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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

10:40 PM – Nome, Alaska

DSC_3895It was just after 10:30 pm when  the word spread down the chute that Mitch Seavey was in town.  He officially finished Tuesday, March 12 at 10:39:56 pm Nome time as the winner of the 2013 Iditarod.  He was met by family as he crossed under the Burled Arch.  His gear was checked to make sure he had his mandatory items and he was declared the winner.  It was an exciting race this year with the lead changing hands several times.  At 53 years old, Mitch is the oldest person to win the Iditarod.  Keeping it in the family, his son Dallas was the youngest winner last year.

Aliy Zirkle came into town 23 minutes later as the second place finisher.  BothDSC_3909 Mitch and Aliy looked exhausted as they grabbed a bite to eat and answered questions from the media.  They joked around with each other – each showing the utmost respect for their fellow musher.

Jeff King arrived under the Burled Arch just over an hour after Aliy to claim third place.  As of this writing, 20 teams have arrived in Nome, and there DSC_3921are 36 mushers still out on the trail making their way to Nome.  For them, the race is not over.  The tenacity to keep going knowing the winners are already in Nome is what makes the Iditarod the Last Great Race.

The Teacher on the Trail Arrives in Nome

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After another amazing flight with Pilot Marty, I arrived in Nome.  We flew out of Unalakleet with blue sky and panorama for miles and miles.  The camera does not do the beauty of the land justice.  There were a few teams on the IditarodDSC_3828 Trail as they left the Unalakleet checkpoint on their way to Shaktoolik.  It’s hard for me to imagine living in small, remote villages along the coast, but we flew over a few.  I was able to see by air the checkpoints of Shaktoolik, Elim, White Mountain and Safety.  We followed the Iditarod Trail into Nome where tonight a few teams will battle for the title of Iditarod Champion.

DSC_3878Once in Nome, I made my way to the Methodist Church where Deb helped me find a spot for my sleeping bag and travel bag.  This will be my home away from home for the next few days.  After a bowl of homemade chicken soup, I walked to Iditarod Headquarters.  On Front Street, under the Burled Arch, workers are preparing for the finish early – very early – Wednesday morning.  I will be there to watch the winner come in.  Stay tuned – it’s going to be exciting!

Unalakleet’s Quiet Dogs

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I flew into Unalakleet (You na la kleet)  from Anvik with Pilot Diana on an unusually clear, crisp day.  With blue skies and no clouds, I was able to see for miles up the Yukon River.  Once we landed and unloaded, I walked from the airport to the checkpoint.  After a few wrong turns and getting directions from friendly people, I found my way to the checkpoint.  Now familiar faces greeted me here and a moose burger (yes, moose burger) was put in my hands.

DSC_3706I couldn’t sit for long because I felt I needed to take advantage of the beautiful day.  After visiting with some of the mushers and dogs that are currently in the  Unalakleet checkpoint, I took a walk up the Iditarod Trail towards Norton Sound that leads out to the Bering Sea.  Wow!  I think I need to write that sentence again to make sure it really happened.  I took a walk up the Iditarod Trail towards Norton Sound that leads out to the Bering Sea.  Coming back toward the checkpoint, I followed the trail for a while and found a paw print that made me marvel.  This paw has been 700 miles – my footprint is bigger, but it somehow feels small in comparison.

When I came back into the checkpoint, I found myself alone with empty sleds DSC_3721and 44 sleeping dogs.  There wasn’t a sound.  Dogs have had all their needs met:  food, water, straw, exercise, and a thorough vet check.  This is an impressive race, not only due to the volunteer force that makes it run, but the canine athletes who run this distance with wagging tails and happy faces.  Right now some of them are sleeping, but soon they’ll be back on the trail headed for Nome.

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Linda’s GPS Tracker

LindaDon’t worry!  Linda is NOT where the GPS Tracker shows that she is….   Unlike the GPS Trackers that mushers carry and are attached to their sleds, Linda’s GPS Tracker is in her backpack.  This means the tracker goes inside and outside, inside another building, and then outside again.  This makes the possibility of false readings on her Tracker a reality.

