The big day is here and the sun is greeting us. Iditarod 41 is going to take off from Willow at 2 p.m. The iron dog is loaded, camera batteries charged. Looking at the weather it should be pleasant for taking pictures, with daytime hights above freezing. Even looking ” trail ” – forward, that seems to be the trend, with 39 F in the forecast for Mc Grath for Tuesday. That for sure will have to play into the strategy of the mushers, which will have to avoid running through the “ heat of the day “. That might mean a lot more camp outs and staying outside of checkpoints , if a musher wants to stay competitive.
Personally I used to like to camp out. Less distractions and more focus on the dogs. Little tricks can help a lot. In a checkpoint there is water readily available. Melting snow takes much more time. So instead of melting snow, I send crushed ice to the Checkpoints and carried that with me, to the camp out spot, to speed up the water making process. That works well also, in places like Rohn, where its an about 10 minute walk to the River to get water. Using the ice there, was much quicker. Picking a good and quite camp spot is important, to where a resting team is not disturbed by passing teams. Some teams will elect to already camp on the Yentna or Skwentna River tonight, and there, with all its snowmachine tracks, it is relatively easy to get away from the main dog trail. It gets a bit trickier in “ stick country “ in the Mountains. Camping on an open lake works well, as long as there is no wind. An its pretty darn annoying to just having settled into a nice afternoon nap camp, just to have a 20 mile hr north breeze kick up. There is some favorite camp spots like Finnbear Lake ( others call it Helicopter Lake, because there are the remnants of a downed one there ), because it is small, protected and has some nice bays to camp in.
Some mushers will “ push “ all the way to Skwentna, an about 7 hrs run, will yet others will keep their “ runs short” to about 5 hrs and camp out. The days of equal run and equal rest a long gone for the more competitive teams, matter of fact, it is nice to make sure that 16 monster energetic dogs have a little less steam, to have them a bit more manageable in difficult areas like the Happy River Steps, which are from what trail reports reveal, look nice this year. Some mushers carry “ schedules “ with them, trying to give them a guideline along the trail, of where to do what. I used to do the same, but than the more experience I gained, the more I avoided that and just adapted “ on the fly “, while adhering to certain “ personal rules “: Never run between Noon and 4 p.m. ( too hot ). Never run between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. , so I stay awake. And than, at some points, those rules , like many in real life, are thrown out of the window and the race begins and “ moves “ are made, trying to outsmart the competitors, or oneself!
Nome bound we are, happy “ Armchair Mushing “ on the Computer Screen!