Thursday 29 March 2001

March 29, 2001

More details coming...stay tuned! :)

Click on the images to view much larger versions.  I have purposely left the originals very large, generally 1024x768 so that details will be more easily visible. 

I'm sure these will be way out of order, but in the interest of getting them posted as quickly as possible...

Wednesday 28 March 2001

March 28, 2001

More to come soon! :)

Go here and click on the images to view much larger versions.  I have purposely left the originals very large, generally 1024x768 so that details will be more easily visible. 


Monday 19 March 2001

March 19, 2001 - The Finish

She did it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Karen arrived in Nome with 15 beautiful Siberian Huskies, riding her sled in style (not running, but riding). 
Her time: 14 Days  23 Hrs 53 Min 16 Sec
As the final musher to successfully complete the 1000+ mile course to Nome in this year's race, Karen will receive the Red Lantern trophy.

We have no close up pictures of her arrival yet, but I'm sure she was smiling from ear to ear (as the siberians might have been too to see Mark waiting for them).

Hundreds of people spent most of the afternoon checking for her arrival on the Live Nome Webcam. With the way the camera was cycling, all that people got to see was the two lead dogs and then Karen's back.
Stay tuned for stories from the trail...
"Iditarod: Red Lantern
As Karen Ramstead brings in the last team on the trail, she will receive the Red Lantern Award and bring closure to another fine Iditarod race. Stay tuned - We're here till the last musher crosses the burled arches in Nome."

I hope they're ready for the hits on their server...
"In the early pioneering years of Alaska, dog teams were used to carry freight and mail between the Anchorage, Seward and the interior. Along the way, roadhouses were set up as rest stops and shelter. The mushers made their way across the Alaska wilderness in all types of weather. To help them, a kerosene lamp was hung outside each roadhouse as a beacon. These lamps helped the mushers find the roadhouses, and served as a notice that a musher was out somewhere on the trail. The lamp was left to burn until the musher was safely at his intended destination.

In 1986, to address and continue the tradition, Chevron USA hung a Red Lantern on the burl arch in Nome. The lantern is lit at the beginning of the race every year, and it burns brightly until the last musher crosses the finish line. The last musher across the finish line puts out the lamp, officially signifying that the Iditarod Sled Dog Race has come to a close. This practice has identified the last musher in the race as the Red Lantern musher.

March 19, 2001

Karen has left Safety, the final checkpoint before Nome at 5:57AM AST (9:57 EST).

It is 22 miles from Safety to Nome.  Karen has been traveling at about 4-5mph...

If you are lucky, you may be able to catch her arrival on the Live Nome Webcam. If anyone happens to be lucky & techie enough to catch her arrival, please take several screen captures and send them on to me!!

For those having trouble with the auto refresh thing, you could just point to the image file Hit refresh (F5 for Internet Explorer Users) or reload (Netscape) when it is convenient or as needed. (I hope we don't crash the server!!!)

Today the Last Great Team carrying the bright red lantern in the Last Great Race is being driven by Karen Ramstead and her 15 Siberian huskies. There are thousands of her friends, fans, and fellows on the Sibernet chat lines right now, flipping back and forth watching the Nomecam. If there are hit counts on that cam, I am sure it will verify my statement. They are from Canada, US, Australia, South Africa, UK, Norway, Sweden, Russia, Poland, Isreal, India, China and too many more to list.

We do hope the media will give Karen and her team of Siberian husky show dogs the attention and adulation they deserve. She has left Safety. That's 15 beautiful registered dogs in that team. Remember, as in Leonard Seppala's team...

Sunday 18 March 2001

March 18, 2001 (part 2)

Well, Karen left White Mountain at 12:40 pm (4:40 pm EST), and is traveling to her last checkpoint (Safety) before the final leg to Nome.

"Mushers follow the shore of Norton Sound to Safety, where the checkpoint building provides the only light for miles. ' To me, it just looks like an old shack, but in winter, it's like a lighthouse,' remembers DeeDee Jonrowe. ' It always looks like a lantern in the distance. You can probably see it four or five miles away.' " A trail 1,100 miles long from Anchorage to Nome, and Karen has only 77 miles remaining.

