Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Tales of the Trail 2012 - Galena to Nulato

Apparently, when we checked into Galena the temperature in the checkpoint was around -38F. Temperatures on the river would have been 5 to 10 degrees colder.

There was no missing that it was brutally cold out. After the dogs were fed, I pulled out jackets and blankets for almost all of them.

Charge had spent a lot of time in the earlier checkpoints pining after the girls in season rather than sleeping and it had really caught up with him now. He was tired, rather listless and not eating well. It was time for him to go home. What a shock. He is such a powerhouse and so steady in team that I would have never expected to have to be dropping him.

Up in the checkpoint I stripped off my numerous layers of clothes and hung them in various spots to dry. Galena has nice washrooms with running water, so I did a bit of washing up and changed all my inner layers of clothes. Ahhhh....

Galena also has a phone they let mushers use if we have a calling card (THANKS Polly and Bill!), so I called and caught both Mark and Richard. Richard was actually out on the Willow Trails with the dogs I had left behind - and Trampie!!

This picture was actually taken shortly before Karen's phone call to Richard.
As I had suspected, a couple days rest had sorted little Tramp right out!!! Good to know. I told Richard to watch for Charge and chatted a bit with Mark about race strategies and the likes. Although the team had had a few good legs on the race and no real disastrous ones (save day one) I was thinking they weren't 'coming together' as I had expected and hoped, and I was a bit worried. I fretted over what do to with my race schedule.

After a bit of food for me (and some more fretting) it was back down to the dogs to get a bit more food into them. In this kind of cold keeping their 'furnaces' going is very important.

In the end I gave the dogs a decent rest here in the warm sun and pulled out of town at around 4pm for the run over to Nulato.

We had barely even cleared the checkpoint when all the dogs heads snapped to look into the trees. In there was the only moose that I ended up seeing for the whole race this year. 

When the dogs got back onto the river they were moving pretty nicely and as the sun went down they continued to do so. Tess was up in front with Jinx and they were happy and focused. I was pleased with my choices regarding rest in Galena.

Bishop's Rock is a predominant landmark on the river. It is named for Hudson Stuck, who was archdeacon of the Yukon in the early 1900's. His book "Ten Thousand Miles by DogTeam" is one of my very favorites and I always think about him and his travels on this stretch. For the first time I noticed a cross high up on the bluff.

A bit past the Rock is a place with other memories for me. In 2003 when Iditarod started out of Fairbanks due to poor weather, I had taken my 24-hour layover in Galena. Leaving there in bitter cold the next morning I had had a GREAT run over to Nulato with a young dog named Orion in lead.

Orion had been so happy that morning and gave me his big snaggletoothed grin every time we stopped. The next year when he unexpectedly got sick and had to be put down in the months prior to Iditarod, there was no doubt what I wanted to do with his ashes - I spread them on the trail along this stretch. It was great to get an opportunity to 'visit' with and think about 'Pointy Teeth'. I miss him.

About 15 miles before Nulato the Koyukuk River flows into the Yukon and a few folks from the village of Koyukuk were up on the river bank cheering at the teams going by. I originally thought they were moose (as did the dogs) and that gave us all a good 'start'. I stopped quickly to put lights on the dogs. This leg is notorious for high speed, sometimes impaired, snowmachiners and scares me.

Eleven miles from the checkpoint the trail makes a 90-degree turn to the south. I figured that we had about an hour and a half to town and even though the dogs were moving well, stopped them for a quick snack. They munched their snacks down happily, but when I pulled the hook and called to them, all our speed was completely gone. I'm not sure whether it was an issue with their attitude or with the trail (likely the trail, as Hank DeBruin was traveling right behind me and experienced the same thing) but it was frustrating when everything had been going so well.

I believe it took us a good deal over 2 hours to get that final distance into Nulato.


Tony Torrez said...

What a great tribute to Orion.

Tony Torrez said...

What a great tribute to Orion.

Caron said...

Karen, could you show us a picture of the lights you use? Would be interesting to see :-)