When Linda lands at a checkpoint, it is necessary for her to leave her backpack and GPS Tracker outside for about 10 minutes to get the proper reading.  As may also be the case, if Linda’s backpack wasn’t outside for 10 minutes before she got on a plane to fly to a different location, a false reading could also occur.

We are expecting a correct reading on Linda’s GPS Tracker soon.

Diane Johnson

Speaking Russian in the Iditarod

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I was able to get out of McGrath Sunday morning with pilot Marty Carlson.  It was smooth flying for a while, then the low clouds moved in.  Marty reacted by turning around and getting on top on the clouds to fly me safely into Anvik.  I can’t believe I’m actually at the Yukon River where I even spotted a few moose as we flew in. The Iditarod has the best bush pilots!

DSC_3542Anvik is where Martin Buser won his “First to the Yukon” dinner.  Shortly after I arrived, Mikhail Telpin drove his team into this checkpoint.  It MUST be hard for him.  He came into the checkpoint with his beautiful dogs still wagging their tails after 486 miles.  Mikhail is from Russia and speaks little to no English.  He tried to communicate with the checker and finally got down on a knee to ask his question by drawing a picture in the snow.  He was curious about what the next checkpoint was and how far DSC_3553away – we think.

He switched out his lead dog, pulled a few things out of his bag, signed a few autographs, and then headed down the trail where he will have to try to communicate with the checkers at the next checkpoint.  Not only does he have the challenge of the Iditarod Trail, but he also faces the challenge of communication.  Good for him.  He made it 486 miles, so he must be doing something right.

The Clean Up Crew

The weather plays a factor in the way a musher runs a team.  This year it has been unseasonably warm and that affects the dogs who like it much colder.  The weather also affects the flights of the vets, volunteers and the Teacher on the Trail.  The air currents on Friday were strong enough to keep planes grounded.

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Because of the strange weather, I find myself behind the race at this point – even behind the Trail Sweeps (TS on the GPS Tracker).  BUT, because I’m behind I was able to learn about the clean-up of a checkpoint.  We were stranded here in Takotna Friday night so leftover food was brought out and volunteers took over.  I found myself grilling the left-over steaks the mushers missed out on.  It was a festive atmosphere because there was nothing we could do about our situation except make the best of it.  Once again, the people made it worth the stay with conversations about this year’s race and past races these great volunteers and vets have been a part of.

Saturday, while we waited for our flights out, the clean-up was in full gear.  Leftover dog food and people food was distributed to people in the village,  items that could be safely burned were thrown into the burn pile, and items that are only used once a year were put into a cupboard and locked away.  While other checkpoints are just beginning to get ready for mushers, Takotna is closed down.

The Trail Sweeps quickly ate a hamburger here and are headed down the trail.  Hopefully, the Teacher on the Trail will pass them and not meet up with them until Nome.  Thanks Takotna for a great stay!  :-)

A Tangled Team

DSC_3487One question students always tend to ask is, “What happens if a dog team gets tangled?”  Well, that happened today to James Volek as he left Takotna.  James brought his team from behind the checkpoint building and a few dogs decided to head up the trail, and a few decided to go down trail.  What was left in the middle was a tangled mess.  James calmly got off his sled and began the untangling process.  It wasn’t long before all the dogs were heading in the right direction.  Amazingly, the entire process only took a few minutes.

DSC_3489So the answer to the question of tangled dogs is, “Remain calm, get off the sled, untangle the mess, and head down the Iditarod Trail.”

Takotna

DSC_3405I flew into Takotna early Thursday afternoon.  A few mushers are here taking their 24 hour layover.  Both Rudy Demoski and Charlie Benja came through soon after I arrived.  Rudy thought he would stay a bit, but decided to continue up the trail.  Charlie stopped long enough to check his bags and have a piece of world famous Takotna pie.  (Speaking of pie, my piece was delicious!)  Charlie’s dogs looked on enviously as he devoured his pie, but he shared the crumbs.  He talked to some of the local children and let them pet his dogs before he got back on the trail.DSC_3410

It is unseasonably warm here with temperatures soaring at 38 degrees.  Good for me, but not good for dogs.  I talked to Rudy while he was feeding his dogs and he said that as soon as the dogs felt the cool wind they started running faster.  Amazing!

