U is for Unalakleet: Flying Through Nulato

The Iditarod Alphabet 2017
U is for Unalakleet

Unalakeet is one of sixteen checkpoints the 2017 Iditarod will travel through.  It is the largest village on the trail between Anchorage and Nome with a population of about 900 people.  The first musher to reach Unalakleet receives the “Wells Fargo Gold Coast Award” which includes $3,500 and a trophy.  This year Wade Mars received this award.  Unalakleet is also home to Piece on Earth, a popular pizza place that mushers and volunteers love to visit.       

U is for Unalakleet

It’s been pretty quiet in Nulato since I arrived yesterday afternoon.  Many of the mushers are stopping for only a few minutes before continuing up the trail.  Last night Mitch, Wade, Dallas, Joar, and Nic all come through at lightning speed!  These are currently the top five mushers making their way to Nome.  Mitch and Dallas are both previous champions, and Wade, Joar, and Nic have all placed in the top 10 multiple times.  They will most likely run tight run/rest schedules until they arrive in White Mountain for an 8-hour mandatory rest.  Then the sprint to Nome will begin with only 77 miles to the finish line.

Melissa Stewart and Cody Strathe spent some time in Nulato, so I was able to catch up them.  Melissa was focused on her dogs, and talked about their great appetite, which she was very happy about.  Before coming into the Nulato school gym, Melissa made sure each dog was checked by a veterinarian, had straw underneath them, and had a snack to eat.  Cody Strathe was finishing his 5 hours rest about the time Melissa was coming in.  I asked Cody what his favorite memory of the race was thus far.  He said that he had a new favorite every day, but yesterday it was running the dogs under the northern lights, stars, and a full moon at 2AM.