GO Karen GO!!! : ^)

Those so inclined, please keep her in your prayers. She is now traveling along the Bering Sea. There is only one other musher left, and he is a checkpoint ahead of her. This is a very difficult part of her journey, and she is probably extremely tired. The landscape is barren with no trees in sight, and the area is plagued with high winds and ground blizzards, creating total white-out conditions. If she somehow becomes disoriented, she could wander out onto the Bering Sea and lose her way.

This is where one discovers the true value of our beloved Siberians. Karen will probably give her leaders their heads, and allow them to lead the way. They can find the trail much better than she, and as we all know, Siberians come into this world naturally independent and with high intelligence, for this very purpose.

She needs to fully trust in her "best friends" (as she affectionately calls them).

Godspeed Karen... : )

(Update provided by another fellow Sibernet member).

March 18, 2001


Karen should be leaving White Mountain momentarily after her mandatory 8 hour rest stop. Weather at the moment is -7 F and forecast is for pretty decent weather. Wind is NW at 9 mph, skies are fair humidity 65% and visibility unlimited.

If Karen continues her practice she won't be pushing the dogs very hard even with such a short distance to go. It's hard to estimate her time into Nome but there is a live camera at the finish line.

(Update provided by a fellow Sibernet member).


Saturday 17 March 2001

March 17, 2001

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

At last check, Karen & crew are still going :)

No more word from Karen or Mark, however, a fellow Sibernet member had sent the following images.
Click on the images to view much larger versions.  I have purposely left the originals very large, generally 1024x768 so that details will be more easily visible. 

I would suggest right clicking on each image, select "Open in New Window" (Internet Explorer users...) for each of the larger images you care to view, then give the images a few minutes to load.  You can then switch between windows quickly to see the pre-loaded images.

I'm sure Karen will provide us with more details to what the images actually are in good time :)


Friday 16 March 2001

March 16, 2001

I couldn’t sleep:

I told you not to pay any attention to Karen’s schedule.  It looks like Karen pulled a fast one on those old Shaktoolik Gremlins.  Judging by her run time from Unalakleet to Shaktoolik she decided to camp on the trail then blow through Shaktoolik stopping only long enough to restock her sled with supplies.  Maybe she’ll continue the schedule once she hits Koyuk? Maybe she’ll just keep running until she hits Nome? 

All I know is that in a few hours I’ll be in Nome and for the first time this winter Karen will finally be running towards me instead of away from me.

Bye for good this time.

The next clicking you hear will be from Karen...

(Karen's husband)

Thursday 15 March 2001

March 15, 2001

This is it:

This will be the last diary entry from me. Tomorrow morning I leave for Nome. Once I’m in Nome, I’ll take the short $5.00 taxi ride to the ITC headquarters (Iditarod Trail Committee), then check in so I can get partnered up with my host family. Then all there is to do is kill time until Karen shows up. I’ve figured out her ETA under the arch to be around 3:00 AST Sunday afternoon.
Here is the remainder of Karen’s schedule:
  • Rest 8 hours in Unalakleet
  • Run 8 hours to Shaktoolik and rest for 6 hours
  • Run 8 hours to Koyuk and rest for 6 hour
  • Run 7 hours to Elim and rest for 6 hours
  • Run 8 hours to White Mt. Rest for 8 hours
  • Run 12 hours to Nome rest for 1 year
Please don’t email or phone me when these times aren’t right, I won’t be here, see above paragraph. All these times do is cause headaches, they were actually dreamt up back in September so there is a certain percentage of error. The times are used mostly in the planning of the food drop bags.

Once Karen is in Nome and the dogs are taken care of, the first order of business is to get the team and ourselves out of Nome, we will be at the complete mercy of the airline. As soon as we are back in Knik its time to load the truck and beeline it for home.

Each musher has a mail slot in Nome, I’m sure that there is ways that you can get messages there in time, but your on your own for this one.

