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Monday, August 23, 2010

Alaskan adventure

I am Paul McLarty 63C 66L, Emory Alumni Board president, and I recently returned from a trip to Alaska and the Yukon with Emory classmate and fraternity brother, Jim Alexander 63C.

There were many highlights on this trip, including visits to Denali and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks, the Chilkoot Trail, gold mining ghost towns, breathtaking mountain passes, Top of the World Highway, viewing wildlife (bears, moose, caribou, eagles, dall sheep), glaciers and salmon fishing. We covered over 3200 miles in two and a half weeks.

In preparation for this trip, we tried to find Emory alumni who live in the areas on our itinerary. We made contact with Jodi Bailey 91C. This turned out to be one of the most interesting visits on our trip. Jodi grew up on Martha’s Vineyard, attended Emory, earning her degree in Drama and Anthropology in 1991. The summer after her freshman year at Emory she went to Alaska to study Athabascan storytelling in Fairbanks. She fell in love with Alaska and returned there immediately after her graduation in 1991. Someone talked her into taking a sled dog and that was the beginning of her passion for mushing.

Today, Jodi and her partner, Dan Kaduce, operate Dew Claw Kennel. Jodi is a faculty member of the University of Alaska in rural and community development and Dan does seasonal work with TJ’s Land Clearing.

The dogs, however, are central to their lives. As Jodi says, “I think I mostly got started as the natural progression of my love of the Alaskan lifestyle and the outdoors. I began mushing as a fun way to get out and explore in winter. But as our kennel grew and we gained experience the next step was trying races and events. I enjoy working hard with the dogs all season and then having the opportunity to participate in events with other teams. It adds fun and excitement. Plus, it gives me a chance to travel by dog team in parts of the state and places I would not get to see otherwise.

Dan had a background in competitive sports, and was the first to race seriously. After a while of being involved in every aspect of training and preparation it was natural that I would also want to take a turn at running the race team in events.

Mushing is a lifestyle – not a hobby. Racing has really helped me to improve as a musher, and given me a great sense of focus in life. When I race, those are some of my most treasured times. You are out there with your team totally focused on the dogs and the trail ahead of you. The rest of the world melts away and you don’t have a job or email or bills. It is just you and the dog and the trail. I feel very lucky to be able to get out in the Alaska back-country and feel that way.

I know the Iditarod will be the biggest challenge the dogs and I will face together, and I am really looking forward to it.”

Jodi has registered to race in the Iditarod in March 2011.

In addition to the Dew Claw Kennel website, you should also check out http://iditarodblogs.com/news/files/2010/05/2010-Awards-Photos.pdf. Dan was the Iditarod Rookie of the Year in 2010 and there is an article about Jodi having registered to race in 2011.

If you are going to be in the Chatanika, Alaska area (about 35 miles from Fairbanks) you may want to arrange a visit to Dew Claw Kennel. At the very least you should have lunch at Chatanika Lodge and learn about outhouse racing. I am not kidding!

--Paul McLarty 63C 66L, president, Emory Alumni Board

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