It has been so much fun hearing from students and teachers across the United States who are following the 2013 Iditarod.  Here’s a special shout out to students in Ryan Hanson’s class in Spain who are following the race.  I’ve known your teacher since he was in 4th grade.  :-)  Keep watching this year’s exciting Iditarod!

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Leaving Nikolai

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Nikolai from the air.

After being in Nikolai for 28 hours I was flown back to McGrath.  The timing was later than anticipated due to the weather in McGrath and no flights out for most of the day.  With Marty as my pilot, we took off from the small airstrip.  The flight was exciting for me because I was in the plane with 4 dropped dogs – this was one of the experiences I was looking forward to.  The dogs were mildly anxious getting into the plane, but once they were on they settled right in on top of my suitcase and each other.  While I marveled at the scenery all around me, the dogs slept.

DSC_3366As we landed in McGrath, one dog raised his head to see what was happening, but the rest of them slept right through.  They were quickly unloaded by the waiting vets.  Paperwork was exchanged and the vets did a check up on each dog.  The logistics of dogs is something taken very seriously by not only the vets, but the pilots who transport them.  Dogs were given blankets, straw, and a warm meal.  They are now waiting for their flight to Anchorage.

It’s hard to leave a checkpoint after having made connections with people.  Hopefully we will meet up down the trail or eventually in Nome.  Next stop for me . . . Takotna with pilot Glen.

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Pee Collection? Yes, Pee Collection

DSC_3292As Teacher on the Trail, I was sent to this race to experience it from all aspects.  I never, in my wildest dreams, thought one of my experiences would be to collect pee from Iditarod dogs.  It is a job taken very seriously by the vets and the two women, Kidrin and Maureen, whose sole job it is to collect the pee.

A small canister (about the size of a large pill bottle) is open and a dog from a DSC_3295team put on a leash.  The dog is then walked around until the urge to “go”  hits.  The women will quickly position themselves to hold the canister underneath the stream and make a collection – half full.  Next they get another dog and fill the canister.  The canister is tagged with the name of the musher and the 2 dogs.  The lid is DSC_3299screwed on and evidence tape is put over the top.  Mushers’ signatures are taken and go with the specimen.

The small cooler with the pee is locked away if the two women are not with it.  They protect the key so no one can tamper with the specimens.  From here the pee is flown to a lab in the lower 48 and analyzed.  Just like CSI.

After 2 days of watching the women work non-stop, they decided that the Teacher on the Trail needed to give it a try.  I have to say, I did OK.  I didn’t spill anyway.  They were kind and only gave me males for an easier collection.  :-) Thank you Kidrin and Maureen for letting me experience being part of the vet team.  Thank you Jan Steves for letting me be a part of the vet DSC_3288team for your dogs.   I know to expect the unexpected, but pee collection?  Yes, pee collection.

Nikolai Morning

DSC_3229The last 10 mushers are just making it into Nikolai this early morning – a few are here and a few are on the trail trying to get here.  Our friend and fellow teacher Angie Taggart just came in.  She and her dogs look good although she is contemplating dropping a dog here.  She reported that the gorge was not so bad, but the burn was horrendous.  She tipped once and ran into a tree that ripped her bag.  As of now she’ll leave it as is, but will try to repair it further down the trail.  She’ll rest here for 6 hours then make her way to McGrath.

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As of my last count, 77 dogs have been dropped from the race.  I visited the DSC_3249dropped dog lot here this morning where 19 dogs currently reside.   Most of them are resting, but one is pacing, perhaps wondering why he’s still here.  The dropped dogs from this checkpoint will be sent to McGrath where they will meet other dropped dogs from nearby checkpoints.  From McGrath they are sent back to Anchorage and cared for there.

