7 a.m. Tuesday in White Mountain—Wake up call – Half Moon on Western Horizon by Joe Runyan
With the half moon orange in the clear arctic horizon, our camp at the White Mountain city building comes to life. The trail breakers, personified in their leader Roger Ashcrafts’ tough comic style, rise from the tiled floor of city hall and don gear rapidly. Apparently Roger believed it was an hour later, a source of more of his humor. They have already marked and groomed the trail past a shelter cabin—about 20 miles out— at the base of Topkok. They are the mushers scouts and prepare to mark and groom the trail to Nome. I am amazed that this group has not been commercialized—always comic, hardworking and entirely competent. They have an oral history of swamped machines, waste deep water incidents, buried in snow favorites, mechanical repairs, and memorable fresh crab dinners.
Aliy Zirkle, with a wake up call of 6:30 AM, gathers will power despite a sleep deficit and starts to assemble her clothes and load for the 77 mile last leg to the finish. She has been sucked into the vortex of one of the big stories of the race today. After scrambling to reach Dallas Seavey, she now looks backward to Ramey Smyth, who has risen from the ashes of a burnt early race—he was 30th in Ruby (my memory, but he was basically out of the running)—and climbed his way spectacularly to 3rd place, methodically demoralizing a great number of his mushing friends. Now just 52 minutes behind Aliy, he is in his habitual striking range.
All of us that know Ramey, one of the kindest personalities on the trail, and Aliy, universally regarded as a cheerful and positive friend, have somehow been selected by fate to race to Nome. Why weren’t a couple of abrasive personalities matched to suffer?
Ramey is one of the living legendary mushers who is so well known for overwhelming finishes that you constantly hear, “If it wasn’t Ramey Smyth I wouldn’t be worried” or groans, “Ramey came behind in the night and brought me down a place” or , like, Aaron Burmeister, “Luckily Ramey passed me last night and I don’t have to worry about him anymore.” I take a photo of Ramey who wryly smiles, “My wife will think that all I do is sit around checkpoints.”
Using resources freely available at Iditarod, note Dallas leaves at 8:14 a.m., hoping for a flawless run (despite a painfully blistered big toe) to avoid a push by Aliy Zirkle, leaving at 9:25 Am, in turn flexing her neck muscles to check on Ramey Smyth, departing 52 minutes later at 10:17 AM, who is presently slipping into his light weight moccasins, a suitable footwear for running. Ramey comments, “The snow has been hard pulling for the entire race. We never got a feeling that we had a stretch where the sleds were sliding and the dogs got a break.”
Another drama in the top ten
Into White Mountain, we note a race between Champs John Baker, Mitch Seavey versus surging Ray Redington. The top ten is in disarray.
Stacked in Shak
FLASH COMMS to COMMS- What’s going on with the big pile up in Shaktoolik??? Questions, why the traffic jam in Shak, whats the delay, why no one out? Our COMMS guy calls their COMMS guy Andy. White Mountain judge can talk to Shaktoolik judge?
Blowing snow, stiff winds, temperatures temper musher exits. Our records show that no mushers in Shak have left since 4:00 p.m. yesterday. Our sources in Shak assert that visibility is ABOUT a quarter mile and no one is sure of the severity of the ground storm on the ice to Koyuk. The mushing population continues to stack in Shak—–waiting for weather to moderate.
The checkpoint prepares to move outside to watch Dallas depart for direction NOME. Aliy on alert for a fast surging Ramey Smyth, and Aaron Burmeister reasonably protected in his position in 4th.