(Karen's husband)

Wednesday 14 March 2001

March 14, 2001

Good day:

The Athabasca River is a nice size, the North Saskatchewan River isn’t that small and the Bow River can hold its own.  But you could put them side by side multiply them by two and you still wouldn’t have the Yukon River.  This river is HUGE, at some points it is over a mile wide, it is always cold and it is always winding.  So you can imagine that Karen is very happy to have her and her dog’s feet on dry land again, she’d be even happier if there was snow on that dry ground. So now Karen has finished the Southern route and is back on familiar trail, at least until she gets to Shaktoolik.

I’ve had a lot of questions sent to me during the night, so I’ll spend this diary answering them.  First of all Karen is feeling fine now she was sick for awhile but just ignored it until it went away. 

Karen usually runs her dogs on an equal run rest schedule, this can of course change due to weather or if she is trying to make it to a checkpoint.  On the longer stretches of the race Karen camps on the trail, she has a cooker with her and can melt snow to make meals for herself and her dogs.  I have a copy of her schedule with me so I can watch her progression and see if everything is going according to plan.  I haven’t shared it with anyone yet, you never know when someone from Swingley’s team is watching.  I’ll post the remainder of her schedule before I head up to Nome on Friday.

Karen has been rotating her leaders to keep them fresh.  She hasn’t really said who’s been up front the most, but I’ll bet you any money that Grover will be up front as Karen leaves Shaktoolik.

I get asked a lot of questions about mushers carrying navigation equipment and emergency locators.  Rules #36 & #37 of the Iditarod go something like this:
Rule #36: A musher may carry an Emergency Tracking Device, activation of this device will make a musher ineligible to continue. 

I know for a fact that this rule has been enforced in the past.  
Rule #37: Musher may only use traditional forms of navigation, no night vision goggles, or GPS devices.

In other words follow the trail markers.
When I mentioned yesterday that I was going to watch the grass grow I wasn’t kidding, the snow is quickly disappearing, its getting hot enough during the days that I had to bring my beer in off the porch and put it in the fridge.  Yesterday when I was in town getting some groceries there where people wearing shorts...

(Karen's husband)

Tuesday 13 March 2001

March 13, 2001

This is the section of the diary that I am going to label “Combining”, yes I’m grasping at straws.

I really have nothing to say, but that’s not going to stop me.

To keep myself from going crazy while Karen makes her way up the trail I watch a lot of movies.  This week I’ve watched everything from Pinocchio to Apocalypse Now.  Needless to say I’ve had some very strange dreams at night. I also watch the tide come in and out of the Knik Arm that I can see directly out of the front window of the house that I’m staying at. I was planning on watching some grass grow tomorrow but I don’t want the week to peak too early.

Some of Karen’s mail from the trail is slowly but surely trickling in.  This is the stuff from the checkpoints that she is either done with or extra stuff that she didn’t need but isn’t garbage.  Things like socks, gloves, gangline, and harnesses.  I sort it out, clean it and pack it away for the trip home.

The main reason for this diary entry was to tell you about a place on the Cabela’s site that I stumbled onto this morning where you can wish Karen good luck.  Some of you have found this on your own but I’ll tell the rest of you where it is.  Go to the Iditarod website, click on the Cabela’s page.  On the left side of the page you will find a heading called “Talk Forums” click on it, then click on “Root for your Musher”.  Scroll down until you see “GO KAREN GO” then root away.  The next time I talk to Karen I’ll tell her to go take a look.

Oreo is back to 100%, the only work that she is doing now is working on her tan.

Well there you go, you know it’s okay that there’s not much to talk about.


Monday 12 March 2001

March 12, 2001 (part 2)

Quick note:

Karen called me from Grayling this afternoon, on one of those satellite phones, it was as clear as bell before it cut out.  She was in a very upbeat and happy mood.  She commented on how she has been mushing on some very mushy trails and has gone through several storms in the last couple of days.  Karen was also able to talk to Jamie Nelson this morning, which is always a good thing.  She was going to extend her rest in Graying by a few hours, I forget why but she said that she had to be out of the hall before the Bingo game started.

