Joe Redington Sr. is best known for being the Father of the Iditarod. But he was so much more, too. He was a true Alaskan pioneer. A trustworthy gentleman who was determined to preserve Alaskan history. And probably the best book that I’ve read about Joe Redington is Champion of Alaskan Huskies: Joe Redington Sr., Father of the Iditarod.
Overview of Champion of Alaskan Huskies
Champion of Alaskan Huskies: Joe Redington Sr., Father of the Iditarod is written by Katie Mangelsdorf. Unlike many biographies where the books are written after the death of a person, Mangelsdorf actively interviewed Joe Redington and his wife, Vi, for the book before Redington passed away in 1999. Published in 2011, this gives the book a very unique spin on hearing what actually happened during the Redingtons’ lives.
The Epitome of the Alaskan Spirit
Joe Redington Sr. came to Alaska in 1948. At the time he was considered a cheechako, someone who was new to Alaska and didn’t know a thing about true Alaska living. But as his life progressed he became a true sourdough, someone who truly understood Alaska living and all that went along with it. He was the epitome of the Alaskan spirit. He never gave up, and he was a man of his word who always looked out for others.
It is impossible to really describe everything that Redington accomplished. He and his wife made a formidable team, and it seemed as if almost nothing could stand in their way. The only way to catch a glimpse at what the Redingtons accomplished and the work that they did would be to read Champion of Alaskan Huskies for yourself. In the book you will come to really understand and appreciate Redington’s character. But you will also learn about the remarkable feats that he accomplished in his life.
The Iditarod Trail and the Last Great Race
Redington was the reason the Iditarod Trail became a national historic trail. He spent years of his life working to find and re-establish the Iditarod trail that was formerly used to transport people, freight and mail. In the meantime, his wife, Vi, wrote anyone who had political sway to ensure it became a national landmark. From there Joe Redington also was the driving force to begin the Iditarod sled dog race. Without him, that race would be nonexistent. He spearheaded the efforts to make it happen, fronting money for the race purse, making sure logistics happened, and racing his dogs in the race. For this story alone it is well worth reading Champion of Alaskan Huskies.
But Joe Redington didn’t stop there. He wanted to preserve Alaskan huskies into Alaskan culture and history along with the Iditarod trail. And he wanted to prove that Alaskan huskies could accomplish incredible feats when others doubted the dogs. So in 1979 he climbed Denali with a team of dogs, and a small team of individuals to help him and document the climb. It was a feat that no one expected him to be able to accomplish – but they made it up the mountain.
Oftentimes people slow down as they age. Joe Redington did not. He was over 60 years old when he climbed Denali with his dogs. And he was 80 years old when he ran his final Iditarod, a 1,000 mile dog sled race through Alaskan wilderness, in 1997. When he passed away from cancer in 1999, he was mourned by beloved fans, friends, and family who looked up to this amazing Alaskan.
A Book that Teaches Character, Perseverance, and what Living is All About
Joe Redington Sr. truly lived. He did not give up. And he always chased after his dreams. This is a perfect book to learn about the Alaskan spirit and understand what it means to live in the bush of Alaska. The book is very clean and while it talks about some of life’s hardships, it does so in a way that presents the struggles as learning experiences. The reading level would be perfectly acceptable for high school on up, or possibly younger if you read the book to your children or had an avid reader on your hands. I highly, highly recommend Champion of Alaskan Huskies to anyone who wants to know the history of the Iditarod, dog sledding, or what it means to live in the Alaskan bush. You won’t be disappointed in this book, and you will be inspired to always chase after your dreams.
Want to learn more about the Iditarod with your family? Be sure to check out our Iditarod curriculum – a downloadable unit study with access to lifetime updates!