August 18, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Teams Approach Kaltag

The checkpoint of Unalakleet is coming together. The light on the internet modem is solid green, a good omen for communicating race stats. The drop bags have been sorted and are in perfect alphabetical order right behind the checkpoint. As mushers come off the river and onto the slough, their bags are taken down to the parking area. Getting straw bales down to the slough was a great source of fun for the kids. The bales wrapped in plastic make for fun sledding down the cut bank onto the slough. The kids pretty much took care of that little chore. Tables and chairs are set up inside the checkpoint building. Early Sunday morning the volunteers who’ll be cooking for the mushers in the checkpoint will begin preparations. Undoubtedly, Middy Johnson will be there with his famous sourdough pancakes and there’ll be plenty of bacon to go with them.

Looking at the race through GPS Tracker, the stats sheets, Insiders – Greg Heister & Bruce Lee and photo guy Jeff Schultz provides interesting information that leaves us wondering who’ll be first into Unalakleet. Nic Petit is thirteen miles south of Kaltag and running. Joar Leifseth Ulsom is 23 miles short of Kaltag and resting. Mitch Seavey is 27 miles south of Kaltag and running. The Bristol Bay Native Corporation Fish First award goes to the first musher to reach Kaltag. The winner will be honored very soon.

A team travels on the Yukon River between the Grayling and Eagle Island checkpoints on Saturday, March 10th during the 2018 Iditarod Sled Dog Race

What happens after the award is presented is going to be a major strategic move. Stay in Kaltag and then make the run to the coast in one move? Go through Kaltag and camp at the tripod Flats cabin then heading to Unalakleet? Nic Petit’s lead is anything but secure. Strategy, speed and rest will play out on the way to the coast.

Teams rest on straw around the village of Grayling community center checkpoint on the Yukon River on Saturday, March 10th during the 2018 Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Looking at the back of the pack, there are teams in Anvik – Noah Pereira, Emily Maxwell and Aaron Peck. Kristi Berington and Andy Pohl are within an hour of the Yukon River village. Ten teams are resting in Shageluk. Musher must take an eight-hour rest between Shageluk and Kaltag. Rob Cooke, Jason Stewart, Misha Wiljes, Lev Shvarts and peter Fleck are within ten miles of Shageluk. The final teams are spread out between mile 420 (Tom Schonberger) and mile 460 (Radano, Muto and Kaltenborn).

Two teams rest during their run up the Yukon River between the Grayling and Eagle Island checkpoints as two snowmachines travel by on Saturday, March 10th during the 2018 Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Shageluk is a community of 83 residents. The Ingalik Indian name means “village of dog people.” A village resident, Adolph Hamilton, helped race organizers find the original trail to the town of Iditarod even though he had only been over the trail once, as a small boy, with his father. Seventeen students attend the PK-12 Innoka River School.

A dog team is but a small speck as they travel on the Yukon River between Grayling and Eagle Island on Saturday, March 10th during the 2018 Iditarod Sled Dog Race

Photo Guy Jeff Schultz is on the move again. His shots from high above the Yukon River are quite spectacular. Hope you enjoy them. Expecting that within a few hours he’ll be sharing the photos of the first team to Kaltag and the First Fish award. GPS Tracker will tell the rest of the story as to who rests and who runs out of Kaltag. Stay tuned!