June 18, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Unalakleet on Monday Morning

Looking at the race from Unalakleet on Monday morning, nothing is set in stone but the guys directly behind Mitch Seavey aren’t focusing on catching him (if you can believe that). If you’ve watched some of the Insider video posted just recently, you’ve heard their thoughts.

Mitch Seavey and Team into Unalakleet

Dallas Seavey and Joar Leifseth Ulsom were at the shelter cabin between Shaktoolik and Koyuk when they spoke with Insider. Neither man thought they’d be able to catch Mitch who has a fifty-mile lead. Dallas says tryng to catch Mitch would simply not be good dogmanship. He is focusing on the best race for his dogs but also being in a position to take advantage of any opportunities that might present themselves. When Joar was asked what he could do to catch Mitch, He replied, “Dallas doesn’t think he can catch him, why should I?”  Check the Insider clips for that interview.

Race Marshall, Mark Norman Setting the Stage in Unalakleet

Speaking of opportunities, one has only to think back a couple of years to 2014. Jeff King was expected on Front Street first but his tracker showed him stopped outside of Safety. Then we saw Aliy pass him and make Safety then tracker showed her stopped at Safety. All this time Dallas was making slow but steady progress toward Safety, made Safety and then continued toward Nome. Jeff was stopped by horrific wind and icy trails. Aliy passed him without knowing it. She stopped at Safety to regroup from the same storm that had stopped King. Conditions had improved just enough for Seavey to push on through and claim first. Does he have that scenario planted in his mind right now?

Now in looking at the tracker, It’s not Dallas and Joar who are attempting to close the miles between themselves and Mitch Seavey, It’s Nicolas Petit. Granted, Mitch has been in Koyuk resting since breakfast this morning but Petit will soon join him. Keep an eye on this. Mitch has 12 dogs on his line and Petit has 13. Is it a lucky 13 for the French born Petit?

Getting back to where I’m located, it’s a clear morning and the moon is setting over the Bering Sea while the sun is rising aver the Kaltag Portage. I wish there was a spot to stand to capture both images by simply turning 180°. Most recently Aliy Zirkle , Peter Kaiser and Michelle Phillips have departed Unalakleet. They are making their way to Shaktoolik through the Blueberry Hills. Ray Redington Jr. is parked on the slough in Unalakleet with ten other mushers.

Richie Diehl made UNK three hours after Ray Jr. Since then, the five o’clock hour was the busiest with 4 teams arriving. Now it’s spread out with an hour between teams arriving. Nineteen mushers are on the trail between Kaltag and Unalakleet so the slough is going to be hopping with activity today.

Middy Johnson, the Chef and Organizer of the Unalakleet Kitchen

Meet a couple of the guys behind the scenes of the Race. Middy Johnson coordinates the kitchen of the Unalakleet checkpoint. He is famous for his sourdough pancakes. There’s bacon frying in the checkpoint at all times. During the race, they go through pounds and pounds of bacon. Villagers bring in other delicious dishes. Yesterday there was smoked salmon, either Cajun or peppered. Mark Nordman is the Race Marshall. He’s directing traffic in Unalakleet just prior to the arrival of Wade Marks. He’s getting the checker (Kermit) in position as well as Jodi who is standing in for the Insider team.

Stay tuned for the exciting events of Monday. Watch the latest events unfold with Insider video and postings by Joe Runyan and your Eye on the Trail.