December 15, 2018

Eye on the Trail: Team Zappa in McGrath

Monica Zappa arrived in McGrath mid afternoon on Wednesday.  Monica came in behind the leadership of tried and true Blue Steel.  She’ll stay for a short time then move on to Takotna.

Zappa echoed the other mushers in reporting the trail coming all the way from Rohn has been soft. Some have described the trail as sugary while others have likened it to mashed potatoes. What ever it’s called, its been a slow run. Some have the theory it’ll firm up over night when the temperature drops and there’s been more traffic on the trail. It’s been warm today so that also has potential for improving the trail overnight.

Monica parked her dog team in front of the McGrath Checkpoint. This picture shows a great deal of action and all that has been accomplished in the short time Zappa, Blue Steel and the rest of the team have been parked. What do you see?

The vet (wearing orange pants) is making notes in Monica’s vet book. He and another vet who’s talking with Monica have examined all the dogs. They’ve followed the HAW&L acronym – heart, hydration, attitude, appetite, weight & lungs. The vets will also check legs, feet, wrists and shoulders.

Zappa has spread straw and the dogs have been circling around to create their own personal sleeping spot. The black and white dog standing in front of the sled has taken its own booties off. That’s a handy thing when you’re stopping for a rest but not such a handy thing if you’re just stopping for a snack.

Monica has set bowls out and is now dishing out a meat and broth concoction. The bowls Monica carries are sturdy and light. They are durable enough to withstand the cold. If food freezes in the bowls, it can be popped out and enjoyed like a popsicle.

Once the meaty broth is dished out, Monica will take booties off and she’ll massage feet, legs and shoulders. The paw cream will be as welcome to Monica’s weathered hands as it is to the pads of the dog’s feet.

Zappa grew up in Cumberland, Wisconsin. This is her fifth Iditarod and her first time on the southern route. Monica’s parents participated in mid-distance mushing. Zappa says, “I love nothing more than the serenity of being out in the wilderness for days on end with my canine companions.” Monica takes pride in doing what she can to protect the Alaskan wilderness and its precious resources.