The dogs ate veraciously! That was really neat, especially when I looked at the piles of uneaten food in front of dogs in other teams. My whole team was looking really good. I gave ear scratches and some belly rubs and then headed to the Community Hall. We had to be out of the Hall in time for the Bingo game that night (Grayling obviously has their priorities figured out! VBG!), so I grabbed just a few hours rest. If I had planned for a longer rest, maybe I could have stayed and tried to recoup some of my Race expenses! After my nap the communications guy offered me one of the satellite phones to call home. Mark and I had a great, up beat chat until the satellite moved behind a mountain and abruptly cut us off!
While I was resting, Dave Tresino passed through Grayling without stopping, so when I pulled out of the checkpoint at dusk, for the first time, I was officially the last musher on the trail!
There was alittle bit of snowmachine traffic on the trail for the first few miles, but quickly things quieted down. From this point to Kaltag, I found this the most desolate, remote feeling piece of trail I had ever been on. The wind was blowing pretty hard. The moon and northern lights peeked out from behind the quickly moving clouds. The temperature dropped rapidly and harshly throughout the night. Two or three hours out we passed Dave Tresino camped next to the trail. He had hunkered down into his sled bag to get out of the wind. My stint as the Red Lantern musher was over - for now!
During the night I had a 'hallucination' (I guess that is what you would call it) that reoccurred a few times during the Race - I was POSITIVE that I had been on this trail before. I seemed to be familiar with the terrain and know what was coming up. On the odd moment, I would 'pop' back into reality and remind myself that I hadn't been there before. It was spooky and the hair on the back of my neck still stands up when I think about it.
Just before dawn, the team got sluggish. They wanted a break and I wanted the warmth of a checkpoint. I played around with a few different leaders, hoping to get some rhythm going. All of a sudden the dogs picked up and there was Beth Manning camped. I stopped and snacked while talking to her. I thought we were closer to the checkpoint then she did and shortly after I got going, I saw her headlamp coming down the trail. The dogs picked up a bit knowing there was another team behind them. Eventually, I stopped to fix a few booties and Beth passed. The dogs weren't much interested in chasing and we moved down the trail, although lacking direction and fluidity - we were moving forward! Always good news!!
Finally, the checkpoint of Eagle Island came into view. I remember thinking as we pulled up to the tents and camped teams - 'Hmmm, this will be good practice - it is set up JUST LIKE an Iditarod checkpoint'. I almost laughed out loud after reminding my foggy, sleep deprived, easily amused brain that this WAS an Iditarod checkpoint.