Thursday, March 3, 2016

Iditarod Dogsled Race Maps For Google Earth

Apologies, but this sorry Google BlogSpot blogging program is so slow that I'll only mention that I've just completed yet another massive Google Earth map in time for this years Iditarod race and that the full Google Earth map is now available - read on.

This new map comes on the heels of another massive USGS Features database map file that I've nearly completed for Alaska. I mean it's so massive I've had to cut it up into segments -- They've got names for everything up there!

It contains the Google Earth KML file of the Iditarod trail for both versions of the yearly run -- of course free!

The Alaska Iditarod Dogsled Race

You did know that the Iditarod uses two different routes every other year didn't you? The northern trail is used for the even years and the southern route in the odd numbered years. This year they're taking the "green" route, it being an even year and all.

Ostensibly the swap is to "lessen the impact on the environment"; but, probably more to point, it spreads the wealth of tourist $$'s (lots of 'em) to isolated towns in need of a boost.

Alaskan's have always been "men of hearty nature" and highly self-sufficient. The Iditarod race commemorates a heroic incident back during the big war when a dogsled team traversed the backcountry to take the newly invented "Salk Polio Vaccine" to families in the north who were being ravaged by Polio.

As "city folk," of skill sets other than subsistence-survival [i.e. marketing agents] began moving into the state, the yearly commemorative event began to take on a new "spin." It became "1049 miles" -- because 1000 sounded better and because old "Seward's Folly" was the 49th state. Even today when the true distance is known, the marketing people claim that it's 1049 miles long.

You'll notice that the race starts in downtown Anchorage -- purely for hype value -- which means that after the chaotic start, all the dog teams must be loaded into airplanes and flown to the other side of the bay. To the location the committee has decided that they're REALLY going to start the race this year!

Next, we've already mentioned the split directions for the race right smack in the middle of the trail -- for whatever the real reasons are. The BLM claims that they've canonized the REAL Iditarod trail and you'll notice that it goes right up the middle and doesn't split off to either the north or the south; although, I'm not really sure that the BLM has got it absolutely accurate either.

It seems like over half of each years route is common to both years so, unless the BLM or someone has got a hunk of area smack in the middle roped off, they don't seem too worried environmentally about most of the trail. It doesn't make much "never mind" to us these days I suppose. The race had a great start for a magnificent reason no matter what the bureaucrats and marketing spin doctors have done to it.

And it puts millions of dollars each year into some pretty depressed areas, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of prize money into a largely forgotten about sport for most of the year.

Iditarod Google Earth Map

The GPS coordinates for the checkpoints of both race trails are in this map. The yellow track (from Anchorage to Ophir and from Kaltag to Nome) is common to both odd and even years. The Green track from Ophir through Ruby to Kaltag is for the even years, the blue track from Ophir through Anvik to Kaltag is used in the odd years. The red track(s) are the BLMs official Iditarod NHT; which doesn't go anywhere near Anchorage.

In addition, I've added all the locations of the BLM "Safety Cabins" which they've built for emergency use at any time (not just for this race). And I've thrown in a huge statistics display for names and distances between the various points.

Other oddities that you may notice in the map are that the trail completely disappears between the Anchorage airport and Willow -- that's because the dogs are in airplanes! Additionally, the trail going straight as an arrow from Norton Bay to Koyuk across "open water" doesn't mean that the dogs are learning to swim -- the ocean is still frozen in March and they're making good time on the ice!

Free Google Earth Map of the Iditarod Race

It's now ready for download: Google Earth Trail FileIditarod Dogsled Race Map Click on the link and, if you've got Google Earth installed on your computer, all you need to do is select "run file" and it'll take you right to it.

Addendum: I've also just added all the USGS Features to the file which line the Iditarod Trail. You can click on the square next to the link in this file to turn them on; or, if you've already loaded the USGS Features file for Alaska you can turn that on instead. The master Alaska features file was just so big that I've created a subset to accompany this map.


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