Travel went more smoothly today. Shortly after rising, I got a quick breakfast from the abundant offerings at the McGrath Checkpoint and took a snow machine ride down to Logistics. I told them that I would like to go to Ruby, but anywhere north would be great. With only one weather delay, which I took advantage of to get a cup of espresso, I was on a plane with my pilot, Jerry, to Takotna. Another snow machine ride and I was at the checkpoint.
I went in to Comms to check in and found that I could go down to the school to visit. There were actually teachers and students there, so off I went.
Jolene is the teacher of a K-12 school with eight students. It is in a newer building with two classrooms, a kitchen, office, a multi-use room that serves as library and gymnasium and a darkroom. The artwork on the walls gives the school a homey feeling which is what it is for me tonight. The hospitality is warm and inviting, and having a roomy, quiet place to rest my head tonight is unique and not to be expected again.
Unlike many of the schools here, Takotna School is not on break. The younger students have school and the older ones that are helping with the Iditarod don’t have to go to school while they are working. They will take their Spring break next week. I was able to meet some of the younger students and give one of them the Ready to Read bags sent out by the Anchorage Public Library.
While wandering through the resting teams, I came upon Matt Failor, a rookie from Ohio. He has been a handler for Martin Buser since 2010 and had the chance this year to run the yearling team. Matt explained to me that a “yearling team” means that they are all two years old and younger. This experience gives both dogs and musher a chance to see how they respond to a trip the magnitude of The Iditarod. Watching them, you could see the playfulness, but also the lessons of the trail beginning to sink in as MOST of them settled down to get some rest, which is what I think I will do to be ready to hit the trail again in the morning.
The people, the dogs, the landscape just keeps getting better and better.
Happy to be on the trail,