Adventure awaits armchair travelers
February 27, 2013 4:20PM
Updated: April 1, 2013 7:33AM
Some great family destinations are as close as your computer. Two of my favorite websites will soon be at their annual best.
One takes visitors along on a wild ride across some of the world’s most harsh terrain and weather conditions, but from the warm comfort of your desk. The other allows you to be a closeup voyeur in a fascinating spectacle of nature.
Starting on Saturday, this website will take armchair adventurers along a route of nearly 1,000 miles on “The Last Great Race on Earth,” the Iditarod.
As of now there are 66 mushers planning to race from Anchorage to Nome: 50 men and 16 women; 53 veterans and 13 rookies, including one from the Chicago suburbs who runs a landscaping company there in the warm months.
Another is from Jamaica. These mushers have typically participated in more than two years of qualifying races before entering their first Iditarod.
While the mushers get all the glory, the real athletes of this race are the dogs. Each team typically has 12 to 16. That means about 1,000 dogs are being prepared to hit the trail.
Volunteer veterinarians from around the world come to assist with prescreening of the dogs’ health, and to perform the 10,000 plus examinations at checkpoints along the trail.
On the website you can learn a lot about the Iditarod — its history, dogs, mushers and the planning and support behind the scenes. There are also blogs giving personal perspectives from veterans and rookies, and videos on interesting points of the race like the veterinary screenings and the equipment used.
Some of my favorite links are to posts by the “teacher on the trail” who is always a wide-eyed reporter with special access to the wide spectrum of activities before and during the Iditarod. This year’s teacher is Linda Fenton, a third-grade teacher from Waupaca, Wis.
The education site also has lessons targeted to students and school subscribers, and information and blogs, including some from a dog’s perspective, for various ages of children.
The Iditarod has been run since 1973, after being promoted by a history buff as a way to make people in the era of cars, airplanes and snowmobiles more aware of the importance of the use of sled dogs as a traditional means of transport and communication in Alaska.
The race and route also pay tribute to the 1925 serum run in which a dogsled relay rushed diphtheria antitoxin to Nome, and is believed to have saved the icebound city from an epidemic.
Although it took five days to deliver the serum, the dog sled method of delivery was believed to be more likely successful than flying a plane through the harsh winter conditions at that time.
This site has links to more than a dozen live streaming feeds from cameras placed overlooking raptor nests. Some are even infrared to show a nocturnal bird’s behavior when it’s at its most active.
It’s been an exciting couple of weeks on this site as the season’s first eggs were laid at two eagle nests and one owl nest, and the parents are now dedicatedly sitting on their nest.
The first BirdCam went online in 1998, focused on a Peregrine falcon nesting at a power plant. It drew a huge following and was the beginning of an expanding BirdCam collaboration between the Raptor Resource Project and the Xcel Energy Co.
In recent years the most popular camera has had its sights on a bald eagle pair nesting and raising their young in a tree in Decorah, Iowa.
Sadly, two of the three of last year’s eaglets have been electrocuted from contact with power lines. And just last week, the eagle pair decided to move into a new nest they constructed last fall, which is, unfortunately, out of sight of the camera.
Raptor Resource Project is hoping to get approval from landowners to install a camera near the new nest this fall.