You now know what I know...

(Karen's husband)

March 12, 2001

All right everybody start breathing again.

Did you already forget the first rule of handling for Karen?

At this point I don’t know anymore than you.  All I can figure is that there was some kind of communication problem.  Iditarod is a very remote and desolate checkpoint, I’m sure that the checkers had to call in the times on a satellite phone, that don’t work as well as the commercials lead you to believe.

Karen is traveling with a nice group of people, and as long as they keep moving forward they will be left alone by the ITC.

That’s it for now

(Karen's husband)

Saturday 10 March 2001

March 10, 2001


Well it looks like Karen is back on schedule again.  Her predicted times and actual times have been within a few minutes of each other, with the exception of the Burn which took her an hour and a half longer to run than she thought.  I think that her run from Ophir to Iditarod will be longer as well, just by looking at everyone else’s times, everyone is running slower because there is NO snow.

Oreo is finally home, a dropped dog goes through quite trip before it is returned home.  Once the decision has been made to drop a dog the musher has to sign a drop dog form, then the Vets priorities the dogs by how fast they need to get home. First they could medivac the dog out with a Vet immediately, or they mark the dogs with red tape around their collar which means that it goes out on the next available flight, or like in Oreo’s case she was marked with blue tape which means she can leave whenever its convenient for the race.  If a dog is dropped on the first half of the race it is flown on a small plane to McGrath where the dog drop girls stake it out to chain link fence where they are pampered until they can leave for Anchorage.  Once in Anchorage the dogs are trucked to the prison where they are pampered again until a designated person picks it up and takes it home.  If a dog is dropped on the second half of the race it is flown to Nome.

Our handlers left for home the other day, they were going to Red Deer via Fairbanks and Northpole.  Their help was very much appreciated, even though Karen and I are not the easiest people to work with or even be around at this time of the year.  I hope that they had fun and took home lots of memories.
I have to tell you a funny story about Karen’s friends from the Bay Area Siberian Husky club from San Francisco. They were joking about how we don’t eat Tofu.  So while Karen wasn’t looking they slipped a package of Tofu into her sled, she didn’t find it until the first checkpoint, she had a big laugh then threw it into the garbage.

Karen is on her second sled now, the sled that she brought across the burn needs a lot of attention, and will need to be beefed up a bit before it sees another race.  Now that I see what breaks on it I’ll hopefully be able to make it stronger.

(Karen's husband)

Friday 9 March 2001

March 9, 2001

I’m Back:

Sorry to leave you guys hanging for so long, but late Wednesday night Karen phoned with a changed of plans.  She had originally planned to 24 in Takotna but the Burn took a little bit more out of Surge (the youngest dog on the team) than Karen would have like to have seen, and he stopped eating.  So Karen decided to 24 in McGrath.  

I drove in to Anchorage early Thursday morning and managed to get a seat on the only plane that goes to McGrath, but they said that I couldn’t return until Saturday.  I took a chance and bought a ticket, I knew that I could kill an extra day in a town of 500 with 3 bars.  After I saw Karen off this morning I went to the airport and put my name on the standby list for the only plane that leaves McGrath, and I got on.  Because McGrath has a big airport (for Alaska) it was easy for me to go visit her. McGrath having this big airport is also why you see all the back of the pack mushers scratch there, because it’s cheaper to fly the dogs home.

Anyway Karen is doing GREAT, she has a bit of a cough, and because Art Church scratched with Pneumonia Karen got hauled into the McGrath medical clinic to get checked out.  The nurse told Karen not to continue, but the Vets said that she was okay to go.  You already know who she listened to...

Once Surge finally decided to start eating again Karen’s biggest concern was her headlights.  It seems that her batch of batteries is bad and only lasts an hour instead of the 8 their supposed too.  Once she figured this out it was only a matter of going around and borrowing or buying new batteries off of other mushers.

