Friday, 17 March 2000

Knik to Skwentna

This part of the trip, out of Knik, to Yentna and down the river to Skwentna, is a familiar one for me – I’ve traveled it on the Knik 200, Klondike 300 (twice) and the Goose Bay 120. But this time it has surprises! All along the trail there are people that have traveled out by snowmachine to watch the Race go by. Everyone is in a cheerful mood, yelling out good wishes, handing out cookies, coffee, and chocolate. It is along here that I see the stress that 81 mushers could potentially put on the Race – the hotdog stand is out of hotdogs by the time I roll by!!

Jamie Nelson sailed by. My team managed to keep pace with her for a bit and she and I had a nice little chat as we traveled down the trail. Many mushers were stopped along the way, resting their dogs during the heat of the day. I had planned on pushing through to Yentna Station, where I was going to take a 4 hour break, although Jamie had mentioned she was going to take a similar break near Flathorn Lake, which is about 25 miles before Yentna and that was a good option too. 

As I came off of Flathorn into the trees that border it, many teams, including Charlie Boulding, Russell Lane, Harold Tunhiem, Kevin Korteum and Jamie were camped there. There was a little pull off next to Jamie’s team and Kevin grabbed my leaders and helped steer them into the camping spot. After everyone’s chores were done Jamie came over and we organized some comfy spots on my sled and settled in for a visit and eventually a nap. As night fell the quiet was only disturbed by dog teams occasionally passing by. 

There is nothing quite like the sound of a team in motion. Contrary to movie depictions, dogs are silent as they travel down the trail. The only noise comes from the runners gliding on the snow and the jingling of snaps and hardware in the gangline. Iditarod teams have their own special sound too. The small plastic Iditarod ID tags that the dogs wear make noise against the rings of the collars and the brass neckline snaps!! It’s a soft and magical ‘Iditarod symphony’. 

Jamie’s four-hour rest was over ½ hour before mine. After a big struggle to get her snowhook off the tree she had anchored too (it took both of us and a lot of sweating and muttering!), she was on her way. My trip to Yentna was quiet and uneventful. I intended to ‘blow’ (in other words – ‘not stop at’) the checkpoint and go straight through to Skwentna. The dogs are really familiar with the Yentna checkpoint, as we have spent lots of time there on other races, and I was a little worried that they would get mad or pouty when we didn’t stop. We stopped, checked in, the vet went through the team, I booted Oreo, and when I asked the dogs if they were ready to go – they roared out of the checkpoint. I guess my worries where unfounded. The trip to Skwentna was the fastest trip I have ever had on that stretch of trail. I rode on my drag and foot brake trying to keep the speed down. 

When we pulled into Skwentna the team was barking and lunging in their harnesses. The vet’s were teasing me that I should just keep going – they didn’t need to rest, but this was very early in the race and I wasn’t going to tire them out this soon!

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