This day has been extremely full, and it is only 4:30. I woke up this morning in Takotna at the school. After checking in with Comms and getting some breakfast, I went back to the school as the students were beginning to arrive. I met Anna who was more than happy to accept the Ready to Read bag of books from the Anchorage Library. She could hardly wait to get into them. Before long, I got word that I was supposed to get on a plane, so I gathered my stuff and took a snow machine ride up to the airstrip. The pilot told me I was going back to McGrath, which sounded a bit disappointing at first, but it is a hub so I was pretty sure that I would catch another flight to somewhere else, and I did. As I was walking down the street to the checkpoint, the Race Marshal drove by in a truck and yelled out the window to wait right there and he would be back to pick me up. I do as I am told, so there I stood, and in a few minutes we were loading my gear into the truck and we headed back to the airstrip. Mark and I boarded Greg’s plane, and we were on our way to Cripple.
Cripple is a unique checkpoint as it is nothing else any other time of the year. It is in a wide-open place which is absolutely beautiful, due to its starkness. The volunteers there have decorated it like a Hawaiian island reminding me a little of MASH. The Comms tent is just that, a tent with bunks for off shift time. There were teams of dogs lined out and resting and mushers busy doing their chores.
Before I could get comfortable, we were back in the air and on our way to Ruby. That was a longer and more eventful ride. The ground below us looked like puffy white blankets spotted with trees. For a while we followed the trail and saw a number of teams running strong and smooth. Then we veered off the trail and found ourselves on the great Yukon River. I knew it was big, but WOW.
After we landed in Ruby I was given the snow machine ride of my life, full speed, down hill. Strangely, I felt safe and only a little cold. The Ruby Checkpoint is bright and cheery and at the bottom of the hill on the bank. Great food and people, and finally I am closer to the front of the race. Jeff King, Lance Mackey, John Baker, Jeff Schultz ,who clued me in to getting an internet connection at the school, but that I would need a ride up there.
The best meeting was Emmitt Peters. The Comms lady pointed him out so I went over and introduced myself. We had no sooner shaken hands than he started into a story. After his “college kid” youth moving around California, Oregon and Washington he decided to head back home. Then he decided that he would run the Iditarod. His mother said no, because she thought he would freeze. He said right up until the start she was sewing special leggings, etc. to keep him warm. When he took his 24 here at Ruby, she saw other mushers leaving and she would wake him up every time fearing he would fall behind. His father told her to leave him alone so he could rest, but he got no rest. When he took off out of the checkpoint the dogs knew where to go as Emmitt had a fish camp nearby, and they sailed on down the trail. About six hours later at the next checkpoint he woke up and the checker told him that he had passed two teams along the way. Now, that’s a dog team! And those few moments with Emmitt Peters were worth the whole trip.
Leslie at Comms had plenty of company at times with kids from the community always interested in what she was doing. In this picture she is explaining to this young man how mushers are tracked and how you calculate “out” times after an eight hour rest.
I feel like I am now on the real trail of my life. I’m not sure what it is, but I have so much to say, so little time.