I left the beach town of Unalakleet and arrived in White Mountain, flying in on a nine seat plane. I really enjoyed Unalakleet. I felt so comfortable there. Maybe it was the beach… maybe it was the people… maybe it was the pizza! My only regret is that I didn’t have time to go back and get a Pizza on the Iditarod Trail t-shirt. Should have gotten it when I first saw it! I did get a hat that the school ski team was selling as a fundraiser though! Flying to White Mountain was another amazing flight watching the land change again from sea ice and back inland a bit.
It’s a pretty interesting time to get here… the checkpoint is still in the process of being set up. The comms people are working on getting all the communication set up and are, not surprisingly, having issues setting up internet and wi-fi here in rural Alaska. The kitchen is being set up and down on the river the drop bags, straw, and Heet are being readied. This checkpoint is the final mandatory eight hour layover for the race, so every musher will have to be parked and will stay at least eight hours before they make the final push to Nome.
I don’t have much to report from here yet. None of the mushers are here, most people are working to set up the checkpoint. I had a wonderful conversation with Joe Runyan about the Iditarod and education. He said that he has always heard from teachers that kids are so interested in the Iditarod, but he didn’t really understand how we used the race. I told him about how amazing it is for kids especially who grew up watching the high-powered professional sports. It’s neat for them to focus on a sport where the athletes are so approachable, where age and gender don’t matter. It’s the thrill of the competition, the lure of Alaska, and the joy of the dogs.
The estimate from the Insider Guys and others who have been around for a while is that this race is on a record pace. In Galena, the locals told me the mushers started arriving about twelve hours before they usually do. In Unalakleet they told me the mushers have never arrived on Saturday before. And now they are expecting the early mushers to arrive here tomorrow around five or six am. They then think that the first person will cross the finish line in Nome around midnight tomorrow!
Nathan Schroeder told me today that the race is going faster than he can believe. That he will blink and it will be over. He’s exactly right! Maybe this time tomorrow I’ll be in Nome waiting for the first person to come under the burled arch! Wow!