As for me, I’m not sure what checkpoint I’ll be sent to next.  Wherever it is I know I will be met by friendly volunteers and vets who make this the Last Great Race.

Nikolai

DSC_3022I lost my lead (for those of you who are tracking me on GPS) and flew back down the trail to Nikolai.  The pilots of the Iditarod Air Force have been wonderful flying me across the beautiful state of Alaska.  With pilot Danny, I was able to see the Iditarod Trail from the air and for an added treat, was able to see John Baker on his way to Nikolai.  We landed and walked to the checkpoint where John Baker was just coming in.DSC_3033

It’s getting busy here as vets are checking dogs who are bedded down during the warm, sunny day.  Mushers are checking over their gear and walking to the school for a bite to eat and a quick nap.  The 7 students who attend the DSC_3108school here are cross country skiing down to the river through the checkpoint.  Aaron Burmeister was the first out of this checkpoint leaving at 12:25 pm on his way to McGrath 48 miles away.

It’s turning out to be an interesting race with strategy discussions all around me.  3 days in is still too early to determine a winner.  We’ll have to wait and see further down the Iditarod Trail.

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Skwentna to McGrath

SKWENTNA  CHECKPOINT CONT.

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DeeDee Jonrowe checks in at Skwentna.

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Angie Taggart checking her dogs.

“Dog traffic.”  That’s the start of the Communications (Coms) report from the Skwentna River to the cabin at the top of the hill.  Martin Buser was the first musher to arrive at 8:45 PM.  He stopped briefly to snack his dogs, then he was off down the river.  Mushers soon arrived at intervals through the night although at one point 9 arrived at once.  All mushers made DSC_2925it to this checkpoint and all moved on to the next one.  Some went on through, some stopped briefly, and some took full advantage of the hospitality the Skwentna Sweeties provided; a quick nap and a delicious meal were enjoyed by all who decided to take advantage.

DSC_2939Once the last musher left the checkpoint, people started to pack up.  Planes started flying in early to haul out volunteers and dropped dogs.  Leftover drop bags were gone through – things will be collected and donated.

McGRATH CHECKPOINT

From Skwentna I was picked up by pilot Phil Morgan and brought to Anchorage.  There I boarded a plane to McGrath.  We arrived around 2:00, were picked up, and dropped off at the cafe.  Here volunteers are gathered to find out if they will stay or move up the trail.  All around me there are conversations of past races and life on the Iditarod Trail.

The first musher usually comes in to this checkpoint Tuesday night, but they are expecting an early arrival this year because of the fast pace set by Martin Buser. The 2013 Iditarod is proving to be competitively exciting.  Check out the GPS tracking  at iditarod.com for updates on your favorite musher.

Iditarod Restart

March 3, 2013 – THE DAY – The official  start of the 2013 Iditarod.  It was a beautiful day with Denali clearly visible in the distance.  Dog teams and mushers arrived at Willow in small trucks with or without trailers or large trucks with huge trailers. Men, women, rookies and 30 year veterans have been preparing all year for this day.  That’s what I love about this race – once the teams leave the starting chute, they are on an even playing field.

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Leaving for Nome!

As I walked around the dog team staging area, I marveled at the thought that 66 mushers and 1,040 dogs were about to embark on a 1,049 mile race through the Alaska wilderness in the winter.  How do they do it?  Why do they do it?  They all have their own reasons, but the overall theme is the chance to work with an amazing group of animals.  Sled dogs.  The mushers were cordial with the well wishers, but they were also focused on the task ahead.  They have to have all their gear and mandatory items in the sled bag, the gangline gets laid out, dogs need to be fed, harnessed, and bootied; there is a lot to do and a lot to think about.

Teams left the chute beginning at 2:00, leaving at 2 minute increments.  Martin Buser was the first one out and Sonny Lindner left last.  The differential of the leave times will be tacked on to their 24 hour mandatory layover.  Volunteers and vets are ready at the early checkpoints waiting for teams to arrive.

