Eye on the Trail:  Straw, HEET and Lath Ready to Ship

Straw, HEET and trail markers for Iditarod 2021 Gold Trail Loop are ready to ship out to checkpoints.  Volunteers bagged the straw, organized cases of HEET and thousands of lath trail markers, placed them on pallets then shrink wrapped the goods making it ready for shipping.  What goes on behind the scenes to make this race happen is mind-boggling!

Berington Twins Follow Lath Trail Markers in Fog

This is no small job when you consider the sheer volume of straw, Heet and trail markers that are necessary for the race. Mushers use straw for bedding down their dogs – one bale per team at each checkpoint out bound and in bound.  Mushers use HEET as fuel for heating water to prepare food whenever and wherever they camp and feed their dogs.  Mushers depend on trail markers that define the trail from checkpoint to checkpoint.

Lath Trail Markers Guide Berington Twins off Bering Sea into Nome

On a normal year, which 2021 is not, Iditarod trail crews place some 12,000 pieces of orange tipped blue flagged lath along the trail.  The trail is well marked and markers are visible in all but the worst blizzard conditions.  Even then a musher’s headlamp might catch the reflective blue flag on the lath markers.  With running the Gold Trail Loop, the distance out to Iditarod/Flat is about 430 miles then mushers return to the common start/finish on the same route.  This route will require a few thousand less markers.  Iditarod is sending 7,250 lath markers out for the trail crew and checkpoint officials to use in marking the trail.

Straw and HEET await mushers in the checkpoints.

Straw is distributed to checkpoints along the trail for mushers to use as dog bedding at the checkpoint or to take with them if they decide to camp outside a checkpoint.  Each bale is separately bagged.  How many bales does Iditarod send out? There are 18 checkpoints on the Gold Trail Loop and 50 teams are currently signed up to race in 2021 but add in a few extra for returned dogs.  Iditarod is sending 1070 bagged bales out to checkpoints.

Hank Debruin Spreads Straw for Bedding

It turns out that HEET, a gas line antifreeze and water remover common in cold climates, is also a dependable fuel that has really streamlined and quickened the process of heating water for dog food.  The mandatory equipment rule requires mushers to carry adequate fuel to bring three gallons of water to a boil.  HEET is available at every checkpoint and a musher always has a few bottles in the sled.  Iditarod is sending 400 cases (24 bottles each) out to checkpoints.

Team Enjoys the R-value of Straw

Air Land Transportation plays an indispensible role in this process by providing warehouse space for packing and storage then transports the straw, HEET and lath to the distribution points where the Iditarod Air Force and other cargo airlines take over the delivery process.  Thanks also to a crew of dedicated volunteers who enjoy bagging straw and look forward to supporting the dogs and mushers of Iditarod.