It was pretty quiet here at Yentna Station overnight. The kids had their traditional campfire, caught a few hours of sleep outside with their teams, and did their other necessary camp chores. The adults (race officials, trail sweeps, reporters, etc.) enjoyed the hospitality of Yentna Station and tried to get a bit of sleep inside.
Around one am things started to get revved up again! People started stirring. The snow machines that were sweeping the trail ahead of the mushers prepared to leave. The kids’ camps started bustling as they did their morning chores, cared for the dogs, and starting cleaning up their camping areas. Dogs started getting the idea that it was time to start moving again. They shook the sleep off and started looking around, getting antsy to get moving again. Three dogs were ultimately left at the dropped dog area and they were howling and moaning to let everyone know they did NOT want to be left behind!
The first few kids, the veterans Conway Seavey, Ben Harper, and Jimmy Lanier, made smooth and graceful exits. Sleds were packed, dogs were prepped with ease! As the countdown happened, they would walk up and pet each of their dogs in turn and then pull the snow hooks just as the countdown reached one. As he left, Ben Harper whispered to his lead dogs, “Let’s catch us some Seavey!” The teams left right from their parking spots after having them checked for cleanliness by the judges! Kevin Harper also made a swift exit.
Ashley Guernsey took a little bit longer to get ready to go. Even though the pressure was on to get moving, she made sure to go through her whole race routine, putting booties on each and every dog and being sure all of her gear was packed into the sled correctly. Once she left, she was quickly followed by Andrew Nolan and Janelle Trowbridge… the three left within about two minutes of each other. Both Josh Klejka and Nicole Forto had longer blocks of time before their departure. Both seemed to have things well under control and were packed up and ready to leave right on schedule.
The 90 dogs minus the three who were left with sore shoulders were screaming, barking, jumping, and went charging out of the checkpoint. There may have been a bit too much excitement…. Three of the mushers tipped their sleds and fell before they got all the way out of the checkpoint, and Andrew may have broken his sled as he dropped onto the river this morning. But everyone recovered quickly and didn’t seem to lose any confidence.
As the last team left, the clouds cleared so I wandered down to the river and turned my headlamp out. What an amazing sight! The Northern Lights opened up in the sky on one side of me, I could watch the moon rise on the other side, and I was surrounded by millions of stars on the others. It was just amazing… breathtakingly beautiful.
At this writing, it’s about 8am. The sun is creeping over the horizon and we are waiting for the planes to come and start taking us out. Conway Seavey is in the lead with about 20 miles to go. Ben Harper is right on his tail…. Maybe he will “catch that Seavey!”