You’ve heard it more than once, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Such is the case with this photo from outside Nome in 2017. The photo reveals so much that it may be worth a few thousand words.
Alan Eischens wearing bib #35 is closing in on his third Iditarod finish. He’s about the length of a football field away from the ramp off the Bering Sea to Nome’s Front Street and the burled arch. Eischens was one of the final four mushers to complete Iditarod XLV. The foursome delighted spectators in Nome crossing the finish line within 38 minutes or each other on Saturday in sunshine and enjoyable temperatures. Those are the facts behind the photo. Is there more to the story?
The jumble of sea ice in the foreground tells a story of the frozen Bering Sea. It’s very different than inland lakes. This moving body of water affected by wind and other natural phenomenon is dynamic. Ice of many inches can be broken and piled on the shore during a storm. Winter on the coast is a season that’s perpetually in motion. The ice jumble is a graphic testimony to the power of Mother Nature.
Either enlarge the photo or squint a bit and you’ll note that Alan is finishing with 16 dogs. Not often does that happen but in 2017 both Al and Jessie Royer accomplished the feat. Eischens has completed the race with 16 dogs two years in a row and has his sights set on a three-peat for 2018. What the photo doesn’t show is the work Eischens put into this goal. He said, “There were times when I wondered if we’d have to scratch but we got back on track with extra rest, love and patience.”
Eischens champions the cause of Pediatric Disease and Disability Awareness. While staying in checkpoints for extra rest, he seized the opportunity to talk to many villagers about Pediatric Disease and Disability. His dedication to his dogs and to his cause paid off in providing opportunities to share valuable information and resources with people along the trail. For most of the village people, it was the first time they had heard about disease and disability specific to children. The information Alan shared opened new avenues of hope for those looking to find answers for their children’s unresolved health questions.
If you see a speck of pink just above Al’s driving bow, it’s not a flaw in the picture. It’s Chicken. A young child, experiencing the hardship of a pediatric disease asked Al to take Chicken on some of his races. Chicken got to see some of the most beautiful and rugged country that Alaska has to offer on the 1,049 mile Iditarod journey. This youngster has started driving a small dog team under Alan’s mentorship and hopes to someday run the JR. Iditarod.
Judging by the tracks both in front of and behind Eischens, the frozen Bering Sea is a popular snow machine route. The ice becomes a highway along the coast used by travelers, fisherman and those out to enjoy a recreational outing.
The expanse of the Bering Sea behind Eischens is a symbol of the 1049 miles the 64 finishers of the 2017 Last Great Race covered. Looking out over the expanse that goes on and on is like looking into eternity. As the mushers started the race at mile zero in Fairbanks, Nome was a dot on the map an eternity away.