It’s very difficult to select just a few experiences from the trail to share or to summarize my journey as the 2006 Wells Fargo Teacher On The Trail. Everyday of the 4 weeks spent in Alaska for Iditarod XXXIV was filled with meaningful experiences and unique memories. Never once did I wonder what I was doing out there or what had I gotten myself into. I loved every minute I was on the trail and longed to return in the years to come.
The young mushers of the Junior Iditarod showed outstanding skills and character as they journeyed from Willow Lake to Yentna Station and back.
The view from the air while traveling with the Iditarod Air Force was indescribable.
Conversations with teachers in Anchorage, Wasilla, Palmer, Nicolai, McGrath, Ruby, Galena, Koyuk, Unalakleet and Nome emphasized the common concerns regarding education no matter where the school is located.
Each checkpoint along the trail was truly unique because of the location, the people and the culture.
Meeting Iditarod heroes who were out in support of the mushers – Susan Butcher, Emmitt Peters, Libby Riddles, Lavon Barve, Pam Flowers, Sydney Huntington and Howard Farley, to name only a few, was a humbling experience.
The first night of the race, while sitting in the Skwentna Outback Cabin eating supper with Joe and Norma Delia and listening to their stories was a lesson in Iditarod history. Joe helped re-open portions of the Historic Iditarod Trail that the race follows. He and Norma have hosted the Skwentna Checkpoint since the beginning of the race. Now 30 or more volunteers join them in running the checkpoint. The passion and the teamwork displayed by these volunteers told me how special the race was and what a privilege it was to be a volunteer for the race.
A couple of days later, in the Nikolai checkpoint, I met a couple of third grade boys who spent every hour of their waking day at the checkpoint taking in the action. Six years later these boys and six classmates based a whole year of curriculum and physical training on the ultimate outdoor adventure of skiing from Nikolai to McGrath, a community supported journey of 4 nights and 5 days. Staying in touch and supporting the students and teachers on their journey to a far distant place – McGrath 54 miles away, has been a fun and rewarding experience that grew out of being Teacher on the Trail.
Even though the mushers all travel the same line on the map, their individual experiences are completely unique. The same can be said for each Iditarod Teacher on the Trail. This journey has affected each of us personally, professionally, and spiritually in unique ways.
While on the trail, I felt the desire to stay connected to the race, hoping I might find my way out to a checkpoint as a race volunteer. Indeed that has happened through Comms and writing the Eye on the Trail Blog.
As Iditarod Teacher on the Trail, I was ready for something big, very big, which turned out to be indescribable and completely beyond comprehension. Teacher on the Trail™ isn’t a 365-day adventure. A part of my heart will always be on the Iditarod Trail, as it has been for the past seventeen years.