March 21, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Back of the Pack in Tanana

It’s the back of the pack who remain in Tanana or have recently departed Tanana and are beginning the 120 mile journey to Ruby. As we head to the end of the day in Tanana, there are 15 mushers still in the checkpoint. The final three, Larry Dougherty, Ellen Halverson and Jimmy Lebling, have arrived from Manley.

Michael Baker drove a spirited group of young huskies into the checkpoint at 14:42 this afternoon. The checkpoint was bathed in sun and it felt almost balmy although the temp was only a few degrees above zero. That was warm by anyone’s standards compared to how could it’s been over the past two nights. Baker is a rookie who’s worked for Matthew Failor at 17th Dog Kennel for the past three years. Baker’s time in from Manley was 11hrs, 41mins.

Matthew Failor arrived in Tanana at 14:54 with 15 very enthusiastic dogs. Failor and his right hand Man Michael Baker are running puppies for the 2017 race. Failor praised his team and has been impressed with different dogs who’ve run in lead. Matthew’s first Iditarod was in 2012. He’s started five races and finished five. His best finish was 15th. From the looks of the 17th Dog puppy teams, Matthew’s kennel has a very bright future.

Zoya DeNure is on the trail to Ruby.  She took nearly eleven hours of rest here before departing at 18:47.  Zoya is happy with how her dogs are performing it seems they are liking the brisk weather and running with great enthusiasm.  DeNure grew up in Wisconsin then spent 12 years in the fashion industry as a model.  When she became tired of the pressure of that lifestyle she headed to Alaska with only a carryon and the dream of running sled dogs.  Zoya’s completed her rookie race in 2008 and has attempted Nome 5 times since then.  She’s determined to finish the race this year in a respectable position.

Cindy Abbot in Fullerton Colors

Cindy Abbott rolled into the checkpoint at 14:47. They ran right past the checker and seemed to be looking for the out chute to keep on going to Ruby. Cindy had other ideas and now her team is resting across the road from the chute leading to the Yukon River and eventually Ruby. Abbott is a resident of Willow. Her first attempt on Nome was in 2013. She was forced to scratch at Kaltag with an injury. In 2014 she returned to the race but was injured and scratched in McGrath. As it turns out, the third time was a charm for Abbott who completed the race in 2015, receiving the Red Lantern. Abbott Works with Vern Halter at Dream of Dream and decided to take a team to Nome again this year. Abbott has climbed Mt. Everest and is the only woman who has accomplish Everest as well as Iditarod.

Lt Col Snow Dog

Lt Col Snow Dog (aka Roger Lee) brought his team into Tanana as the sun was still bright but low in the western sky. Note the shadows of his team in this picture. Lee is a rookie who is taking a sabbatical from the Air Force. He’s trained in cold weather survival that has really paid off over the past couple of nights. Roger was born in California to British parents and was raised near Liverpool, England. Lee’s Iditarod dream was born through skijoring and meeting Iditarod Veteran DeeDee Jonrowe. Lee has had the privilege of working and training with the Mushing Mortician, Scott Janssen. Roger is driving a team of Janssen dogs and is very happy to be a part of team Janssen along with Kristi and Anna Berington.

Monica Zappa Boots Preparing to Depart Tanana

Monica Zappa is easy to spot on the trail and anywhere in a checkpoint. She wears neon clothing that would brighten anyone’s attitude. She’s preparing to depart Tanana with her trusty Blue Steel in lead. Zappa has a numeric “thing” going in Iditarod. Each year she’s run the race she’s placed 47th but she’s cut 24 hours from her time of the previous year. Can she keep the record going? If so she’ll finish in 47th place and come into Nome with a time of 10 days… Monica departed for Ruby at 14:31 with 13 dogs. She’s completed her required 8 hour Yukon layover.

Trent Herbst Leaves for Ruby

Fourth grade teacher Trent Herbst is heading to Ruby with his Puppy team from Nature’s Kennel of Michigan’s UP. Herbst from Ketchum, Idaho has started 8 races and finished 8 races. His best finish was 25th. Herbst’s 14-year-old daughter, Kali, participated in the Jr. Iditarod running part of her father’s team. Kali received the Humanitarian award for the Jr. race for exemplary dog care. She is a chip of the old block. Trent’s 4th grade students are closely involved with his preparations for the race.   

By this time tomorrow the Tanana checkpoint will be closed. Many thanks go out to the people who have worked tirelessly at the checkpoint. The community has brought in food for the mushers and the volunteers. The hot dishes and soups, baked Beans and sandwiches, pancakes and bacon along with the mountains of home baked cookies were delicious and much appreciated.   The smoked salmon spread sandwiches were the most sought after item. Here’s the recipe. Use a good quality wild smoked salmon. Add mayo and pickle relish until it looks just right. Serve the spread on whole wheat bread or on Pilot Bread.