At the River in Nikolai

I’m here in Nikolai which is a hotbed of activity!  Mushers are coming and going.  I’m in the school right now which has been pretty much turned into a hotel for the race. The mushers and volunteers are sleeping in the school and the students are cooking food and meals to raise money for a float trip they will take later this spring.  The school has a total of eleven students from grades five-twelve.  The principal/teacher, Marcus, is amazing! He fixed my computer by magic!  The curriculum at the school is amazing.  It’s a thematic curriclum that is based around outdoor education. So for example, they may take the school to the Buffalo Camp and they will camp there for a few days and learn math, science, reading, etc. based on native stories and culture surrounding that location. The elders come and tell the traditional stories and are a part of the experience.  It sounds like a wonderfully rich environment in which to teach.  The school will take on a new look next year as there are currently six preschoolers in the village who will be ready to start school next year!

The mushers who have arrived here are very relieved to be here.  It means they have made it through some of the roughest trail in the race…. trail that this year has no snow.  The trail is riddled with stumps and pebbles and is taking its toll on the sleds and the mushers. The dogs are having a blast!  Mitch Seavey told a reporter that the dogs have realized that when he says “woah” and puts the brakes on, nothing is happening!  The brake isn’t catching on anything so there is now way to slow the dogs down!  The dogs are taking full advantage of the situation!  At least two mushers have arrived with no brakes at all, having lost them somewhere along the trail.

Dallas Seavey told a story about his tug line breaking.  Apparently twelve of his dogs took off when it snapped.  It’s a good thing he is as athletic as he is – he was able to catch up to them!  He seemed a little surprised that he could catch twelve sled dogs! He said it was the best thing that happened to him today!

It was neat to watch Mitch and Dallas pull in.  Mitch arrived first, a few minutes ahead of  Dallas.  Dallas was parked right behind Mitch.  But their chore styles were completely different.  Mitch took the booties off and laid out straw for the dogs first.  Dallas went right to collect hot water and feed his dogs a hot meal which they ate still standing on their feet. Once they had eaten everything they would,  they got their straw to rest.  Mitch got the dogs all bedded down and then made them a hot meal.  Even though Mitch arrived first, Dallas made it up to the school to feed and take care of himself first.  Both were asking how their puppy teams were doing.  Dallas’ puppy team is being run by Christian Turner from Australia.  Mitch’s is being run by another of his sons, Danny.

Jeff King shared a story of running into some snowmachiners stopped right in the trail.  His dogs attempted to dodge them and ended up heading through a five foot deep hole. The dogs made it fine.  The main sled ended up nose down in the hole and the back sled was still balanced on the bank on the far side of the hill.  With the help of the snowmachiners he was able to get it out of the hole and continue, but the handle bars are all messed up.  

That’s all for now – I’m back to the river to wait for more teams… I’m hoping to catch Nathan coming in!

Here are some pictures from today:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.