Evening update from Unalakleet

When I left Nulato, Dennis Kananowicz and Meredith Mapes were waiting out the heat of the day.  Temperatures were inching towards 40 degrees. That made taking down the checkpoint nice, we had 2 tents which needed packing up But it for sure was not good dog running weather. ( In the meantime both Dennis and Meredith made it to Kaltag.)

Unfortunately one team has not reached Kaltag in 24 hours, that of Larry Daugherty. He is 7 miles short of the checkpoint and looking at the tracker, has tried to move a few times unsuccessfully. Very likely he will be out of the race. He will be checked on shortly.

I flew to Unalakleet. Unfortunately a few minutes too late to catch my flight to White Mountain. As it looks, this will be the end of the trail for me this year. I am really beginning to think I need a Snowmachine again. So I am doing a few more updates while I am here in Unk. 

Sunset in Unalakleet

Unfortunately it is also the end of the trail for a few of the Mushers. Aaron Peck had a magic carpet ride, for most of the race he hung behind the lead pack. That carpet got snagged along the way, with his dogs picking up bug, which slowly worked its way through the team. By Shaktoolik he realized that it is time to end the race. That is a very heartbreaking decision after all the hard work and dedication which went into preparation for the past 365 days. Martin Massicotte and Linwood Fiedler were also flown here from Galena, where they ended their races. Martin Massicotte said his race took a wrong turn on day 2, when his dogs started chasing Buffalo en route to Nikolai.

Outside in the dog yard Matthew Failor was preparing to leave, having 9 dogs on the line. His race started taking a wrong turn during the same stretch as that of Martin Massicotte: In the so called Buffalo Tunnels, en route to Nikolai. When Matt walked his dogs before takeoff, he realized that it was time to leave behind to more team mates, which put him down to 7 dogs.

Luckily the trail was starting to set up with the lower evening temperatures. Robert Redington left short before Matt with a team of 8 and commented, that this might be the first time in a long time, to have a fast trail.

Bethel’s Jessica Klejka’s Team was not resting well at all. They all stood out, pulling the gangline towards the checkpoint building and intently starting at it. It took me a while to catch on why. They were eying a little Weiner dog in the distance on the shoreline, and were ready to eat it. Jessica’s team looks extremely well rested and she should have a fun run through the Blueberry Hills. Last year there was next to no sea ice here in Unk, this year a much different picture. 

Riley Dyche, Tom Knolmayer and Sean Underwood just pulled into the checkpoint. It just seemed like a few hours ago, that I saw them in Nulato. It never seizes to amaze me, how far these dogs can travel in a day. When Sean offered his dogs bowls of clear water, they were eagerly drinking it. Back in the day when I was racing, I could never get my dogs to do that, without baiting the water with meat. His dogs looked very perky coming into the checkpoint and Sean still had a big grin on his face. He is having a heck of a rookie run.

Unalakleet for me is synonymous with bacon. And Middy Johnson making that bacon. It is very weird not seeing him here. He will be remembered for a long time. It is good to see many other  of his friends here, and of course Kermit the longtime checker.

Looking at the front of the pack. Thomas Waerner is pushing hard for the win. His team seems to keep good speed ( speed in relative terms at this stage of the race ). Mitch Seavey has been surging to the front with 10 dogs, passing both Aaron Burmeister and Jessie Royer. Jessie is still driving a string of 13. Mitch has been patient, back in Mc Grath he was in 21st position. Interestingly it was Mitch who told me many years ago, that 8 out of 10 races were won by teams who rested in Takotna. If Thomas wins, who 24’ed in Takotna, and Mitch stays 2nd, I wonder what Mitch thinks afterwards, about taking his 24 in Cripple this year ( he left 15th there ).

Teams are a whopping 267 Miles apart with Thomas Waerner at Mile 851 and Quince Mountain along in on Nulato at Mile 584.