2013 Iditarod Comes To A Close

DSC_4387Christine Roalofs closed the door on the 41st Iditarod earning the Red Lantern Award.  Since Tuesday night, 54 of the 66 mushers who started the race, finished it under the Burled Arch in Nome.  It’s been exciting to see mushers cross the finish line filled with emotion and gratitude.  It’s even more fun watching the dogs finish with tails wagging and smiling eyes.DSC_4499

It’s a dog’s race, but mushers are their voice.  At the Finisher’s Banquet Sunday night, mushers thanked sponsors, family and friends and especially their dogs.  Awards were given and stories were shared.

Personally, being a part of the Iditarod was the realization of a dream.  While I’m sad to see it come to a close, I’m excited to get home to share my stories and experiences.  Dogs, mushers, volunteers and vets are all heading home, but the memories and lessons of the 2013 Iditarod will live on.


There’s No Place Like Nome

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Nome, Alaska is a city of almost 4,000 residents that sits on Norton Sound at the edge of the Bering Sea.  There is a lot to see and discover here, but the week the Iditarod comes to town, there is something for everyone.  Events began on Monday, March 11 with workshops, talks, tours, an Arts & Crafts Fair, and Fine Arts Fair to name a few.

My time here has been busy – not only with Iditarod – but trying to fit all the other interesting events into a day.  One of the highlights includes watching Velvet, a pet reindeer, go through town  the back of a pick-up.  I also attended the largest basketball tournament in the world.  I can’t forget about the beautiful sunsets over the Bering Sea and the poetry reading by Richard “Hello Central” Benevelle.  I didn’t drive anywhere because gas prices are hovering at $6.15 a gallon and I didn’t grocery shop because there were fabulous cooks at the church where I am staying, plus groceries are very expensive.  I was even interviewed on a radio show for local station, KICY.

Read more about Nome at their website, Nome, Alaska and visit the Nome, Alaska Visitor’s Center website to read more about the rich history of this city.  True to its own tagline, there is no place like Nome.

Angie Arrives in Nome!

DSC_4276Last fall I contacted former 2nd grade teacher from Ketchikan, Alaska,  Angie Taggart to ask if I could follow her training for the 2013 Iditarod and share it on this blog.  She immediately agreed.  Angie worked hard training with little snow and even some winter rain.  Last night, at 11:50 Nome time, Angie finished the race under the Burled Arch.

I started watching for her a little after 11.  Looking down the trail on the Bering Sea, way off in the distance, we could see a faint light bobbing up and down.  Angie!  As she got closer, the light got brighter.  Her hard work paid off as she was met by family and friends.  In her interview, when asked how she felt, she replied, DSC_4291“Sad.”  Sad the race is over and sad that she won’t run it again.  Sled dog racing is an expensive sport and Angie feels she needs to get back to teaching.

Angie’s decision to run the Iditarod was the realization of a dream.  Good for you Angie, thanks for sharing your training, and welcome to Nome.

The Dog Lot


DSC_4193Dogs and crates everywhere!  That’s the dog lot in Nome.  Once the team crosses under the Burled Arch, Dr. Stu Nelson, Chief Veterinarian does a quick check on each dog.  Every dog on the team gets lots of pets and love from the musher, family and friends.  They have, after all, just run about 1,000 miles – they’ve earned it.

After that, the team is run down Front Street toward the Mini Convention and parked in the big dog lot where they join dogs from other teams that have finished.  They are cared for by the mushers and handlers and given a more thorough check up by vets.  Each dog has a crate thatDSC_4191 is filled with straw and they bed down for a well deserved rest.  The mushers are in charge of flying them back either to Anchorage or wherever their final destination may be.

The dog lot in Nome is a temporary home for Iditarod dogs.  Soon the dog lot will be empty and the 2013 Iditarod will be over.


Linda dog lot 2013

The Courage To Join

DSC_4081Before I came on the Iditarod Trail, many students thought I was a musher competing in the race.  My answer was always, “No way, those guys are crazy!”  Now they may be crazy, but I say that with the utmost respect.

The top 10 finishers have come in and they have been praised by the media and fans for their performances.  As of this writing, 43 mushers have come through the chute in Nome and finished the Iditarod under the Burled Arch.  Some mushers had to withdraw or scratch from the race.  But there are still 11 mushers out there.  11 mushers I admire for their courage to run in the Last Great Race.  Keep cheering these mushers on – they deserve it.

“The thrill is not just winning, but the courage to join the race.”  Helena Johnson




The Last Word on Dog Pee

DSC_4036A student from Westport, CT asked me why they collect dog pee.  Pee is collected so it can be tested for drugs.  Like human athletes, they are looking for any kind of drugs that make the dogs run faster and stronger.

Over the past few days, they took the final collections here in Nome and sent them off to a drugDSC_4039 testing lab in Colorado.  This is the same lab where they analyze pee from greyhounds and some race horses.  Once again, security was a factor.  Dr. Morrie, who oversees the collection, and Marilyn who is on the collection team, brought the locked cooler to Alaska Air to send it off.  After the paperwork was completed and the “keep frozen” stickers attached, it was sent off to the lab in Colorado.

Go doggies has a whole new meaning for me.  That’s the last word on dog pee.

White Mountain


Wednesday, March 13 was another crisp, clear day in Nome, Alaska.  I was just about to write my post for the day about the winning teams, when my friend and pilot Marty asked if I wanted a ride to White Mountain to deliver some items and pick up dropped dogs.  Hmmmmm – YES!

White Mountain is a beautiful little village on a hill overlooking the Fish River. DSC_3967Once again I was met by friendly volunteers, coms people and vets.  The winners may be in, but there are still mushers on the trail.  Matt Failor was there trying to massage the feet of one of his dogs.  All the dogs were enjoying their 8 hour mandatory rest on the river with the sun shining.  4 dogs had been left behind by previous mushers and needed a lift to Nome so we loaded them in the plane and took off.

Friend and former Teacher on the Trail, Terrie Hanke told me about the term “severe clear”.  Today, like the past 2 days, is severe clear.  You can see for miles and not understand how far you are looking.  It’s an amazing view with theDSC_4013 Alaska expanse.  Miles and miles of mountains meeting the sky. Severe clear could work anyplace on earth, but in Alaska it has a life of its own.

There were a few added bonuses on this trip.  After seeing 2 moose on take off, Musk Oxwe had a few more surprises on this flight.  The first was a herd of musk ox.  Wow!  Next we spotted caribou.  So Rowen (student who always asks if I have seen any animals) I saw lots today.  What a treat.  Thanks Marty and safe travels back home.