Thursday, 7 June 2001

June 7, 2001 - Nikolai to McGrath

Lots of teams were in Nikolai, many taking their 24-hour layovers after the brutal trail we had all just been over. I toyed with the idea, but was better set up to 24 in McGrath and I had a new sled waiting there, so I could use some of that time get everything switched over. The original plan had me taking my 24 in Takotna, but my team 'attitude -o- meter', Surge was showing me they would be ready for a big break soon. At 2 years, Surge was the youngest member of my team. He is a cheerful and hardworking young boy who really likes to play. Throughout most of our hard training he would still try to coax me into playing when I unhooked the team. In Nikolai he only put a halfhearted effort into it when I roughed him around.

During our break I took the opportunity to phone Mark. I told him of my change of plan on my layover. He figured he could get into McGrath to visit while I was there. That was something to really look forward to.

As night rolled around I made the decision to leave Oreo behind. I considered taking her to McGrath and seeing how she looked after a 24 hour break, but we were still 40 or so miles from there and I was worried her attitude would rub off on everyone else. It was quite disappointing for me. Oreo is 6 and was having her best season ever! She had come into her own this year and had been a really key leader during the Grand Portage Race in January. I had been kind of looking at her as my 'Ace in the Hole' for later down the trail. With many ear rubs and hugs, I turned her over to the vets.

The 15 remaining dogs and I headed out. It was a beautiful night. Many stars were washed out by the spectacular full moon. A faint display of northern lights brushed the sky, but it was very muted by the moonlight.

Within the first hour I started having trouble with my headlamp. My batteries, which were new in Nikolai, went dead and when I switched over to my spare pack, it went dead in about 20 minutes. This was a predicament. I had a back up, back up set, borrowed from Beth Manning, but I was worried about a short or something in the lamp. I switched over to the less effective alkalines and a new headlamp. The light started to dim almost immediately. Had I done something to upset the headlamp Gods???

Russell Lane came along shortly after, I flagged him down and asked if he had any spare batteries. He didn't. He suggested I take advantage of the moonlight and a good leader - what choice did I have?? I moved Grover up front with his brother, Gus and told them I hoped they remembered the trail from last year. Looking back, it was a pretty magical run. I was able to turn my very dim light on every now and then for a few seconds to confirm a marker on the side of the trail, but basically, I was in the 'paws' of my wonderful leaders to guide us to the next checkpoint. What a rush when the town of McGrath popped into view across the river. That is one of the big thrills about the Race for me, just when you think you couldn't be more in awe or have more respect for your dogs, something like this happens to prove you wrong.

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