Sunday, 29 April 2012

Tales of the Trail 2012 - 24'ing in McGrath

I arrived in McGrath expecting to to sign in, grab some parts off my second sled, sign out and head to Takotna - but as soon as I pulled in checker and friend Rick suggested that I stay and 24 here. I smiled, as in the weeks before Iditarod Rick had emailed and told me how nice it would be if I took my 24 hour layover in McGrath and I explained to him that I had set up my drop bags and schedule to 24 in Takotna - but I quickly realized that Rick was serious. He indicated that there were over 30 teams currently in Takotna, with more on the way.

That certainly got my attention as I realized parking and musher sleeping would be at a premium but there were a few problems with me staying in McGrath.

"But I don't have quite enough food here for 24 hours.", I said.
"We can help with that", Rick said, indicating I could raid some of the earlier mushers leftovers.
"But I mailed a second bale of straw to Takotna so the team could have a super cushy parking spot", I said.

"We can help with that", Rick said.
"Where would you park me?", I asked.

Rick took me for a walk over to look at parking and I told him I was willing to commit to a 24 hour lease on it!

I really liked the timing on this layover too as it was going to work well with the dogs' (and my) internal clocks.

Quickly and efficiently the volunteers got me turned around and parked against the snow bank. There was a pile of leftover straw there and the dogs immediately took possession of that.  I worked away at adding more straw, moving dogs around and generally getting everyone settled for a long rest.

While getting drop bags and checking out where everything was I noticed that my second sled wasn't here. Not good.

I ran into the checkpoint, grabbed something to drink and left a message for Richard about the fact that I had decided to 24 in McGrath and the sled.

I went back out to the team and got a good meal into them. Then jacketed, blanketed and got them all settled again. Although 'settled' was a bit of wishful thinking. The girls in heat were definitely a distraction for all the dogs. I wished they were resting better and was worried that could come back to haunt me later in the race.

This time when I phoned I was able to catch up with Richard. He updated me on my sled (weather had prevented it leaving Anchorage - but it would be arriving before I left) and said that, weather depending, he and Donna would be out to McGrath to visit with me the next day! Very cool!! I drank and ate a bit more and headed out to the team.

A few times during the race folks would ask me if I had spoken with Gerry Sousa yet? I hadn't seen Gerry at all this race that I was aware and wondered what was up.

While I was pottering around Gerry came over to me and said that we needed to talk.

"So I hear", I replied, wondering.

"First off," he said, "I want you to know I want them."


When he mentioned that he had been parked next to my team in Skwentna, the light went off in my head. We were going to be grandparents!!!

I think Gerry thought I was going to be mad, but really, how could I be? I had had the same problem myself a 'few' times this race!!

*For the record, the dog Gerry's male bred was Boo, who was also bred by Wifi. It is entirely possible for a dog to have a litter with multiple fathers. DNA testing, which isn't too expensive anymore, will be done to determine sires on the puppies. And during the race I was approached by a number of mushers who expressed interest in Siberian/Alaskan puppies, so I am not at all concerned about finding homes for them!

Because I was not completely prepared to take my 24 here in McGrath and because Iditarod folks had been so keen to have me do so, I was allowed to raid the 'leftover' pile from the other mushers. I beelined for DeeDee Jonrowe's bags, as I know she feeds the same fabulous Eagle MVP kibble I do and I had bought a bunch of meat off her earlier in the year, so her meat would also be familiar to the dogs.  I was able to round up enough meat and kibble to nicely round off my stuff and keep the dogs happy for 24 hours.

I staked out a spot in the drying room and sleeping area, ate a lot of food, drank a lot of tang and coffee, and then headed off to grab some sleep.

I slept for a few hours IN MY SLEEPING BAG (SWEET) before getting up and feeding the dogs and myself again.

I must say that mushers always rave about the food in Takotna but the food in McGrath is something to rave about too. There was a huge variety of excellent food and the kitchen was staffed by thoughtful and attentive volunteers. I think every pound I lost on the way over to McGrath I found again in the 24 hours I was there!

I wanted to resupply myself with my 5-Hour Energy Drinks while I was here, so I inquired about a store in town and was told it was right next to the 'Internet Cafe/Coffee Shop'.........what was that???? Did they say 'Coffee Shop'?????

It was about a 15-minute walk down to the store, but I figured a chance to stretch my legs would be nice anyway.

At the store I did find my Energy drinks and a new toothbrush (I had misplaced my other one) - and sure enough next door was an Internet Cafe/Coffee shop. I would have loved to stayed for a bit, but I needed to feed dogs again, so I ordered the biggest latte they had (FULL FAT!!) and headed back to the team.

I was rifling around through my sled when I looked up and saw Richard and Donna headed my way. What a nice surprise. The weather had been cloudy with a bit of snow in the morning and I figured there was a good chance they wouldn't be able to fly up, so it was a real treat to see them.

The fact is that seeing family/good friends on the trail is a big morale booster. Especially when you have a bit of time to visit. Being able to share some of your stories, trials and tribulations with a caring ear is BIG.

The next few hours were spent visiting, eating, sorting gear and fixing my drag brake. I had managed to scrounge enough bit and bobs to do a proper job fixing it. For the first bit Richard and Checker Rick hung over top of me, talking me through the repair.....well, once Richard and I straightened out a few language 'complications'....A 'Spanner'???? What the heck is that????

 Anyway, progress was slow until the checkpoint manager, Mark, walked by and said that the guys could actually finish up for me. "I thought you were just trying to prove a point by doing it yourself", he said. Trust me, I have no points I'm that desperate on proving!!! I tossed the tools at the guys and the repair was done quickly and properly. Phew!!!

There were lots of local kids poking around the checkpoint during the afternoon. They were all very good about being respectful of the dogs and letting them rest - but when the dogs were up and about I had told the kids they could say 'hi' and take a few pictures.
One young lady, who later introduced herself as Rosie,  came over and said their was 'something' wrong with one of the dogs paws. I hadn't seen anything when working with the dogs a bit earlier, so I was a little doubtful, but walked up with her to the front of the team. She pointed at See and sure enough, somehow (probably caught it on a line while milling around in harness) the silly girl had managed to break one of her toenails right down to the nail bed! Ouch!! I thanked Rosie a lot for making such a good catch and headed off to find a vet.
The vets, who were great about showing and explaining to Rosie - who told them she'd like to be a vet when she grows up - what they were doing, got See all patched up in no time!

Rosie posed with Charge for a picture (picture by Richard Todd). "Thanks Rosie!!!"

Too soon it was time for Richard and Donna to leave. We said our goodbyes ('See you in Nome' to Richard), they headed back to the airport and I headed to lie down for a bit more.

After my nap I wandered back upstairs and was lucky enough to catch Dan Seavey Sr's presentation to the village of McGrath in honor of the 100 years of the Historic Iditarod Trail. Dan spoke of the early days of the race and his early days in Alaska. I was glad to catch that.

I finished packing up my sled and began readying the dogs to leave. I didn't feel the dogs had gotten a fabulous rest - the girls were too hormonal and the boys too preoccupied with the girls - but it was what it was. 

At 5:48, right on schedule, we left our temporary 'home'!

1 comment:

SAY said...

Thank you so much for these blogs. So interesting to know what happened at the checkpoints during the race.