You Can’t “Taki” It With You

Ready for the Iditaride of my life! Photo Credit: K. Murray

There are life experiences so remarkable that, even when they are happening, it is clear that no souvenir, no photo will ever be able to conjure the amazing emotions in that moment. Enjoy the ride, and focus fully on the present, because you can’t take it with you once it is over. Yes, memories are made, but they’ll pale in comparison to the event itself. Today, as an Iditarider at the Ceremonial Start of the Iditarod, I had one of those experiences.  

Posing with musher Hunter Keefe! Photo Credit: K. Murray

Walking up and down 4th Avenue I watched mushers meeting fans, prepping dog teams, and talking with the press. Making my way to the corner of H Street I passed legendary names in mushing – Berington, Kaiser, Sass. I finally connected with Hunter Keefe, a 23 year-old rookie, and the musher who was about to take me for the ride of my life! He runs one of Raymie Redington’s teams, and before we took off it felt surreal as Raymie and Barb Redington helped get the team hooked up and ready.

I hopped in the sled and we headed for the START!  The dogs were excited, the crowds were loud, and the air was brisk.  Taking off at 10:26am we flew down 4th Avenue to take the turn onto Cordova. Last year I watched teams stumble on this tough turn, but Hunter and the team took it smoothly.  We sailed through Anchorage, each moment more magnificent than the next.  

Cruising down 4th Avenue and waving to the huge crowds at the Ceremonial Start! Photo Credit: J. Westrich

Cruising the trails lined with spectators, we were cheered, high-fived, and tossed treats. The well-wishes and enthusiasm will stay with me for a long time, and I’ll cherish the souvenirs from the crowd. Souvenirs?  We were given dog sled cutout cookies, hot dogs, girl scout cookies, a full cup of hot coffee (it didn’t quite make the transfer successfully), and packages of hot Takis snacks.

Enjoying the fun atmosphere of the in-town spectator celebrations! Photo Credit: J. Westrich

A souvenir and snack from the Trail! Photo Credit: J. Westrich

The early miles of the route gave way to tree lined trails with views of the mountain; it was a small snippet of what the remote runs must feel like, when all you hear is the breathing of the dogs and runners gliding along the snow.  It was magical.  When we finally hit the Campbell Airstrip I couldn’t believe that it had gone so fast, that this remarkable experience was over. It made me realize that chasing this feeling, one that exists in the moments you are mushing, one that you can’t take with you off the trail, is why the mushers return again and again to the Iditarod. They are chasing moments of pure magic. I may not be able to take that feeling with me, but the memories will last a lifetime, and I have some souvenirs to “Taki” with me!

Library Learning: Today I challenge you to live in the moment.  Take a walk, look up at the stars, hug a loved one…and enjoy.

QUESTION: Today’s Ceremonial Start route was the shortest in the race – only 11 miles.  What is the farthest distance between checkpoints?  Hint: Look at the Race Map, and remember it is the SOUTHERN ROUTE in 2023!

ANSWER for March 3: Iditarod Insider gets you access to all the scoop on the race with videos, interviews, and more! 

Peaceful trails and puppy tails. Magic around every bend. Photo Credit: J. Westrich