What do GPS Trackers, trail markers, pizza, trail stakes, dog tags, race bibs, pictures, and dog booties have in common?
They all had featured roles in tonight’s Junior Iditarod meeting.
After sharing some pizza, signing some autographs, and having some pictures taken, the juniors got started on their final meeting before hitting the trail tomorrow morning.
As I’ve gone into schools to share this week, one of the things I’ve been talking to the kids about is the setting of the Iditarod and wondering with such a long race, how on earth do the mushers know where they are? The kids have come up with lots of ideas – they can tell by the landmarks, the checkpoints, the dogs know – but tonight the junior mushers and I got to hear all about how the trail is marked for the Junior Iditarod from the Trail Boss.
The trail is marked with stakes that have bright orange paint at the top and are labeled with JRI for Junior Iditarod. The trail markers may be a half mile to a mile apart, but they are within sight of each other. The kids were told if they can’t see the next trail marker, they may want to stop and think about where they are! If they see two markers together on one side of the trail, they know that they need to turn in direction. They only have wide sweeping turns, no right angle turns on this trail. If they see two stakes crossed like an “x” that means “don’t go this way!” The coolest thing about the trail markers? Each junior was given one to keep as a souvenir! Their special stakes even have the Junior Iditarod logo on them. Since they got their own to keep, the kids were encouraged NOT to take them from the trail!
The trail this year will be slightly shorter than normal due to the change in starting location. The juniors will travel 62 miles out, take their ten hour layover at Yentna Station, and then travel 62 miles back in. The kids were glad to hear that the trail still covers part of the Iditarod Trail, so they can officially tell people they have “raced the Iditarod Trail.” The Trail Boss described the trail as fast, but luckily it is all frozen, so there is on open water at all.
Probably the most exciting thing for the kids was the start order draw. The kids were called to the front in the order they signed up for the race, so our friend Nicole Forto got to draw first. She drew number six. No one drew number one, as that space is saved for an honorary musher.
Here’s the starting order and a little bit about each musher:
1 – Ceremonial Musher
2 – Jimmy Lanier – Jimmy is sixteen years old and a junior at Chugiak High School. His dad, Jim, has run the Iditarod fifteen times! This is his second Junior Iditarod. He also plays baseball.
3 – Josh Klejka – Josh is seventeen years old and is a junior at the high school in Bethel. He finished eighth in the Junior Iditarod in 2012. He also runs cross country.
4 – Conway Seavey – Conway is seventeen and is an eleventh grade homeschool student. He has finished the Junior Iditarod three times and won in 2012. He is also a very talented singer and songwriter.
5 – Andew Nolan – Andrew is fourteen years old and is a ninth grade homeschooler. He’s been training for the past two years with an Iditarod veteran.
6 – Nicole Forto – Nicole is sixteen years old and is a junior at Houston High School in Willow, Alaska. In addition to mushing, she owns Wickes Sweets Baking Company.
7 – Janelle Trowbridge – Janelle is sixteen years old and was born in Michigan. She and her family moved to Nome, Alaska in 2009. She is a junior at Nome Beltz High School. She also runs and skis for her school’s biathlon team.
8 – Kevin Harper – Kevin is fifteen and is a sophomore at Wasilla High School. This will be his first race! In addition to mushing he wrestles.
9 – Ashley Guernsey – Ashley is a fourteen year old eighth grader at Seward Middle School in Moose Pass, Alaska. In addition to mushing she runs cross country and track.
10 – Ben Harper – Ben is seventeen and is a senior at Wasilla High School. This will be his third time running the Junior Iditarod.
Tomorrow is the big day! The mushers have to be at Happy Trails Kennels by 9am and the race officially gets underway at ten am. Best of luck to all of this year’s Junior Iditarod Mushers! See you on the trail!