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Expedition Remembers 1925 Serum Run

A team of mushers and history enthusiasts set out to commemorate the effort to get critical diphteria antitoxin to Nome and prevent an epidemic 95 years ago.

Phil Pryzmont, who described himself as the ‘trail boss’, said “we have six dog teams and seven snowmachine support doing about an 18-day camping trip from Nenana to Nome, following the old mail trail from Nenana to Tanana and then the historic Iditarod Trail from Tanana to Nome. … We’re just doing this so we can get out there with our dogs, with our fellow adventurers, and enjoy traveling across Alaska.”

 A map of the 1925 Serum Run in Alaska.
A map of the 1925 Serum Run from the book ’The Cruelest Miles’, by Gay and Laney Salisbury (W. W. Norton & Co., 2003)

The expeditioners faced at least one hazard the original mushers did not. Nome musher Kirsten Bey broke her leg after an errant snowmachiner crashed into her sled near the village of Galena.

The expedition enjoyed good weather across the Norton Sound, unlike the storm Leonhard Seppala’s team battled 95 years ago, when he and his dogs had to jump across breaking ice floes.

An exhibit of Leonard Seppala and his lead dog, Togo. Photo: Amy Phillips-Chan, used with permission.

60-year-old Massachusetts musher Marla BB’s team encountered sea ice for the first time outside Unalakleet.

“We were on glare ice, and I was the first musher out, so there wasn’t any scent for the dogs. They just have to follow the trail: it’s there and then it’s not there.’”

Stephanie Johnson led the expedition across the finish line into her home town of Nome. While chatting with KNOM on the beach at the edge of town, Johnson shared her joy of blending her team’s personalities, which included a lead dog from Bey’s team, working in concert over the 670-mile trail.

As BB’s dog team munched on snacks of pink salmon at the trail’s end, she said “the trail was spectacular”, describing it as “easy peasy” because she likes wind, and the coastline delivered an abundance of it.

Image at top: Marla BB’s dog team chows down on pink salmon during a live interview at the end of the trail.

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