Iditarod team slides in for visit

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Three-time Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race musher, writer and popular school speaker Karen Land and her Alaskan husky sled dog Borage visited students and teachers at a schoolwide convocation at Waldron Elementary School Wednesday.

During the convocation that lasted over an hour, Land discussed facts about the Alaskan race and herself, quizzed the students on their knowledge of the race, dressed up fifth-grade student Samantha Bates with her racing outfit – which is typically comprised of dozens of layers – and demonstrated racing techniques using second-graders Andrew Bates and Robert Drummond as her “lead dogs.”

The visit also supplemented a fourth-grade study of the race.

WES Principal Gina Pleak arranged Land’s first-ever visit after Columbus’ Rockcreek Elementary School scheduled Land and informed Pleak. “I thought it was wonderful,” said Pleak after the assembly, adding that Land communicated well with the students.

The Iditarod is a 1,150-mile race from Anchorage to Nome, through the Alaskan Range Mountains and down the Yukon River to the Bering Sea, about the distance between Indianapolis and Miami. Mushers run a sled pulled by a 16-dog team day and night, and winners typically finish in about nine days.

Land, who grew up in Indianapolis, never thought she’d be a dog musher, she told the students. After attending college in Montana, she aspired to hike the 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail in 1997 with her pet dog Kirby – all the way from Georgia to Maine in six months.

Along the hike, she picked up a book by Gary Paulson, “Winterdance,” that captured her imagination. The book tells the story of Paulson’s rookie run in the Iditarod.

“It made me really think,” she said, encouraging the students to read Paulson’s books. “Really that one book changed my life.”

After completing a graduate writing program in Maine, Land moved to Montana to begin an apprenticeship at a sled dog kennel, run by 21-time Iditarod racer Terry Adkins. There, she became a dog handler and trainer, and qualified for the Iditarod in fewer than three years, half the time that it usually takes.

Land still lives in Montana where she writes books and magazine articles based on her mushing experiences, and is a columnist for the Great Falls, Mont., Tribune.

Land travels the country with Borage to speak at schools, businesses, libraries and on radio. Last spring, Land and Borage spent two months on the road and held more than 80 Iditarod school, library and private convocations in eight states.

More information about her can be found on her Web site

Source:The Shelbyville News

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