Saturday, 12 May 2012

Tales of the Trail 2012 - Ruby to Galena

Ruby is the first of the village checkpoints along the trail. I love the village checkpoints. Traveling through these villages gives me a glimpse of a lifestyle that I could not possible imagine without experiencing it. Nowadays they are a fascinating mix of tradition and technology. Outhouses with giant satellite dishes next to them, hides stretched and drying on porches, high tech 'snowgos' sitting out side the door.....I once asked a local from one of the villages along the Yukon if it was expensive to live there. She said it could be if you got a taste for 'exotic' things - like beef and chicken. Not so bad if you were happy with moose and ptarmigan!!!

Ruby is one of the most picturesque villages along Iditarod - nestled in the steep, rocky banks of the Yukon River. I've watched some AMAZING northern lights perched up high on the banks.

This years things were changed a little for us. Rather than sleeping in half of the community center, which was always noisy, mushers had their own building up by the church. There were no bunks or mats - just a floor - but it was pretty quiet, which was nice.

I was really happy with the way the team ate and settled down here. Tess had a bit of a scuffle with one of the other girls - I think she let all my praise about what a great job she did in single lead go to her head - but I got everyone settled and tucked in for a good rest in the last of the warm, healing afternoon sun.

The biggest drawback to Ruby is the outhouse situation. As much as I love this village, it has the dirtiest, most disgusting outhouses I have ever seen. They are rude and disturbing. *sigh*
After drenching myself in sanitizing lotion I headed into the community center to see if I could scrounge up some food.

When I walked into the building one glaring absence was immediately obvious to me. Volunteer Tony Waffen has been a staple in Ruby and many other checkpoints over the years. Unfortunately, Tony passed away suddenly last fall. I missed him.

Race judge Rich Bosella, who I ran one of my first Iditarods with and whose company I always enjoy, was offering to cook up hamburgers for the mushers. What a treat!!! They were GREAT!!! I packed away a couple of those, some pilot bread (I know...but I quite love the stuff) and peanut butter, a gallon or so of Tang and a number of cups of coffee before walking back up to the sleeping area.

Just as I walked in Bill Pinkham was abandoning the one sleeping mat in the building. I asked if he was leaving and if he minded if I stole the mat. He cleared off his gear and I greedily claimed it.
My back had been just killing me since Cripple, so before shutting my eyes I did a number of yoga stretches that my good friend Gabi had sent me out on the trail with. That helped A LOT!!!!

I didn't get much sleep, but it felt good to get some relief on my back and just be off my feet for a bit.

When I was firing up my cooker to water the dogs again I had to giggle some. The last time I was in Ruby I managed to set my pants on fire while lighting my cooker. It has become a standing joke between my fabulously creative friend Penny Blankenship and me - so I had to giggle when I thought of how proud (or maybe disappointed) Penny would be to know I didn't set myself on fire this time!

(cartoonist addendum:  somewhat disappointed actually hehehe)

I got dogs fed, packed up the sled and wandered back down to the community center for some more Tang and coffee.

Before heading out I decked the team out in a bunch of flashy lights. The trails between the villages are well used by locals and one wants to make sure they are visible to them at night. No place for 'stealth mode' from now on.

The dogs did a lot of stop and go as we got going - but looking back at Ruby at night from the Yukon is one of my favorite views on Iditarod, so I didn't mind too much - and the northern lights were rallying against the bright moon to add to the picture!

It was definitely cold again and the wind was blowing a bit, but 'blowing' has a whole new 'standard' on the Yukon River - so I wasn't going to whine too much to myself about it.

Hank DeBruin and I were on again off again traveling together again. There isn't a whole lot to look at on the Yukon at night, so it was a nice distraction to keep an eye on Hank's headlamp.

The dogs were actually rolling along quite nicely - and even held it together when we got to a stretch that was blowing and seriously drifting even by Yukon River standards.

After what seems like forever the trail finally swung north into some more sheltered tributaries on its way to Galena.

This is a pretty 'moosey' stretch of trail and the dogs acted like they saw moose a few times, but I never saw anything more than some very fresh looking tracks. Often I wish I had the senses that the dogs have to know everything that was lurking out there, but it would likely make me crazy!! Probably better to stay a 'limited' human!!!

This section of trail ALWAYS seems to take longer than I think it should. Especially in the dark when you can see the lights of Galena long before you get to them. By the time the team climbed the steep bank off the Yukon and into town I think we were all practically comatose.

1 comment:

Jenny Glen said...

I wish I could see pictures of the dogs all decked out in their lights. I didn't know you did that. Love the insider stories!