march 11 8:25pm Kaltag Mitch Seavey Defends Lead into Kaltag

march 11 8:25pm Kaltag  Mitch Seavey Defends Lead into Kaltag

Joe Runyan

Mitch Seavey in Kaltag takes off boots, beds down dogs

Check out the great video at the Insider and the TRacker tool to appreciate the separation Mitch SEavey has accumulated over the last 24 hours.   Mitch arrived Kaltag at 7:40 pm, about fifty miles ahead of competitor Wade Marrs.  Pundits will argue that technical details complicate that lead.   For example, Mitch is taking his mandatory 8 hour rest required of mushers at some point on the Yukon, but I think it’s frivolous details.  The fact is he’s guarding a fifty mile lead and he can afford to rest his team and look backwards at the pack chasing.

Well, the drama will be interesting, but my take —-my opinion only—-it will be difficult for the pack to reel in Mitch.   Standing on the high bank of the Yukon, a local next to me said, “Look at those dogs loping, man, they’re moving.”   Mitch and team came up the high bank on a steep slip and stopped in front of the city hall for check in.  The impression was one of power,  each dog leaning into Mitch’s modified freight harness.  At the dog yard he guieded the dog into a protective slot against a building to break the wind and while bedding the team down carrieds, on an animated conversation with four veterinarians examining each dog.

Accomodation for Kaltag’s only musher is an octogonal log community hall.  Wood heated by a stove made out of heavy pipe, its a warm place to sleep and dry out clothes.  A pilot for one of the many media following the race remarked, “Look at the size of that stove.  That’ll never burn out.”

What to look for?

WAde Marrs, Dallas Seavey et al is in pursuit and could arrive at one am.  They will see Mitch, but not for long.  Mitch can leave at 3:40 am and in the calculus of rest and run there is no way Wade or Dallas could leave with him.

The 85 mile trail ahead to Unalakleet and the Bering Sea Coast is a historical trading portage from the Bering Sea Coast to the INterior.  Not only does it communicate between the cultures of the Yukon and the Coast, it also transfers its travelers to completely different weather systems and ecological zones.   The black spruce dominated forests of the Interior contrast with the brush tundra of the coast hammered by storm after storm originating in the Bering Sea.  On a practical level, the first 30 miles leave Kaltag and go uphill to summitt on a barrier coastal range and then descends for 55 miles to Unalakleet and the sea.

This run is a traditional test in the Iditarod.  Often difficult and uncomfortable because of winds, the winning team must travel strongly on this trail.  

octogonal log community hall used for mushers

a view inside the mushers quarters. Locals partitioned off a sleeping area with a blue tarp