While I’m at the checkpoint I cannot offer Karen any assistance or even touch a dog.  I was carefully watched the whole time that I was there.  Karen would have to make several trips from her sled to the checkpoint building carrying heavy bags while I walked beside her carrying nothing.  The worst part was that when I gave Karen a kiss goodbye I thought that they were going to make me kiss all of the mushers goodbye!

When I got home I had over 100 emails waiting for me with tons of questions.  The number one question was, "Who did Karen Drop?"  Karen dropped Oreo.  Oreo had some back problems and also some other sores, so she now gets a plane ride home.

The sleds that get shipped to McGrath are done the week before the race and are usually sent to McGrath or Unalakleet because of their airports.  Iditarod rules say that you can have two spare sleds on the trail.

My Mom did not sew our booties, we ordered 1500 before the start of the race even though we don’t use that many.  My Mom did sew all of our dogs Jackets though.

They “+” sign you see beside names on the updates means that it is a new entry.  Updates for the back of the back are always slow.

Chester is doing great, he lead the team out of McGrath this morning.  If you look close I think that you can see half his face in the start picture.

That’s it for now...I have to save some for tomorrow J.

(Karen's husband)

Wednesday 7 March 2001

March 7, 2001 - again

It’s me again:

I no sooner plugged the phone back in when Karen called from Nikolai.  She made it across the Farwell Burn (click to see trail) and she said that there was no snow at all, which is bad enough when you’re on a good sled, but Karen wasn’t that lucky.  Yes she said that thanks to a combination of Sissy in lead, the Happy River steps, and a USA Today camera crew she managed to wreck another sled.  Once Sissy saw the camera crew she stopped and Karen lost all momentum and rolled her sled a few times, I’m sure that we’ll see this on a video in our near future.   Anyway she says that she can nurse it to McGrath where she has a sled that’s good as new waiting for her.

Karen said that because of the extra time needed to cross the Burn she will rest for couple more hours in Nikolai.  She sounded tired but upbeat and says that her new Northern Outfitters jacket looks worse than her old one.


(Karen's husband)

March 7, 2001


You guys are about to learn the first lesson in “Handling for Karen 101”...

I haven’t heard from her yet, but she still has 16 dogs and she’s following her schedule down to the minute.  I was planning on visiting her in Takotna but there is a storm in the area keeping most of the small planes on the ground. We are getting dumped on here in Knik right now.

I forgot to mention in the last posting that several of Karen’s dogs were drug tested before the restart on Sunday, maybe Iditarod is worried about the Red Lantern award this year.

It’s a little early to be watching now but there is an online video at the Iditarod checkpoint.  You can see what's happening there and maybe even see Karen check in.  She should be in Iditarod sometime early Friday afternoon Alaska Standard Time.

My trip to Seward was fun, the Sea Life Center was very interesting, it’s a research center that lets you view there animal.  It was started after the Exxon spill.  The drive was very pretty, all four hours each way of it, and very diverse.  We drove through rain most of the way, but when we went over one pass the snow on the shoulders was at least 15 feet deep.

Maybe next time when I write I’ll have talked to Karen and have more to say.   


(Karen's husband)

Monday 5 March 2001

March 5, 2001

Hello everybody:

Well she’s gone. Everything went as planned. Karen didn’t seem nervous at all, it was more a case of "Let's get started so I can finish." 

There’s an article in today’s Anchorage Daily News about Siberians running the race with some pictures of Karen in the photo album section. The article is about a race within a race, well if that’s the case, someone forgot to tell the other three drivers and us about it! The main reason that we race is to gauge our dogs against other dogs, and this would be a perfect opportunity to do this, but you have to remember that Karen isn’t racing. Once she gets one Iditarod under her belt she’ll pick it up a notch.

Tomorrow Lloyd, Vivian, Jamie West and myself are going down to Seward for a day of sight seeing. There is a sea life center as well as some kind of heritage sight, plus we’ll do the lunch thing.

That’s all that I have for now, I don’t know any more than you. When your surfing go to the Cabela’s Iditarod site, and click on the 2001 Leader board, you can click on your favorite musher and it will update you with their status it also has a map to show you their progress.

