by Donald Bowers, Jr.
This is normally a yawner (unless the wind is blowing or it’s snowing). The trail follows the main snowmachine route, running straight as an arrow for ten miles across Golovnin Lagoon, then winding gently around (with some gentle ups and downs) to cross the delta of the Fish River. The last few miles are on the river. There is sometimes overflow on the lagoon or river. Plan on two hours for the trip, perhaps three if the wind is blowing.
You’ll leave Golovin directly onto the ice of Golovnin Lagoon. The trail will usually be hard, fast, and straight. At night, you will be pointing directly at the green-and-white flash of the White Mountain airport beacon; you’ll see it for the entire leg. During the day you will see a group of hills to the northwest; White Mountain is on the left edge of the hills on the Fish River.
The trail is usually marked with an endless line of Iditarod-standard trail stakes with gold reflective tape. It will be completely flat until it begins to cross the Fish River delta; even then you may not notice when you’re back on dry land eventually start to wind around a bit and make a few very gentle climbs and descents before you get to Fish River itself.
Once you’re on the river, you’ll have low wooded banks on your left and forested ridges coming down to the river on the right. After a couple of miles on the river you’ll swing around a bend to the right and will see the town spread out on the right bank of the river. Just follow the markers to the parking area; the checker will meet you.
Water may be available, but you might be melting snow. The dogs will be parked on the riverbank below the town, and should be sheltered from a north wind. The checkpoint is in the city hall/library/armory building a couple of blocks away. There is usually plenty to eat in the kitchen and a place to toss your sleeping bag to crash for awhile. You will be taking a mandatory eight-hour layover here, so you may as well get some sleep before you push on to Nome.