THE TEACHER MOVES ON TO SKWENTNA

As soon as Sonny left the chute, I was flown to Skwentna.  The famous Skwentna Sweeties had a delicious meal waiting for everyone.  There are smiles and hugs as old friends meet once again.  This is a busy checkpoint due to the fact that racers will arrive here during the night and they are still running fairly close together.  Everyone here has made me feel so welcome.  Vets are having conversations – communication people are making sure their internet works correctly – there is a meeting in the side room planning for the arrival of the dog teams.

Today is the start of the race for the dogs and mushers.  It is also the start of my adventure as Teacher on the Trail experiencing this race first hand.  It’s THE day I’ve been waiting for.  Here we go!

Ride Of My Life!

DSC_2551On Friday, March 1, 4th Avenue in downtown Anchorage was bustling with cars, buses, taxis and people everywhere.  That night, truckload after truckload of snow was hauled into the over 13 city blocks and dumped in the streets.  Overnight, 4th Avenue changed from a busy car street to a busy dogsled trail.  This is it – the Ceremonial Start of the 41st Iditarod.

I showed up at the starting line at 8:00 AM with the three 2014 Teacher On TheDSC_2560 Trail finalists as well as two past Teachers On The Trail.   People were starting to filter in and within the hour dog trucks were finding their assigned spots.  Soon the street was filled with dog trucks, dogs, sleds, and fans.  I made my way to find the musher who would be giving me the ride of my life.

At 16, Noah Pereira is an awesome driver.  No, not cars (I know better than to get in a car with most 16 year olds) – dogsleds.  As winner of the Junior Iditarod he had the honor of leaving the chute at racestart9:56 AM in the number one position with his IditaRider – ME!  What a great feeling to be the first at the starting line of the 41st Iditarod.  The crowd cheered and wished us well as our team of 10 dogs pulled us down 4th Avenue in Anchorage.  With all the confidence of a champion musher, Noah made the sharp, 90° turn to the right at the bottom of the street onto Cordova without losing me or his dad who was in a tail sled.  We headed out of the city streets and onto a beautiful trail system.

People cheered for Noah and his dogs as they congratulated him on his recentcampbell field win.  Once out of the city, the fog lifted, the sky turned blue, and the mountains could be seen above the trees.  It was an amazing site. It was fun to be in the crowd of people, but indescribable to be alone in the woods watching the dogs do what they do best, run.  As we headed into the Campbell Airstrip,  Noah, his dad and I were disappointed that we had reached the end of our journey.

I am truly honored to be a part of this race.  Noah – thank you for the ride of my life.

Mushers

Thursday was a busy day for Iditarod Mushers.  They gathered early for a DSC_2442mandatory pre-race meeting.  Race sponsors were introduced and applauded for helping keep the race going, mail packets were signed, a trail report was given (the snow looks good!) and they heard from the head Vet and others.  At lunch mushers enjoyed a pizza lunch with their Iditariders.  I’ll be riding with Junior Iditarod winner Noah Pereira.

DSC_2472The day ended with the annual Musher Banquet.  Hobo Jim and others entertained the crowd as we milled around seeking out our favorite mushers.  A delicious meal was served, there were more speakers, and finally mushers drew the number for their order out of the chute.  Martin Buser will be leaving first as he drew Number 2. Sonny Lindner will be the last to leave wearing bib #67.  Former second grade teacher and my friend  Angie Taggart will be the 40th musher out of the chute.  She is excited to get her dogs on the trail.

Bib Number 1 always goes to the honorary musher – this year that person is Jan Newton.  Jan was the queen of Takotna as a fixture at the checkpoint.  Mushers into the checkpoint were rewarded a steak and pie thanks to Jan.  Jan’s spirit will live on in the hearts of mushers and volunteers who travel through Taktona.

After a year of training, the mushers and dogs are ready to take the trail. DSC_2197 Iditarod fans are ready to follow their favorite mushers.  The checkpoints are ready to receive mushers and over 1,000 dogs.  2013 Iditarod – we’re ready!