Friday, 17 March 2000

Rainy Pass to Rohn (the Dalzel Gorge)

Also still in the checkpoint was my friend and fellow Albertan, Ross Adam. His wife, Karen, had flown in for a visit. She and I traveled the trail together in ’98 - ‘Chasing the Race’ from checkpoint to checkpoint. It was nice to get to visit with her for a bit. 

Jamie and I shared some lunch (a really tasty meatball, potatoes, green beans, and gravy dish done up by my friends Lynda and Dwayne from Grande Prairie – gosh, it tasted good!) and set about fixing my sled. Further examination of the sled showed that 2 of the rear stantions were broken. We puttered with it some and discussed a few different ways to make it stable enough that I could get it to McGrath, where my second sled was waiting. Race judge Terry Hinsley came over and took a look at things.  He finally decided that although I might be able to fix it enough to ‘drive with a 4 dog team around my dog yard – I wasn’t going to be able to fix it well enough to drive it behind 16 dogs through the Dalzel Gorge’. He deemed the sled unusable and gave me the required official permission to ship in another. It now looked like I was going to be taking my 24-hour layover in Rainy Pass.  Although my plan was to 24 in Nikkolai, McGrath, or Takotna I had packed lots to each checkpoint – just in case. Thank goodness. 

My 24 certainly wasn’t spent like I had hoped – resting and recovering – many hours of it was spent on the phone trying to find a plane big enough to hold a sled, that had skis on it and could land on Puntilla Lake.  I’m very grateful to the people at the Rainy Pass lodge for allowing me to monopolize their phone for a good part of the afternoon. Eventually, with assistance from my husband, Mark it was arranged for my sled to fly in first thing the next morning.  I went down to the building set aside for mushers and got a good 6 hours sleep.

The dogs were refreshed and, quite frankly, bored the next morning. They had been doing a lot of resting up to this point in the Race and they wanted to get moving! I puttered away with chores waiting for the plane. 

After it arrived and I put the sled back together (the pilot had taken it apart so it would fit in his small plane) I set about switching my gear over. My snowhooks and all the lines were already transferred over when I decided I better get some water heating to give the critters one more meal before we hit the road.  I was over at the water hole when I heard a commotion in my team! I had forgotten that Butch had been tied to the broken sled, when I switched the hooks over to the new sled he was able to drag the sled he was tied to wherever he wanted – and where he wanted was with Sissy, who was in heat.  It looks like Sissy was going to be having ‘Rainy Pass’ babies in 63 days. Oh well, Mark would be delighted – Butch and Sissy are two of his favorite dogs in the yard and he had been trying to convince me for years what a good breeding that would be. 

The section of trail ahead, the Dalzel Gorge, was certainly the topic of conversation in the checkpoint. Some say it is harder and more dangerous then the Happy River Steps. Many time Iditarod finisher, Lavon Barve was a checker in Rainy Pass. He told me the worst part of the trip is the worrying about it. He did recommend, though, that I put two older, a little slower, but more reliable leaders up front. I shuffled the team around and headed out with my veterans, Buddy and Spud up front. They ignored my command on the very first corner and tried to take a little side trip down the Puntilla Lake landing strip. I guess with age and experience can also come stubbornness! Within 2 miles, Grover was put back up front with Buddy. 

The trip into Rohn was spectacular fun! Challenging enough to keep you awake and on your toes, but with the good snowfall this year, none of the dreadful icy sections, I hear it can often have. Just outside of Rohn the dogs got their first real taste of true glare ice. Stakes frozen in the ice and a few faint scratch marks from previous sleds were the closest thing to a trail. I realized just how much trouble a musher could get in if a team decide to do their own thing on the ice – you would have no way of stopping them. Grover marched that team across the ice like he had done it a million times. What a neat dog!!! What a neat trip!!

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