March 12 8:18pm KOYUK Mitch Seavey leads on the Bering Sea Coast

March 12 8:18pm KOYUK  Mitch Seavey leads on the Bering Sea Coast

Joe Runyan

Low visibility prevents landing  in Unalakleet to greet Mitch Seavey and the lead pack. Instead, after several diversions we find ourselves in the Koyuk checkpoint waiting for mushers to advance up the coast.

musher advances on trail from Kaltag to UNK thanks to Jeff Schultz


On landing we are picked up by locals, including Rosemary, a key persuasive local contact.  She is the head postal clerk just adjacent to the checkpoint and she KNOWS who and how to get things done.  “This is the best weather we have had all winter,” comments Rosemary at the landing strip.  The air is still, which is very unusual for the BEring SEac Coast, and temperatures at a very tolerable 20F.   “Fishing was good over the summer, but we didn’t freeze up until November and fishing for`tom cod and trout was hard.”

A Review of developments in Unalakleet

Anyone with an Insider account can do my job.  But, the events in Unalakleet deserve a review, so I’ll do it.  With Mitch Seavey, by univeral consensus amongst the people I know in control of the race, we saw  Wade Marrs and Nicolas Petit mush into Unalakleet.  But, this was a chimera, as Mitch Seavey was merely resting outside of Unalakleet, then pulled the ice hook and promptly signed the checker sheet in Unalakleet and summarily pointed in direction Shaktoolik, leaving the temperorary leaders resting in UNK.  MItch, still has, in round figures, a 50 mile lead.   As a side note, Dallas Seavey is more or less with Petit and Marrs.   The three young mushukuers may look for a weakness in the 56 year old Mitch Seavey, but they haven’t found it.  

The psychological leverage is powerful.  Mitch is far enough ahead now that he will not be seen by the following pack.  He will become vapor, a memory, an intellectual entity with no physical proof, the wind will blow over his trail with spindrift.  He will become more and more difficult to chase—when you never see the rabbit.  UNLESS< he screws up.

Final thoughts

Mitch will leave Shaktoolik and cross a 12 mile grass beach to the sea ice.  In my experience, the drifts and blowing snow, flat light and white snow, make the beach and the ice indistinguishable, but a good indicator the musher is going on ice is unmistakeably marked by a lonely rock, next to which sits a shelter cabin.

The trail, depending on how the sea ice freezes, crosses Norton Bay for 40 miles, enters the smaller Koyuk Bay, and then Koyuk built on a hillside to the sea.

For most, the sensation of  crossing the unending white is vertiginous and isolated, epecially when a groundstorm of snow destroys all sense of up and down.  The Iditarod lathe marks the trail and is really the only contrast to the all white.   On a clear night one can see the lights of KOyuk for hours.