Monday, 6 August 2001

August 6, 2001 Unalakleet to Shaktoolik

I really knew '2000 baggage' was getting to me when I even opted out of a pizza feast from the best little pizza place in Alaska - 'Peace of Earth' pizzeria in Unk! I didn't get a lot of sleep and prowled the checkpoint rather aimlessly. I left the dogs pretty much alone after initially feeding and bedding them down. I didn't want my feelings of dread to rub off on them.

A bright spot was a quick visit from Tanya, who had graciously opened her house to us in Nome in 2000. She was now working in Unalakleet and I was touched that she was tracking the race well enough to know when I would be showing up.

As I packed the sled up, the flashing little snowbirds that live all around town flitted around the team. They are really cool little birds!

To my delight, the dogs left the checkpoint not too badly at all. Absolutely no repeat of the turning around that was the problem last year. Once we got into an uphill portion of the trail they really slowed down to a crawl. Now, with distance and time, I can confidently say that they were playing off my moods and fears, but at that time I began to think that the end might be near.

We had a momentary spark when a herd of 7 caribou started shadowing us along the trail. Grover definitely has a thing for caribou and the team was almost out of control for close to a mile. When we hit the base of the Blueberry Hills things really got into a rut. Somewhere in there Dave Tresino passed us and that picked the dogs up (further proof they weren't really tired, just playing off my mood). One of the checkers came up to the top of the hills to see my team. He said he had heard a lot about my pretty Siberian team and wanted to see them on the trail. That was neat! I double checked with him about a cabin Palmer Sagoonik had told me was at the base of the Hills. I was planning on stopping for an hour or two there and then going straight through Shaktoolik and onto the Rock, a shelter cabin 7 - 10 miles out of town, for a longer rest. I had PROMISED Jamie Nelson I wouldn't stop in Shaktoolik under any circumstances - just pick up my supplies and get outta' town. All part of a 'master plan' to prevent a replay of last year's 'crash' on the ice.

I flayed around looking for that cabin and never found it. In fact, I wasted close to an hour looking - so much for the 'plan'. I decided to head straight into Shaktoolik and work on reformatting a new plan on the way in. We chased caribou for a bit and then settled into a decent pace. The wind really began to pick up. I had Camilla / Grover and then Camilla / Gus in lead. The team kept veering around and going off the trail. It took my Iditarod fogged brain a long while and a lot of wasted time to figure out that the problem was Camilla. She didn't like the wind! About 1 mile out of town I switched her out of lead and we started going straight ahead, but of course, I hadn't been able to concentrate on a 'new plan' and came into the checkpoint not sure of what I was going to do.

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