When a musher stops in a checkpoint or along the trail, the first thing he or she does is take care of the dogs. Straw down, booties off, massage paws, and start the cooker (mandatory item) to melt some snow to prepare dog meals. Once the dogs are taken care of, the humans have a few minutes to think about themselves. Some 4th graders from Las Juntas Elementary want to know what the mushers eat during the race. The checkpoints provide some food and a space to take a nap. The pies in Takotna are legendary so mushers especially like to stop there for a treat. The other food and snacks mushers eat are found in their drop bags that they prepare and which are flown to the checkpoints prior to the race start. Many mushers will freeze their food, (lasagne, mac & cheese, stew, etc.) in airtight bags to be dropped into the same boiling water used to make dog meals. Also stored in the drop bags are items humans and canines will need for the next leg of the race. When they get to the next checkpoint, another 2 drop bags will be waiting for them. Staying hydrated for both canines and humans is important. It’s easy for dogs, but humans have to be aware that freezing temps will freeze a regular water bottle, so they need to insulate their water bottle and have it accessible.
The 4th graders also wanted to know about the teams at the back of the pack. The winners of the race will finish in about 8 days, but the race will go on until the last team crosses the finish line – usually about 14 days for the final team. In rare cases, teams may be so far behind that they are withdrawn from the race. Typically because volunteers need to move out of checkpoints and life in the villages needs to continue. Great questions 4th graders, thanks for asking.