Paul Johnson, of Unalakleet, is returning to the Last Great Race after a 25-year absence.
"To keep Iditarod interest in the coastal communities, it's nice to have more local mushers...we have guys in Kotzebue and Bethel, but it's more special when you have someone closer to home,” Johnson said.
The race itself hits Johnson pretty close to home. He's the grandson of serum run musher Henry Ivanoff, who took part in the historic relay to Nome that gave the race its roots.
“Whenever I cross Norton Bay, you feel a little special knowing my grandpa went across the same trail,” Johnson said.
In the quarter-century since Johnson last participated in the race, much has changed, including the stature of a certain 4-time champion, Martin Buser, who finished behind Johnson in 1986.
“I told him he had 25 years to practice so he could beat me,” Johnson joked.
Johnson's team isn't lacking practice. They ran with his brother, Middie, in 2010, coming in 33rd.
Johnson merely hopes to improve and feel 25 again.
“We had a lot invested in the dogs, it'd be a shame to have them parked at home,” he said.