While Joar Leifseth Ulsom was on his way to Nome from White Mountain, Shayne Traska was feeding her dogs on the slough in Unalakleet. Shayne and Joar, pictured above, were the lucky mushers to win free entry fees for the 20918 Iditarod. As they signed up to race at the Volunteer Picnic at Iditarod Headquarters in June, they both undoubtedly had dreams and goals for their Iditarod experience. On the day Joar reached the ultimate goal of being the Iditarod Champion, Shayne was rejoicing in reaching the coast and having less than 300 miles to go before standing under the Burled Arch in Nome.
“Less than 300 miles” still sounded like a very long way to Shayne as she organized her gear and decided what to take into the checkpoint for a late supper and a couple hours of rest. We talked about Colleen Robertia’s strategy of a couple years back. Three hundred miles seems more manageable if thought about as five 60 mile runs. Shayne is resting in Shaktoolik now with 221 miles to Nome or 3.6 60 mile runs.
Anja Radano praised her leader Butcher this morning in Unalakleet. Anja said the really difficult sections of the trail were the Yukon River and the Kaltag portage. The trail was drifted over and very difficult to see. The trail markers were few and far between. It was a bad feeling for her not knowing where the trail was. It was Butcher that got her through, she found the trail and followed it into Unalakleet. Where’d the name Butcher come from? The litter was named for Champions. Susan Butcher is one of two women to ever win Iditarod and she did it four times between 1986 and 1990.
Meridith Mapes was munching on a cookie and sharing some of her thoughts about what lies between Unalakleet and Shaktoolik. She knows the Blueberry Hills will be a challenge today with the blowing and drifting snow. Mapes was very happy to be on the coast. She’s proud of her dog team and the miles they’ve covered so far. Mapes has gleaned most of her trail information from the Don Bower’s trail notes. While the trail doesn’t follow the same exact route year after year, the notes provide solid information about the terrain mushers will encounter.
Jason Stewart was the happiest musher I’ve seen in Unalakleet. Stewart was wearing and ear to ear smile that reflected his gratitude for the opportunity to run his dogs across the great state of Alaska and experience the beauty and challenges along the way. Stewart was changing out sleds and talking to one of the village mushing legends about sled design and other mushing things. Meredith and Jason arrived with in minutes of each other and plan to depart early enough to make most of the run to Shaktoolik before nightfall.
Magnus Kaltenborn came out of the snow into Unalakleet at 12:38 with 14 very spirited dogs. The dogs were very enthusiastic and looked like they were having much more fun than Magnus who was hidden behind his snorkled fur ruff and neck gator. Magnus is from Norway and became interested in mushing while following two-time Iditarod Champion, Norwegian Robert Sorlie. Kaltenborn apprenticed with Martin Buser.
There is an army of volunteers at the Unalakleet checkpoint. Meals are prepared by two volunteer cooks. Last evening we enjoyed potato salad, hotdogs, burgers, sloppy joe, salmon, green beans and frozen fruit. We thank the cooks, Reb and Mary of Unalakleet.