March 11 Noon Nulato


March 11 Noon Nulato    LEad pack hits the Yukon, REsts at Koyukuk

WE fly over the oxbowed Koyukuk River, grass meadows, willow thickets, dead end sloughs record eons of annual flooding


OUr Insider team departs Huslia in direction Yukon River to intercept the lead pack of Wade Marrs, Dallas SEavey, and Mitch SEavey.  The lead pack has stopped in Koyukuk at the confluence with the Yukon, while we jump ahead to Nulato where we find a well established Idiarod incampment.  Check out the aerial photo of the Koyukuk which highlights the incredible braiding and annual flooding events that model this meandering river.  The KOyukuk is known for abundant moose populations and rich trapping grounds.

An efficient checkpoint. Nulato is set up on the Yukon with parking spots, hot water, and gear in close proximity. Overcast but 20f warm in Nulato.  The far shore is actually an island.  The Yukon is twice as big as this

My first stop is the communications crew as they have internet access and the GPS tracker posted for constant reference.  The comms crew are acute observers but I can’t get any insights, or jolts of inspired thinking.   The race is between Marrs, SEavey the Elder and SEavey the Younger as far as anyone can determine.  But then at 1pm, into our computer view appears the steady Norwegian Joar Ulsom and the enigmatic Nicolas Petit who now appear to soon contact the lead pack.  

a view of Nulato on the n. bank of the Yukon River

Temperatures remain at about 20F and overcast, which is perfect for the dogs.   Petit, fresh off a 24 hour break, told me in Huslia he had no option but to mush to NUlato (86 to Koyukuk, 22 Koyukuk to Nulato, and Nulato to Kaltag is 36) since he feared travelling with his dogs in the afternoon sun.  But, these overcast skies have given him a reprieve if he wants to pull up in KOyukuk.  Petit may be the fastest on the trail.  If he can contact the lead pack and see them—a big psycholofigical event—he might be able to reel them in over the next days.   I see on the tracker he stopped for 45 minutes, undoubtedly to feed, check boots, and give his dogs a time to relax.   HIs plan to arrive at Nulato seems ambitous at 108 miles, but he argued that his dogs are not sleepy (having 24 rested in Huslia), are well trained, the temperatures are warm, and the trail is easy pulling.

Dick Newton and Dr. Paul SAyer remain indomitable—–Arrive Nulato enroute to Nome

Dick Newton, 86 and his traveling partner Dr. Paul SAyer, 78 and entourage arrive Nulato.  Dick is a hall of famer in both Iditarod and Iron Dog, and an icon for mushers who know him at the Takotna checkpoint as an organizer and supporter of the Iditarod.  Dr. Sayer is a practising physician and surgeon in HOmer, but spends his summers in Takotna working placer gold mining claims.  These two are long friends and have made innumerable  expeditions by snowmachine to Nome on the Iditarod trail.

The redoubtable Dick Newton (rt) and Dr. Paul Sayer (lft.) in the Nulato checkpoint

Final thoughts

Check the GPS tracker.  Mitch Seavey broke ranks, is on the move at 1:18pm and re-assumes the lead mantle.