Hello Iditarod Race Fans,
Greetings from Takotna. How is that! We made it in as planned! All 8 of us, 2 Vets, 2 Comms, 3 Trail people and myself. Having snowy weather for the start means it had to turn nice eventually, right in time to get logistics in place. The flight over the Alaska Range was nothing short of spectacular.
We flew right over Finger Lake, along the trail past Rainy Pass, where we could see 5 teams resting at the time. The burn is indeed complete snow covered, much different than most other years. Flying past Mc Grath we touched down in Takotna where Terry picked us up via Snowmachine to get to the checkpoint.
Terry is the husband to Nell. Back from my racing days I know Nell when she worked together with the late Jan Newton. Funny enough quite a few people call her ” Jan “…. She is basically in charge of everything here at the checkpoint and things dialed in. Firewood is in place. Burn barrels for hot water set up, the dog parking areas packed down. And dang…., there is a lot of snow here, more snow than Dick Newton has seen in 40 years. I just did a count of all the dog food bags, check all here.
At this point Aaron Burmeister is leading the pack towards Rohn. He is about 5 miles ahead of Pete Kaiser, Richie Diehl, then followed by Lance Mackey, Travis Beals and Wade Marrs running right neck on neck behind that. Traveling speeds have picked up nicely, which means the trail has been setting up for the front runners.
Not many dogs have been dropped. That is one big advantage of starting out with a slow and soft trail. As nice as flying along on a hard packed trail is, going slow is a bit easier on the dogs. A softer trail is easier on the joints for the dogs, compared to hardback, never mind icy trails. Most teams still drive their full 14 dog strings at this point. Aaron Burmeister and Nicolas Petit and Robert Redington are the only teams of the Top 20 who have dropped 1 dog each. A bit surprising is to see Matthew Failor down to 12 dogs coming into Rainy Pass. That will not be plan A for him. True to his Yukon Quest running style Brent Sass is once again camped out. He loves staying outside of the checkpoint. With that it is a bit more difficult for his competition to see what he is doing and how long he is actually resting.
I can’t help but be exited for Lance Mackey with running strong in the front pack, with all 14 dogs. Although it is wayyyy to early to really talk about placing, it must feel great to Lance to be up near the front again. With him and Pete Kaiser there are 2 of the past Champions running in the Top 5. Lets hope Lance packed plenty of hand warmers to withstand the colder nights. It is 25F above in Nikolai right now, but once the sun drops, the temps are supposed to get to 25F below. That is getting down there…. The dogs will love it!