WASILLA — Mushers of all experience levels are invited to partake in the Nome 40/10 Hal Bartko Memorial, a recreational sled dog race that provides locals and visitors alike a chance to honor Hal’s life by having fun on the Historic Iditarod Trail.
“It’s just kind of a fun thing. It’s not real competitive or anything,” Hal’s son, Doug Bartko, said.
The 40-mile race starts at Knik Lake, ventures down the Iditarod Trail for 20 miles to the Nome sign, and loops back to Knik. The 10 mile race also goes down the Iditarod Trail, but only for five miles before turning back.
“The reason I like doing is because all you have to do is follow the Iditarod trail signs… It’s hard to get lost on too,” Bartko said with a laugh.
There are prizes for top places that are funded by participating musher’s registration fees. It’s $25 for the 10-mile and $50 for the 40-mile. Bartko said that the community continues to show interest in this race and supports it with their race fees and general donations.
“It’s been musher supported,” Bartko said.
Bartko noted that this recreational race makes for an effective training ground for new mushers or a noncompetitive excursion for those looking to keep their teams sharp. He said the low key event also serves as a social conduit that brings the mushing community together.
“Knik Bar is one of my favorite places to go to. I like going out there and meeting new mushers… The people who’ve come up from you know, like Seward or out of state, they’re really excited. It’s a really good trail to run on,” Bartko said.
Bartko has been organizing this race for over 15 years. He said that he started with Terry Langholz who continues to help mark the trail every year. He said that mushing his family fostered his love for recreational mushing.
“Our family, we’ve always kind of been recreational mushers really,” Bartko said.
Bartko said that his father, Hal, was good friends with Joe Redington, the “Father of the Iditarod ‘’ and one of Knik’s most famous residents. He said that Hal supported Redington and the sport of mushing as a whole in numerous capacities over the years.
“My dad was always helping out and supporting Joe Redington and all his efforts to help Iditarod get started and that kind of thing. So, when he passed away I just thought we’d have a memorial race for him,” Bartko said.
Bartko said that he’s glad that he’s been able to keep this annual tradition going all these years in his father’s name. He said it’s grown into a popular event that draws in a fair amount of mushers and became one the main winter events Knik residents look forward to every year.
“He’d be shocked,” Bartko said with a laugh. “It’s just a chance to break up the winter darkness, you know?”
The Nome 40/10 Hal Bartko Memorial is set for March 14. Mushers can sign up the day of the race at the Knik Bar. For more information, call 907-376-3818 or visit the Knik Bar Facebook page.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at email@example.com