I was a rambling, messed up musher in Shaktoolik. All the checkers had come out to say 'HI' and make sure I didn't park for a long visit (what a great group!) - they knew my plan and wanted to make sure I didn't waver. First order for me was a trip to the bathroom. Once that was dealt with I walked out to figure out what I was going to do. I was greeting by a bouncing, barking dog team. That, the encouragement of the checkers and vets, and that darn promise to Jamie prompted me into action. I loaded the sled, secured some straw to the top of everything and headed out.
I will never forget the look on Surge's face when I asked that team to leave the checkpoint. Up to this point in the Race, checkpoints had always been a guaranteed spot for food and rest for my team. Surge, the youngest of the bunch didn't understand why we weren't stopping here. But they did leave. Their pace was little more then a walk. Clint, Buck, and Beth all passed us within the first couple hours. It was quite dark out, but I kept seeing shadows of trees and power poles (don't ask) along the trail. I was confused, I thought once we left Shaktoolik we were on the ice all the way to Koyuk. I saw no sign of the shelter cabin and finally decided to shut things down for a break anyway. I fed the dogs and laid out the straw for them. Bed for me was the top of my sled bag.
As the morning started to lighten things up I was amazed to realize that there was no trees, no power poles, no NOTHING around me…..well, except for that shelter cabin that was visible about ½ mile ahead!! ARGHHH!! The dogs had been resting 4 hours and I made a halfhearted attempt at getting them up. They looked at me like I had ROCKS in my head and went back to sleep. Okay….2 more hours seemed like a good compromise.
During that 2 hours, Dave Tresino's team passed. As it turned out, that was the last dog team I would see in the Race.
After the extra 2 hours, the dogs were willing to head out. The trail was every bit as flat, featureless and intimidating as people had told me. I stopped briefly at the shelter cabin and stuck my head inside. Turns out cross-country skiers had spent the night there and there was still a warm woodstove. Oh well, my night on the ice probably built more character then a night in a warm cabin would have done!
Several hours closer to Koyuk the trail breakers passed me. They were encouraging and said they would see me in the checkpoint.
A few hours after that a plane flew fairly low overhead. I later learned that it was Doug Swingley doing his 'victory visits' to the coastal villages!! :)
A little more then a hour out of Koyuk the dogs and I hit the other side of our 'slump' and they were really moving well, loping in fact, when we came off the ice and into town.