(This has been sitting on my computer for awhile. I was trying to find time to write a companion piece to it - "The Top Ten Things Karen is NOT looking forward to about Iditarod", but other things have occupied my thoughts lately. So here it is - I will try to find time to come up with the other list before the Race.)
The Top Ten Things Karen IS looking forward to about Iditarod...
#10. The food!! As many of you know, my weight is a battle for me. Iditarod is the two weeks out of the year that I can eat ANYTHING I want without the slightest trace of guilt!
#9. The race volunteers. These special people give up their time and energy to make it possible for folks like me to be out on the trail. Without them there would be no race. Many of these folks I consider as special friends, I love seeing them all again.
#8. The Quiet. Don’t get me wrong, as those who have met me know, and those who have read my rambling stories probably suspect – I love chat – but I crave and am rejuvenated by the peace and quiet of my sport too. The soft background music of dog paws touching the trail, the plastic Iditarod dog tags quietly clinking against the neckline snaps, and rhythmic panting of the dogs is a perfect accompaniment to the immense silence of the wilderness in the winter.
#7. The smell of wood smoke. Wood smoke is often the first sign that you are approaching a checkpoint. It will seem like you are out in the middle of nowhere when all of a sudden the hint of wood smoke is detected. Often the dogs catch it at the same time (or sooner). They lift their noses and pick up their step knowing that a good meal and rest are close at hand. Me too!
#6. The moments of perfection! No matter where you finish or even if you finish – a journey of 1000 + miles is bound to have its moments of utter perfection. The moment when every dog is driving solidly into their harnesses, the weather is pleasant, the scenery spectacular, when you are sure there is no where else in the world you would rather be then right where you are…perfect moments.
#5. Cresting the last hill outside of Nome. This is the most ‘perfect’ moment on the trail for me – still out there living the adventure, but knowing that the success of crossing the finish line is almost guaranteed.
This is actually arriving into Elim (2003), but
if Nome was around the corner, similar inspiring beauty.
#4. Rainy Pass – not the checkpoint but the actual mountain pass itself - an expanse of impressive, above the tree line Mountains. Winding through it with a dog team is utterly spectacular and reminds me how small and insignificant we truly are. My favorite part of the trail!
#3. The Happy River. Note – I didn’t say the Happy River Steps, but rather the River itself. Being on the river means the Steps are now behind you for another year!
One of the sleds we broke on the Iditarod Trail
#2. The Re-start – although the ceremonial start and all the activities prior to the restart are fun – it is the actual Race that we have been working towards and dreaming of all year. It is so wonderful to finally be underway!
#1. The sense of ‘oneness’ with my dogs. I love my dogs and we spend literally thousands of hours together at home and during training, but the Iditarod takes that to a whole other level. With all the other distractions and concerns out of your life except the dogs and the trail, it allows a bonding that is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.