December 21, 2014

Eye on the Trail – McGrath – Abbot & Volek by Terrie Hanke

Wednesday turns into Thursday and plenty is happening at McGrath. Teams are inbound and teams are outbound. Some are staying for a 24-hour rest and start differential adjustment. Some are staying for a short rest and moving eighteen miles up the trail to Takotna for their long rest.

Cindy Abbot made McGrath this morning at about 0730. Her team trotted briskly off the river and down the road to the checkpoint. Stop wasn’t what they had in mind. They were jazzed and wanted to keep right on going. Sled holders, snow hooks, brake and drag pad were ineffective in holding the dogs back. The checker already had a parking spot picked out so he simply jogged in front of the dogs to the fresh straw that was waiting. Finally it seemed they caught on to the idea of taking a bit of a rest. Cindy intends to rest only a few hours here and then run the short distance to the next Takotna and take the long rest there. WHY? Temperatures have been very moderate during the day. Running at night is much cooler which makes for very energetic dogs. If Cindy stayed here she’d be ready to leave as the sun was coming up to run in the warmest part of the day. If she stays here for a short rest then heads to Tokotna and takes her long rest, she’ll be leaving well rested at about suppertime to enjoy the coolness of the evening and perhaps some Aurora activity or at least a star studded sky. Glad to report that Cindy is mending from the groin injury she sustained on her way to Yentna Station.

James Volek had a speedy run from Nikolai to McGrath. His young dogs came in with smiles under their whiskers, curiosity in their eyes and tails held high. His puppies are happy. James will rest two hours longer than his run time and then go on to Takotna for his long rest. Volek told a story about his trip down the Dalzell Gorge. Being at the back of the pack, the trail is showing signs of wear and there‘s plenty of scattered debris from the sled that were ahead of him. There were numerous sled parts lying broken and scattered from the top to the bottom of the ice bridge route one would turn out to be quit useful. He came upon a complete strip of runner plastic. He stopped to move it and then looked back at his own sled to see he was missing a runner strip from his own sled. Well this is handy. He turned his sled on its side and slid the lost, now found plastic onto his runner and proceeded onto Rohn. These sleds are mostly equipped with a universal Quick Change Runner system (QCR). Runner plastic slides into a channel on the runner and secures near the front of the sled making it easy for the mushers to change out according to trail conditions. James talked about the yearlings he was taking along the trail. He said they’re all sweet hard working dogs. One he pointed to was named Swift, aptly named Swift. The dog that was curled up snoozing was noted for being fleet-footed nearly to the point of being supersonic.