Friday, 17 March 2000

Ophir to Cripple

My night in Ophir turned out to be the coldest on the trail. Temperatures dropped to around –30. The sun was just starting to rise as we pulled out. I was so happy with the dogs, when it was time to go I just had to ask them to get on their feet - they all rose, shook off, and headed down the trail with no help from the checkers. 

The day was bright and sunny. I had taken some painkillers for my leg in Ophir and the pain had diminished considerably. The team wasn’t moving great – I was attributing it to the heat, but the performance of Camilla was concerning me. Camilla is a tough, hard working little girl, but for the last several miles her tug line had been slapping loosely around her legs. I went up and checked her over but could find nothing wrong. I thought maybe she was pouting – she likes to run lead and I hadn’t had her in front at all on this race. I stuck her in lead for a bit, but that didn’t seem to help either. I tucked her in front of the wheel dogs and kept a close eye on her. 

The trip over to Cripple was a long one, so we had planned to camp awhile on the trail. The day was hot and we found a nice ‘pullout’ and stopped. I fed the dogs and we all settled down for a short nap in the sun.  About 3 hours later, I was awakened by the sound of a helicopter overhead. It was obviously looking for mushers, as I could see it circle over the approximate areas that I had passed mushers camping earlier. It made 3 passes by me, each one lower then the previous one. I gave up trying to sleep. I puttered around for another hour or so, letting the dogs rest before hitting the trail again.
Later on, as night fell, I experienced my most vivid hallucination of the Race. The trail was straight and fairly boring until we came across Candy Land - that’s right – Candy Land. Right smack in the middle of the Iditarod Trail. Complete with slides made out of Candy Canes.  I wasn’t surprised or amazed, in fact, it seemed perfectly normal to me! About a mile or so later, I started to see a bobbing light ahead. It didn’t move like a team and I was puzzled when I came across 2 people walking along the Trail. They were participating in the Extreme Iditasport. They asked if I was running Iditarod and I was hard pressed to come up with an answer.  Gosh, I was tired! I asked these folks if they were a hallucination too and they assured me they weren’t. It wasn’t till I passed them the next day on the way to Ruby that I actually believed them though!

Lynda Plettner passed me just outside of the checkpoint. I rolled into the halfway point of the Race shortly behind her. 

My night in Cripple is one of my most favorite memories of the Trail. Cripple is simply a few wall tents stuck up for the Race. The area around there is mostly open, but the dog teams are nestled into the trees. After caring for the dogs I was lying in the straw with my leaders watching the most remarkable display of Northern Lights I have ever seen. Bob Hempstead was camped in the next spot over and was likewise spending time watching the Lights with his leaders. ‘You know’, he called over, ‘thousands of people would kill to be where we are right now!’. They would be justified – what a spectacular night!

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