Talk to you later

(Karen's husband)

Friday 2 March 2001

March 2, 2001

Well, here we are the night before the Start. Amazing, it sure doesn’t seem like a year has past since the last time. The butterflies are flying around just like last year. I can’t decide whether I’m nervous or excited – must be a combination of both!

Yesterday was the Mushers' Meeting and Mushers' Banquet. Neither had too many surprises. It was a lot of fun to catch up with friends that I haven’t seen in awhile. The different Iditarod ‘Presenting’ sponsors had lots of cool stuff for the mushers – things like Windstopper vests and neat ballcaps that said ‘Official Musher’ on them from Cabelas, first aid kits from Providence Health Care, and bandannas and mini flashlights from Alaska Dodge Dealers. Sort of like Christmas! 

Iditarod officials had maps and tons of information about the start, restart, rules, procedures, and the trail itself. The trail is reported to be anywhere from ‘10 feet of snow’ in Rainy Pass to ‘bare dirt and rocks’ in spots on the southern route. The phrases ‘open water’, and ‘the best we could do’ were often used. The trail between Shaktoolik and Koyuk has had to be re-routed along the shoreline, adding 6 to 8 miles to that leg, because Norton Sound has not frozen up this winter. I have faith that the Iditarod will put in the best trail possible for us and I’m just going to follow the markers all the way to Nome!
The Mushers' Banquet was a lot of fun. A group of friends from the Bay Area Siberian Husky Club have come up for the start. It was great to get to see them again – although I was bouncing up and down away from my seat long enough that we didn’t really get much of a chance to visit.

I drew Bib #40 – a number I’m pretty happy with. I’m kind of surrounded by a bunch of the ‘big’ names – Doug Swingley is a couple ahead of us, Dee Dee Jonrowe, Rick Swenson and Rick Mackey are a few right behind us! Probably position us just right for the TV coverage to go to a commercial break when I show up in the chute. J For those of you interested in watching the start, I’m told that the Iditarod has a live computer feed on their website at The action gets underway at 10am and I should be heading off somewhere around 11:20.

This morning, with a little last minute advice from Jamie Nelson (via the phone), I got the final cuts made on the team. They will be (in no particular order) –
  • NorthWapiti’s Guy Smiley
  • NorthWapiti’s Super Grover
  • NorthWapiti’s Mr. Snuffleupagus ‘Gus
  • NorthWapiti’s Orion the Hunter
  • NorthWapiti’s Draco
  • Chuchinka’s Nicolai II ‘Nik
  • Wetaskiwin’s Sir Gallahad ‘Surge
  • Tumnatski's Bosun NorthWapiti  'Striker'
  • Ch. NorthWapiti’s Oreo
  • Hawk’s NorthWapiti Vindicator ‘Jake
  • Chuchinka’s San Antonio Rose ‘Kaylinn
  • NorthWapiti’s Camilla
  • Ch. Kainai’s Anchorman ‘Mannie
  • The Flying Nun of NorthWapiti ‘Sissy
  • Chuchinka’s Pathfinder ‘Chester'
  • NorthWapiti's Butch Cassidy SD
This is a strong group of dogs that I’m proud to be driving. I think they have the heads and the attitudes this year that we need to get to Nome. We are all confident, focused and ready!
The ceremonial start has been shortened to 11 miles and we will be using teams of 10 dogs (instead of the usual 30 miles and 12 dogs). Tomorrow’s group will be:
  • Grover
  • Gus
  • Smiley
  • Orion
  • Nik
  • Mannie
  • Jake
  • Oreo
  • Chester
  • Chuchinka's Raptor
Well, I’m signing off until after the Race. Mark will be keeping the diary up to date and we will post a list of other places on the ‘net to keep track of things in the next day or so.
I hope I do a good enough job with this diary that I somewhat convey just how lucky and honored I feel to get the opportunity to run Iditarod. This is an amazing event and I am so thrilled to be a part of it.

I will ‘talk’ to you all from NOME!!!