope all is well

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